Branding: refresh or redesign?

What's the difference between refreshing and redesigning your brand and which option is right for you?


Refresh or redesign? It all sounds the same. We notice companies of all sizes across various industries changing their logo, adapting their slogan, updating their image to compete in the modern era, but would you say they are rebranding or simply refreshing?


Both terms are very similar on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper into the meaning of each, you soon realize how different they are. A brand refresh is equivalent to a fancy makeover: you are giving your company a fresh new look and feel, adding a catchy slogan, updating colors and tweaking your current logo. A brand redesign or rebranding, on the other hand, is far more dramatic. I would compare it to plastic surgery: it consists of creating new messaging, developing a different color scheme, designing an entirely new logo, and perhaps even altering your company's name and slogan altogether.


Let's simplify these concepts a little further...


Brand Refresh

Although not as comprehensive as a brand redesign, a brand refresh will be completed much faster and cheaper than a full-scale rebranding effort. It typically involves tweaking colors, typography, overall style, messaging, and graphic components. The process is mostly cosmetic. The goal is to work with design elements that are already in place. You are transforming how your brand is perceived, without losing touch with your heritage and the history of your brand. If you make fundamental changes to your brand, in other words if you change what makes you, you, then you are not refreshing your brand – you are rebranding.


To better illustrate a brand refresh, I will use the Starbucks logo evolution as an example:

Although the Starbucks logo underwent several modifications over the years, you'll notice that certain design elements always remained the same: the two-tailed mermaid continues to be featured front and center in the logo and its circular shape has never changed. Yes, the green color palate was introduced in 1987 to represent the growth, freshness, uniqueness and prosperity of Starbucks, which coincided with the company's acquisition by Howard Schultz at the time, but overall the logo has never drifted very far from its original version, capitalizing on the brand equity it built over the years.


This is a perfect example of a brand refresh – or makeover to use my previous metaphor. It is not like undergoing plastic surgery, which may alter your features permanently. In the Starbucks example, you still recognize the logo after every single alteration. A brand refresh is about making minor adjustments without compromising the brand's identity.


Brand Redesign

A brand refresh gives you the opportunity to update your identity, while a redesign will completely transform it. The process of rebranding typically takes place when your current brand feels tired and no longer serves your business needs. Perhaps you wish to revitalize your brand in order to reposition yourself in the marketplace and distinguish yourself from the competition, inspire your employees, fuel your growth, reconnect with your customers or appeal to a new audience. Whatever the reason, keep in mind that rebranding requires a great deal of creativity and commitment. You'll need to do a good amount of research to understand your positioning, unique competencies, threats and opportunities in the marketplace, the competitive landscape, etc. All of these elements will help you develop a new verbal and visual identity that will completely change customers' perception of you.


To better illustrate a complete brand overhaul, I will use the famous Old Spice rebranding effort as an example:

Ten years ago, Old Spice was mainly perceived as a brand for older gentlemen. It was considered old-fashioned and failed to appeal to younger generations. Once a longtime leader in men's deodorant, the Old Spice brand was rapidly losing its share of the market. However, following a major rebranding effort, a new advertising campaign was launched with the intention of reaching a new demographic: Old Spice wanted to appeal to men of all types by celebrating the art of manliness. The concept was a massive success! Old Spice repositioned the image of their products in the eyes of consumers and quickly solidified its position as a leader in its industry.


This is a perfect example of rebranding. The Old Spice strategy goes well beyond a revamped logo with fresh new colors and a catchy slogan. Their brand redesign process involved in-depth consumer research and many days of brainstorming with industry experts before being able to create new messaging, establish its positioning in the marketplace, and figure out a whole new way to set themselves apart from the competition.


So now a big question remains:

What does YOUR company need?

No matter how much you love your brand, there will come a time when your company needs to change things up. Your business needs evolve over the years and it's important that your image does as well. Whether you opt for a refresh or redesign, your brand should reflect the current marketplace and tell your customers that you are modern and relevant. Nobody wants to do business with a company that seems stuck in the past.


There are many factors to consider before undergoing a refresh or redesign. Below are a few key indicators that may point you in one direction or the other:

  • You are a company with longevity: The logo that you created in the 1970s might have been innovative and eye-catching at the time, but it is probably not going to speak to your customers in 2019. A brand refresh could breathe new life into your logo and pay off significantly by showing existing customers that you’re modern and up-to-date and prospective customers that you are worthy of being considered.

  • Your company is growing: Has your company recently expanded, entered new markets, or gone through a merger or an acquisition? If your business has changed in any way, you should reassess your brand to ensure that it accurately reflects what you offer and who you are as a company. A simple brand refresh might be all you need.

  • Your company is changing: Your company has evolved over time to stay relevant in a rapidly changing business environment. Your brand's values or mission may have changed as well. If you feel that your company's personality is different from what it was when you first started your business, your brand should also reflect these changes. Your customers need to know what you are about now and this may be communicated through a simple brand refresh.

  • You are speaking to a new audience: You have built a loyal customer base over the years but you wish to broaden your audience and speak to a different demographic. Rebranding will help you target the people you need, just like Old Spice did. It will help you engage with potential clients while maintaining your current customer base.

  • You must adapt to stronger competition: You know how Charles Darwin said that "species that adapt best to their changing environment have the best chance of surviving"? Well that also applies to branding. Companies that can't or won't adapt to shifts in the competitive landscape might end up in oblivion. You must embrace change to remain in the game, whether it's through a brand refresh or redesign.

  • Your marketing techniques are not working anymore: traditional marketing has become largely ineffective since the rise of the internet so it's no surprise that your old-school strategies no longer attract today’s customers. Taking on a modern approach in marketing your business would be even more effective if combined with a rebrand. This would send a strong message to consumers, showing them that you are a 21st century business and allowing them to see your company in a different light.


With a brand refresh, you get a different hair color and style, makeup by a professional artist and a new wardrobe, but the DNA of your company remains the same. With a rebrand, everything changes. Your company might go on offering the same products or services, but it becomes something entirely new.


If you are still unsure what option is best for you, I can make an assessment of your brand and take your company through a refresh or redesign, depending on what it needs. Although my focus is mainly on digital media, branding is such a central part of doing business that it is hard to ignore it when trying to improve your online presence. Let's take your logo as a simple example: your logo is central to your brand. It is the face of your company. If you are going to invest any time and money into digital media, such as improving your website, being active on social media, or advertising online, then make sure that every time customers lay eyes on your company via their computer screens, smartphones, or tablets, you look your best and convey the right message! You only get one chance to make a first impression! Let me help you make it a great one!


Ready to get the refresh or redesign process started? Visit my website for more information on what I have to offer: https://www.stephaniesmout.com/branding

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