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Rebrand vs Brand Refresh: Finding the Perfect Balance for Your Business

Outline:

  • Introduction
  • What is a Rebrand vs a Brand Refresh or Evolution?
  • The Benefits of Rebranding: Relaunch & Reintroduction
  • The Case for a Brand Refresh: Leveraging Value
  • Finding the Perfect Balance
  • Refresh or Rebrand: Wrap Up

Introduction

Business and culture are changing faster than ever, and staying relevant and resonating with your target audience is paramount to success. As companies navigate market trends, shifting consumer behaviors, and evolving industry landscapes, business owners often find themselves at a crossroads: Should they embark on a complete rebranding journey or focus on evolving and refining their existing brand with a brand refresh? It’s a question that requires careful consideration and a nuanced approach. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of both options to help you find the perfect balance for impactful change.

What is a Rebrand vs a Brand Refresh or Brand Evolution?

A rebrand is a total overhaul of a company’s strategy and identity, typically implemented when the current strategy fails or becomes ineffective over time. This is a ground-up rebuild, starting practically from scratch. As a result of the exercise, all aspects of the brand’s visual and verbal identity will change, and sometimes even the brand name is replaced. A complete rebrand aims to breathe new life into a stagnant business, better connect with customers old and new, and reinforce what makes the business unique, valuable, and desirable. The difference is substantial. 

A brand refresh, or as we often call it, a brand evolution, is less dramatic. Brand strategy and the brand name remain untouched while care is taken to utilize and strengthen key elements of a company’s existing brand equity. Those elements might be the symbolism of a longstanding logo, an ownable signature color palette, a brand story, iconic packaging shapes, taglines, or jingles. Each brand element is refined and optimized to make them stronger, clearer, and more compelling to contemporary consumers.

In many ways, the goals of a brand refresh can be similar to those of a rebrand. We think of it as doubling down on the things that make your brand “you”—and better and more concisely highlighting your brand’s unique attributes, offerings, and personality. Following a brand refresh, your fans and customer base should still recognize the brand they love, while newly optimized brand and marketing expressions open up an opportunity to speak to new customers as well.

Visual Example: Brand Refresh
Visual Example: Rebrand

The Benefits of Rebranding: Relaunch & Reintroduction

Imagine your brand as a house—it’s sturdy, functional, and has served you well for years. But as time passes, cracks appear, paint fades, and the architecture and design become outdated. Perhaps the neighborhood has grown and changed, leaving your house as a dated relic of an era long passed. Like a home, a brand’s image can age and diminish if not maintained.

In contrast to the iterative process of a brand refresh, the rebranding process is like an architectural tear-down and rebuild, from foundation to façade. Here’s why it might be the right choice for your brand:

  1. A Fresh Start: Rebranding offers the opportunity for a clean slate, allowing you to shed outdated strategy and brand assets and redesign your brand and marketing to realign with current market conditions, consumer preferences, and business goals.

  2. Differentiation: In crowded markets, standing out from the competition is essential. Even brands that enjoyed differentiation in years past can see their impact diluted by the emergence of me-too brands replicating a once-unique style. A well-executed rebrand can help your brand differentiate itself, capture attention, and carve out a unique position in the minds of consumers.

  3. Addressing Reputation Issues: We hope you don’t find yourself in this situation— but if your brand has encountered negative publicity, faced criticism, or undergone significant challenges that have damaged its reputation, rebranding can provide a fresh narrative, signaling a commitment to change and improvement.

  4. Targeting New Audiences: As your business evolves and expands into new markets or demographics, rebranding allows you to tailor your messaging, visual identity design, marketing, and brand experience to resonate with your new or expanded target audience.

  5. Adapting to Industry or Technological Shifts: Industries are constantly evolving, driven by technological advancements, regulatory changes, and shifting consumer behaviors. Rebranding enables your business to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant in a rapidly changing landscape.

Recently, we tackled a brand refresh for Kerbey Lane, an iconic all-day diner that has served Austin with its tasty fare and quirky personality since 1980. Though they have a deep heritage in Texas (they literally sent queso to the moon on a NASA shuttle), they had practically no ownable visual design assets within their current brand. This was no surprise because they lacked a brand strategy, story, brand guidelines, or value message. Over many years, marketing materials were pieced together by numerous hands using mismatched visual elements, and the brand’s identity suffered from a disjointed look and feel—down to four different logo designs.

In weighing a brand refresh vs a complete rebrand, the Kerbey Lane team agreed unanimously that they didn’t need refinement of elements that weren’t working. In situations like these, a subtle new look will not solve the problem; you need a rebrand.

Expanding businesses like Kerbey Lane need a brand with a clear message and value proposition, a sharp visual identity and strategy for future growth to give them a competitive edge as they launch into new markets.

The Kerbey Lane name held a lot of equity in people’s hearts and minds, so it remained consistent while every other element of the brand was left behind in favor of a fresh start. The new identity and brand elements added the term “All-Day Cafe” to the new logo, and every touch point was treated as an opportunity to surprise and delight diners. New marketing assets and a social media toolkit gave their internal team the tools to share the rebrand far and wide, from outdoor and digital advertising to Instagram and LinkedIn.

See the Full Kerbey Lane Rebrand

The Case for a Brand Refresh: Leveraging Value

While rebranding offers a fresh start, evolving and refining your company’s branding with a refresh allows you to build upon the foundation you’ve already established. It’s like renovating your house—preserving its character while making strategic improvements. Here’s why a refresh might be the right choice for your brand:

  1. Brand Equity: Your current brand likely has valuable equity built up over time—recognition, trust, loyalty—that you don’t want to lose. Evolution allows you to retain and build upon this equity while making strategic adjustments to improve the brand image and stay relevant.

  2. Cost and Resource Efficiency: Rebranding represents a significant investment of time, money, and resources. A successful brand refresh can often achieve desired changes more efficiently, avoiding the need for a complete ground-up overhaul. Are you looking to make improvements sooner rather than later? A brand refresh can help.

  3. Consistency and Continuity: Substantial changes to your brand identity, without the proper marketing and support to roll out and reintroduce your brand, can potentially confuse your existing customer base. A smart brand refresh strategy can help avoid those pitfalls. Strategic evolution allows for a more gradual transition of your image in the market, maintaining continuity in your conversation with consumers while incrementally refreshing your brand to keep it current.

  4. Feedback and Insights: Your current brand represents collective insights and feedback from customers, employees, and stakeholders. Consumer research can add a wealth of information or confirm anecdotal beliefs championed internally. Evolution allows you to leverage this feedback, making iterative improvements based on real-world data and qualitative input.

  5. Building on Strengths: When executed strategically, a brand refresh enables you to capitalize on your brand’s strengths, refining and amplifying elements that resonate with your audience while addressing areas for improvement. An optimized brand builds on your strongest attributes to turbo-charge consumers’ brand experience.

Finding the Perfect Balance

So, which approach is right for your brand: rebranding or a brand refresh? In truth, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for updating your brand. Instead, it’s about finding the perfect balance that aligns with your business goals, market dynamics, and brand identity. A branding agency can help you to weigh your options and offer seasoned insight on the best path forward. Here are some key considerations to help you make an informed decision:

  1. Assess Your Brand: Conduct a comprehensive audit of your current brand identity, market position, customer perceptions, key competition, and business and marketing objectives. Identify areas where your brand excels and opportunities for improvement. We do brand audits using a framework we call “Burn, Bank & Build.” The strategic exercise helps brands clarify their vision of what equity should be left behind, carried forward, or built upon to create a stronger brand system.

  2. Understand Your Audience: Gain deep insights into your target audience—their preferences, behaviors, values, and aspirations. Do you have a clear picture of your core consumers? There are myriad ways to gain valuable insights, from purchasing existing reports to commissioning consumer research. A branding agency can help formulate a plan customized to your business and determine how your brand can better connect and resonate with your audience.

  3. Evaluate Market Factors: Stay abreast of industry trends, competitive landscape, and emerging opportunities. Trends can be incredibly useful to map—and an opportunity to ride that wave or to contrast it to better differentiate your brand. Though informative, market trends alone won’t tell whether your brand needs to evolve to stay ahead of the curve or undergo a more significant transformation. A good brand agency with a clear process for evaluating brands can guide you in determining whether a rebrand or refresh is right for you.

  4. Define Your Objectives & Consider Timing and Impact: Clearly articulate your brand’s objectives and desired outcomes. Whether it’s increasing market share, expanding into new territories, or repositioning your marketing, your goals should drive your branding strategy. Assess the timing and potential impact of rebranding or refreshing your brand. Are there key milestones to consider? Think about sales cycles and internal readiness to ensure a smooth transition.

  5. Seek Expert Guidance: Evaluating your brand internally can be a challenge. Even long-established, highly successful brands often cite feeling “too close” to the business and brand to achieve clear and confident insight. Sometimes there is a difference in vision among key stakeholders that could benefit from the guidance of an experienced professional third party. Consider enlisting the expertise of branding professionals who can share strategic guidance, creative insights, and a fresh perspective on your brand strategy.

Refresh or Rebrand: Wrap Up

Whether you choose to rebrand completely or refine and refresh your brand, the key is to approach the decision thoughtfully and strategically. Ultimately, the goal is to design the strongest and most ownable brand possible to drive sales and attract new customers for your business. By balancing the benefits of a fresh start with the value of preserving brand equity and continuity, you can chart a course that propels your brand forward while staying true to its core essence.

Remember, successful branding is not a destination but a journey—an ongoing process of adaptation, innovation, and reinvention to meet your audience’s ever-changing needs and expectations. Still have questions about the difference in approach for rebranding vs refreshing? Give us a shout, and let us guide you to find the best fit for your goals. Each week, we donate a free hour of consultation to aspiring brand-builders, so sign up using our contact form!

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