Rebrand vs brand refresh: Align your image with your business goals

Branding is vital to your organization’s identity, and just like your personal style, your brand evolves over time. Even the world’s most recognizable brands work to stay relevant by keeping ahead of trends. Though a major undertaking, making changes to your brand can make all the difference in reaching your audience, strengthening your mission, and standing out from the competition. Refreshing your image can breathe in new life–and new revenue. 

But brand changes require serious thought and planning, as it’s crucial to align your image with your business objectives. When it comes to determining the best approach, the biggest question is how drastic of a change to make–do you need a brand refresh, or a full rebrand, and larger overhaul? The answer depends on your goals.

Pepsi’s brand journey shows change over time.

Because every company faces branding changes, there are plenty of real-world examples to turn to for guidance. Here, we share some of our favorites to help illustrate the differences between a brand refresh and a rebrand so you can make an informed decision for your organization.

Brand Refresh

Whether your goal is to retain and grow your audience or simply keep up with technology and trends, consider a refresh. A brand refresh involves subtle yet powerful changes to your existing brand, such as refining your logo, expanding your color palette, or introducing new design elements and messaging. With a refresh, your image seeks polish but remains recognizable to customers and consistent with your existing visual identity.

A refresh can help your company:

  • Stay current with technology
  • Align with modern design trends 
  • Appeal to a broader audience
  • Reflect growth and expanded services/products

Netflix

Netflix is by far the industry leader in streaming services. As they first grew their global audience and began to produce more of their own content, they needed branding that could support their efforts and reflect their prowess. In 2014, Netflix introduced a new, simplified logo that did away with its boxy drop-shadow and 90s feel in favor of a “flat” and modern design.  They also introduced a 3-card “stack” template that brings a cohesive look to the company’s visuals while supporting the flexibility to customize per audience demographic. This standardized-yet-flexible approach helps Netflix unify its branding across an expanding global audience.

Slack

When Slack launched in 2013, it was a small startup with few users and hasty branding. As Slack quickly grew and prepared for its 2019 IPO, the company knew it needed to change its problematic logo: a colorful hashtag that was easily associated with other tech platforms and “extremely easy to get wrong.” With its refresh, Slack maintained a similar color palette, but replaced the hashtag with a pattern of speech bubbles that reflects the company’s core product and provides an extended visual language that maintains consistency across applications.

Rebrand

A rebrand is a heavier lift and requires a more dramatic change. Rebrands are driven by larger initiatives, such as transforming a business model or narrative, changing public perception, or targeting a completely new audience. A rebrand distances a company from its original image to make a statement, usually to pivot in a new direction and accelerate forward.

A rebrand can help your company:

  • Reflect a new business model
  • Tell a different narrative
  • Shift public perception
  • Target a completely new audience

Airbnb

Remember when you could rent an air mattress in a stranger’s apartment through AirBnb? In the course of a decade, AirBnb evolved from a scrappy startup to a company that competes neck-and-neck with the world’s largest hotel chains. As the company shifted away from the sharing economy and into the travel industry, they needed to update their brand to target a new demographic and reflect the quality and breadth of their business offerings. 

AirBnb completely abandoned its original logo and replaced it with a radically different design that represents the company’s core values: people, places, love, and belonging. The logo aligns with a globe-trotting, idealistic audience while elevating AirBnb’s professional stature as a travel option people can trust. Ultimately, the rebrand effort paid off and “helped to propel their valuation to $29Billion above their closest competitor in less than 4 years.”

 

American Airlines

Sometimes, a rebrand is necessitated by external circumstances. When American Airlines decided to redo their logo for the first time in 40 years, it was largely in response to their newest fleet: they acquired 550 planes that could not be polished with the airline’s characteristic silver sheen. American Airlines had to come up with another way to differentiate their planes and decided that a rebrand was the way to go.

In addition to visually distinguishing their fleet with a recognizable logo, American Airlines’s rebrand shifts the company away from their wartime-economy origins and into the United States of the 21st century. They replaced the eagle-on-the-attack with a sleek, abstract eagle that’s looking up and out–-presumably at a new destination on the horizon. Keeping their red, white, and blue palette was non-negotiable, but they updated the hues into modern gradients with depth rather than the stark monochromatics of the ‘60s.  

Choosing an agency partner

Your brand image is so much more than just a logo–it’s how your business engages with the world. Considering this, it’s essential to align your brand with your mission and goals. Outdated brands are less likely to build loyalty with target markets or stand out from competitors, ultimately hurting your bottom line. 

When making a change to your brand, it’s crucial that you work with an agency that not only offers the right services, but has a portfolio that demonstrates a custom approach to each project. At Design in Mind, we pride ourselves on aligning our methodology and design solutions to your business priorities. We believe in taking the time to listen as well as to educate our clients on best practices. Collaboration and flexibility are essential to project success.

We strive to exceed expectations and love to share our success stories:

  • San Jose Spotlight: Building a brand you can trust
  • SurveyMonkey: Personalizing a brand to attract top talent
  • Santa Clara Family Health Plan: A fresh look to build a healthier community

Branding is a big decision, and an important one. In fact, 77% of B2B marketers say that branding is crucial for growth. To make the most of this growth for your business, make the decision for a brand refresh or a rebrand carefully, and choose an agency partner who can help accelerate your brand forward.