Time for Rebranding or a Brand Refresh? Follow This Process for Success

What Is a Rebrand? Before diving into the how-to discussion, for a successful rebrand we need to establish what rebranding actually is. How does a company’s goals or the level of comprehensiveness affect the brand refresh? The Oxford English Dictionary defines rebrand as a “change to the corporate image of a company or organization”. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, “the act of changing the way that an organization, business company, or product or services appears to the public”.

In practice, rebranding can be as simple as refreshing a company’s logo or an adjustment to a firm’s marketing strategy, or as comprehensive as a ground-up overhaul of the corporate mission and identity.

A rebranding is a great opportunity to strengthen your company’s image. It also offers the chance to refresh and revitalize your brand for many reasons. One of the most important steps in a rebrand is to create a timeline for your process, which will help you make sure that everything goes according to plan.

Rebranding is similar to branding… but with “baggage.” Meaning, often you bring your old conceptions (or misconceptions) of what you are about, what you stand for, without any complete reality to check.

Rebranding can be a difficult process for your company. Outsourcing the work to an outside company might give you a new perspective from outside of the business. Outsourcing the work to an outside company can give the opportunity for a fresh start on your brand strategy.

When Rebranding a Company Is Necessary

When is rebranding a company necessary? Actually, there are quite a few situations in which some degree of rebranding may be necessary.

–New Competition

When new brands enter the industry or niche, or when existing brands expand into that space, it may be necessary to rebrand a company in order to stand out. There is also the possibility that one or more of your company’s existing competitors will fail and leave a vacuum. There is even the chance that brands in seemingly unrelated sectors may prove a concept or strategy that you must integrate before someone else does.

The point here is this – the competitive field is in a state of constant evolution. New firms open their doors. Existing ones close. Advancements and changes occur. Things are in a constant state of flux, and it is vital that your company is able to remain relevant and ahead of the curve. Otherwise, you risk falling behind. Rebranding can be an important strategy in that regard.

–New Target Audience

While you might assume that your target audience is strongly defined and pretty permanent, that’s not really the case. Consumer tastes, preferences and trends change, and they can do so seemingly overnight. You must be prepared to market to a new target audience.

A great example is the rise of Millennials and the fall of Baby Boomers. As Boomers leave the workforce through retirement, they have less of an impact on businesses. Millennials, on the other hand, are becoming more and more important for businesses in all sectors.

You could even find that you have a new target audience because consumer expectations have been shifted by competitors. When this happens, it demands at least a soft refresh of your marketing strategy in order to ensure that you are accurately targeting your new audience and that you are delivering the optimum customer experience.

–New Industry Standards

In all industries, constant innovation and evolution are natural, necessary elements of staying in business. New standards are set all the time. Think of how Apple completely changed the game for the cellular phone industry when they introduced the first iPhone. Think of how touchscreen technology has become so commonplace, or how smart devices are playing a larger and larger role in our lives.

These innovations and new standards set the pace and this also applies to your branding efforts. You must remain abreast of current best practices and marketing techniques in order to reach your audience. Any marketing or brand strategy vs marketing strategy must include video in order to stay competitive, or even relevant.

How To Rebrand Effectively and Strategically

With a better understanding of why rebranding a company is sometimes necessary, now we need to turn our attention to doing so effectively and in accordance with a larger, over-arching strategy. What should the rebranding process be based on? 

–Define Your Goals: Why Do You Need a Rebrand?

The first step in a brand refresh is to define your goals. Why do you need to rebrand? What is the purpose? What are the drivers affecting your existing branding? Remember that success is defined by goals, so this always comes first. Define your goals, but also the KPIs you will use for measuring success and developing the strategy that you’ll follow.

Based on the reasons for your rebrand, like those we explored previously, determine what it is that you hope to accomplish through the rebranding. Do you want to be more relevant to your current audience? Do you need to find a way to resonate with a new audience? Are new standards affecting the landscape in your industry? How will you measure progress toward those goals and track ROI?

It’s also important to take a close look at your entire marketing strategy. Your company’s marketing efforts may be ignoring an important source of visibility and customer engagement by focusing exclusively on outbound marketing without inbound strategies.

–Diagnostic Analysis

Too often business decisions are made from sheer will and not insights. This is how things were always done pre-2000.  Now that we’re in the age of information, there is no need to gamble.  Embrace data.

Ideally, customer insights which come from both quantitative and qualitative sources of raw data. Statistical analysis is not enough. Our own agency uses the Data Matrix Appraisal, a robust analysis product that allows us to dig into your competitors’ data to improve the performance of your entire sales and marketing funnel.
It a done-for-you service that takes about 2-4 weeks to complete and you’ll end up with a data-informed marketing plan:

  • Map out paid, owned and earned media angles and content direction – from top to bottom funnel hand off to sales
  • Non-branded, long tail keywords that will increase inbound performance
  • Shorten your sales cycle (or create it,  if you don’t have one yet beyond word of mouth)
  • Create a roadmap/marketing plan
  • Competitor Analysis/Share of Traffic
  • KPI benchmarks
  • Budget around your sales goals for 2023
  • Well organized, data-based plan for fast c-suite/investor sign off

to rapidly analyze data and help all sizes of brands clarity for their next steps and for prescriptive analysis and even data visualization. We have helped Fortune 500s as well as small-funded startups with this same flexible, powerful tool. 

Related to the previous step, but even more critical in building your strategy is this: knowing that you need to change may be obvious, but you must still conduct market research, competitive research, and marketing research, prior to deciding how to create that change in order to find that key consumer insight that will increase your revenue flow/deal flow.

Your rebranding decisions should be based on accurate, actionable data. The data analysis process will need the right tools, resources, and methods for assessing current brand performance, and knowledge of what metrics will be employed to measure the efficacy of the rebrand. That data will also need to be shared with others and contextualized in order to be fully leveraged, as well.

Quite often doing analysis first will help you give you data informed decisions that will help increase your sales goals since data will help give you user-centric information to guide that balance between talking about you vs your customers wants needs and pain points. More importantly it can lead to predictive analysis which will improve customer experience which leads to the totality of brand experience.

–Determine What Elements of the Brand Need a Refresh

As mentioned, the rebranding process can vary significantly from one company to another depending on what’s driving the rebranding. The next step is to determine what elements of your brand actually need a refresh. Is it something relatively superficial, like revamping and rolling out a new logo? Or is there a more comprehensive need? Not entirely sure about your rebranding needs?

Follow this checklist:

  • Determine the problems or challenges you are attempting to solve.
  • Determine if competitive changes are involved.
  • Determine if there are changes to your customer profile.
  • Determine if you have outgrown your current niche.
  • Determine if you have a compelling story for your brand.
  • Determine if you are compromising brand equity with the rebranding.
  • Determine if there is an actual need for rebranding – change for the sake of change rarely leads to positive results.
  • Determine if your rebranding coincides with other changing business principles.
  • Determine how your rebranding will affect the company in 5, 10, and 15 years.
  • Determine if your rebranding would be the direction the company would take if it was just being founded today.


What degree of shift will you make?

Consider this. Are you looking for a complete 180 degree shift in your brand identity? Perhaps you’re trying to shake an old image? If so, new positioning, new messaging is a must… Those preliminary steps will properly inform a new logo, a new color palette and an overall change in perspective for your customers and how the perceive you.

On the flip side perhaps you feel that you’re 80% there and just want to refresh the brand around a new insight? If so the process might be more about trimming the fat and enhancing the parts that are working fine.

Of course you might need something in between these two extremities. Either way be open to new possibilities your rebranding partners are bringing to the table. It’s often we can see 10x more than you might think and a rebranding engagement is the perfect time to bring these concepts to light and air them out with everyone.

Understand that a rebrand is an opportunity to move focus or to integrate more focus on the customer journey. It must integrate both internal messaging and company values with your marketing message and strategy. Whether internal or outsourced, knowing how to build a marketing team that values collaboration and coordination is critical to success in both the short and long term.

Build Your Rebranding Strategy Around Creative Collaboration

Your rebranding strategy must be built around creative collaboration. In fact, a strategy that does not employ creativity while interpreting and contextualizing data is doomed from the outset. It also defeats the purpose of the rebrand in the first place.

We’ve seen marketing “leave out the CEO” to speed up the process, only to find the CEO seeing the final product but feeling left out and killing all progress made due to lack of involvement and ownership with the change. Imagine if your partner completely changed the walls of your home from white to dark red with no prior conversation about it. That about sums it up. Hopefully they knew you loved dark red.

How to position your company

Your business needs to be clear about its purpose. This can be difficult because it is often hidden behind a sales pitch. You need to have a clear idea of the target customers and their problems. Positioning is about making sure that your business is clearly understood by customers. It’s about how you relate to the customers’ problem and use the brand as a vehicle to solve it.

The purpose of positioning is to make the customer understand your business model on a high-level. A positioning is a brief statement that helps to explain how you do what you do and why it is unique. It should be a short, punchy statement that can be used in advertising so it becomes unforgettable.

The position statement is the most important part of your positioning strategy, because it will go into more detail on how you are different from other players in the market.

For a more detailed guide to market position, see our article on creating a complete marketing strategy and plan.

Design System

The majority of your message should be communicated through visuals. When it comes to communications, people are drawn to what they see first. Establish a design system that includes brand guidelines, color palette, typography and content. This will give your company continuity and help customers recognize you. It needs to be cohesive, easy to recall and inspiring. It should be an impression of the core values that you communicate to customers. Consider the following when designing your brand:

Visual Identity

A strong visual identity is the look of your company’s logo, letterhead and other marketing material. It is obvious that you need to create a beautiful logo that reflects your company’s values. But how do you make sure this visual identity will stand the test of time? How can it be updated over time to keep up with new trends and technologies without losing its essence?  In this article, we will show how to create a logo that is timeless and flexible.

Updating Your Logo

Start by thinking about the purpose of your business and what it means to your customers. A logo is a visual representation of what the brand is trying to achieve and how it helps them accomplish their goals.

Does your current logo accomplish this?

Great designers focus on both how your assets look as well as what it means to produce impact. The only way we can explain it is that they capture all of the above points listed and synthesize it into imagery. Can you imagine taking a quantitative business strategy and transforming it into artistic storytelling that moves people emotionally?

If not, it’s even more reason why you should definitely find a partner to help you with this critical initiative.

Think and Plan for the Long Term

As a final note, make sure that you’re planning for the future. Don’t shortchange yourself with limited vision and planning. Set both short- and long-term goals before launching. Revise and upgrade your strategy accordingly. You don’t want to be Radio Shack with the company’s 2009 failed rebrand to The Shack, and you don’t want to be GAP with their short-lived, six-day long logo change. Even after launch, a good brand strategy is an iterative, ongoing process.

For your rebranding to succeed, you need to find a partner that understands the importance of it. The best partners are those who have already done a rebrand themselves or have experience in the industry.