The Difference Between A Rebrand and A Brand Refresh

refresh vs. rebrand

Your brand is one of your most valuable assets, but when a brand has seen more years than a majority of your staff, it becomes like a comfortable but ratty security blanket. It’s no surprise that many organizations balk at the thought of going through a rebrand or refresh despite changing market forces outside their doors. In the case of brands, the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ doesn’t always apply.

When an organization does agree to start talking about modernizing a brand, there is a tendency to focus on the logo, colours and visual identity of the firm. A true rebrand is more than just a change in visual identity. Let’s break it down further.

Both a rebrand and a brand refresh start with stakeholder data and market research pointing to an issue with relevancy, engagement or awareness of the current brand. This could be internal stakeholders, customers, clients or anyone that the organization has a relationship with. There could be reputational issues to overcome, or social cues that demand the brand become more relevant. Employees or volunteers might need a central vision to motivate them.

What is a refresh and when do you use it?

A brand refresh focuses on the external identity of a brand – colours, fonts, shapes, messaging and visual style. It’s a design first project meant to inspire, tell a new story and reshape the perception of an organization. Some good examples are Deloitte (2016), Starbucks (2015) and UPS. A refresh uses a research and discovery phase to determine pain points and develops a new brand strategy with positioning, tone, messaging and visual identity mapped out.

What is a rebrand?

A rebrand is much deeper than a brand refresh and can often include a name change. A good example is Canadian Diabetes Association rebranding to Diabetes Canada. Beyond the organization name (and associated visual identity), a rebrand digs down into the heart of operations and develops a value proposition that impacts the entire organization. As Level 5 Strategy points out, a brand is like an iceberg – what you don’t see is the 90% underwater.

The best time to be thinking about a full rebrand is during long-term strategic planning. During this process, leadership will be looking at the firm with a 20,000 foot view and can identify where the pain points are and whether the organization needs to rebrand in order to meet the needs of their most valuable stakeholders.

I personally have been asked to “just change the logo” on a well-known brand. Without the proper steps in place, however, no proper refresh or rebrand will be successful regardless of existing brand equity.

By Sarah Kiriliuk

  • May 9, 2019
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