A rebrand versus a brand refresh

By Jon Raduch, Creative Director


Sometimes it’s very clear when to rebrand a business – your brand just doesn’t feel sharp  and modern anymore. But sometimes it’s grey. Maybe you just need a brand refresh? Our  creative director Jon Radich looks at your options.

When you start out, you have to make assumptions about your business including where  you will sit in the market, who your customers will be, and even what you offer. So your first  brand is built on those assumptions and you grow organically.

The reality for most businesses is that after a few years of trading they find their groove,  establish their niche and the business vision can be vastly different from vision at the  beginning. Now you are ready to make branding decisions based on experience and a  realistic vision of where you want to take your business.

This is a great time for a rebrand.

What is a Rebrand?

A rebrand is a complete repositioning of your business. Often this can mean dropping all elements of the old brand and moving in a bold new direction. You’ll be armed with a focused vision of who you are, who your customers are, and bringing your stakeholders onboard. Your visuals, logo and touchpoints all align to reinforce this new strategic direction.

This first rebrand is often the most dramatic and the most important because this is your first opportunity to brand your business with your staff and any other stakeholders in mind, such as board, investors, new partners or a parent company.

Many people are surprised to see Apple’s first logo. It was designed by a friend, and they used it for a year before …

The first Apple Computer logo

Google was originally called Backrub

And Google was first called ‘Backrub’ with a photo as part of their logo! It wasn’t until xyz that they got a professional design team to create a corporate logo.

These brands, just like most business, started small and realised the importance of design as they grew. These are examples of using friends and family contacts to get a sign on the door and get started. But once a business is beyond a start-up, it’s best to use an agency.

It can be incredibly hard to discard your first brand identity and start again. Along with all your own hard work, the logo also helped you get where you are now. Or you might think a change could alienate your existing customers. Business owners often hold onto something for emotional reasons – the brand has worked so far and it’s been a big part of your life. A design agency can help you make these big decisions by applying a rational, strategic lens.

Gain clarity with brand strategy

Brand strategy helps you look at your business more rationally. It gives you tangible, rational reasons for decision making, not emotional. 

Strategy work with will ask and test some important questions …

  • What are the core values of your business?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • Where do you sit in the market?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?

This process creates clarity for a business owner. An agency like ours helps to define where you are currently positioned and where you need to move to. We look at this gap and your options for addressing it from business strategy and branding perspective.

When to refresh a brand

If your ideal customers don’t relate to your current brand, then you need to fix the disconnect. And if your product offering has shifted, your brand may no longer support your strategic direction. This is very clearly a rebrand project – a practical business decision about driving the business forward.

But when your brand identity is still well-aligned to your strategic direction and your target audience, then you may only require a brand refresh.

A brand refresh is a strategic makeover and should be used to keep up with design trends or social / political sentiment. If your brand values are solid, the task is usually a refresh of visual elements. You might need to weave new things into your values e.g. sustainability or diversity. But your core values largely stay the same.

Well-known brands have a regular brand refresh – or evolution – every few years to keep ahead of the design curve while staying true to the history of the brand.

The website Every Second has created a fascinating animation of famous logos and how they have changed over time. Some show a quiet evolution, while others have made drastic changes.

Visual branding has a business function. It supports how you communicate and relate to your customers and display your promise, positioning and values. So knowing when to rebrand versus refresh comes from your business strategy. This helps guide your decision making from a validates strategic process.

Jon Radich is Lemonade’s creative director and he has worked with brands in the UK and New Zealand for the last XX years on both rebrand and brand refresh projects.

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