A brand refresh is one of the easiest, most impactful ways you can add new life to your brand—as well as new relevance in the eyes of your customers. Primarily a cosmetic solution, a brand refresh can nonetheless have a powerful, wide-ranging impact.

Depending on the brand and the issues it’s facing, a brand refresh can even include adjustments to culture, slogans, and services. What it does not include are changes to a brand’s DNA or fundamental market position.

In what follows, we’ll take a closer look at exactly what a brand refresh entails, as well as when, why, and how to refresh your own brand.

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Ready to dust off your brand and renew your business with a new look and feel? Let’s get started.

What is a Brand Refresh?

A brand refresh is a reimagining of a brand’s look and feel. It’s a way to create a new face for brands that are fundamentally strong but feel a bit stale or outdated.

While it usually centers on a redesign of visual identity, a brand refresh can also affect company culture, systems, products, and/or services.

Rejuvenating the look and feel of your brand can go a long way toward injecting new life into business performance and employee morale, after all.

What is the Difference Between a Brand Refresh and a Rebrand?

Brand Refresh - What is the Difference Between a Brand Refresh and a Rebrand - Ignyte Brands
If you’re trying to better understand what a brand refresh entails, you’re probably at a point where you know something with your brand needs fixing, but you’re not sure how deep the problem goes.

Understanding the difference between brand refresh vs. rebrand is a good place to start. As we’ll see, the distinction itself is a measure of depth. So, understanding the difference should shed light on what’s most appropriate for your brand.

Brand Refresh

A brand refresh is essentially a tactical maneuver, often undertaken to ensure a brand is keeping pace with current marketplace trends.

Companies that remain stagnant while their competitors reinvent themselves with fresh looks and relevant ways to communicate can expect to lose their competitive edge in no time.

Don’t be mistaken by the name, though. Refreshing a brand can be a wide-ranging initiative, redefining your brand’s visual and verbal language across a multitude of touchpoints. It can even include the jettisoning of underperforming or outdated offerings.

Tactical decisions like these are what give the refresh its power. You’re not redefining who you are as a company, you’re just sloughing off the stuff that’s slowing you down—breaking free from outdated perceptions or outmoded ways of communicating with your audience.

What a refresh can’t solve are deep-seated issues like widespread negative perception, internal misalignment, broken brand architecture, or fundamental shifts in a company’s positioning. If these challenges sound familiar, your brand is probably in need of the comprehensive overhaul outlined in the next section.

Rebrand

Compared to a brand refresh, a rebrand is a complete repositioning of your company. It is a fundamental brand update for companies struggling with the systemic issues that accompany substantial growth, a business model shift, or an unmitigable PR disaster.

With a more comprehensive brand update like this, you are abandoning what your brand was for the sake of what it can be. This is the right decision when your current brand is simply no longer sustainable. For companies with negative brand equity (or for those on a downward trajectory that can’t be corrected) it’s really the only option.

Rebooting your brand is a signal to the market that a new strategy is in place, that you are not tied to what got you here, but rather are charting a bold new course for the future. It goes without saying that these types of initiatives are more time- and budget-intensive than a brand refresh, but the dividends they can return are more profound as well.

A thorough branding update lets you shake free from current perceptions and/or associations with your brand. Those associations don’t even have to be negative, necessarily, often times they simply represent a position that you simply can no longer expect to build on.

A brand that has staked its claim on value and low cost, for example, might eventually need to upgrade to positioning centered on quality rather than price consciousness.

Business owners are often all too keen to let go of a brand that isn’t working. It’s critical, however, to have a plan in place for what’s next before you abandon what is. And the only way to ensure a sound, evidence-based plan for your brand’s future is with in-depth brand research and strategy—the extent to which isn’t necessary in a brand refresh.

Why is a Brand Refresh Important?

Brand Refresh - Why is a Brand Refresh Important - Ignyte Brands
We’ve already touched on many of the ways a brand refresh can rejuvenate your business. But let’s take a closer look at some of the measurable effects that refreshing a brand can have on business performance.

Create ‘Buzz’

One of the best, most immediate benefits of a branding refresh is that it gives your customers something to talk about.

A new logo and tagline are enough to remind customers your brand exists—and that you’re still relevant to their needs. Add in a well-planned marketing campaign, and you can pique the interest of new potential customers as well.

Increase Sales

Because a brand refresh puts your brand front-of-mind with current and new customers alike, it naturally leads to an uptick in sales.

The more often your current customers and potential leads are thinking about your brand, after all, the more likely they are to opt to buy from you as opposed to one of your competitors.

Raise Prices

Soaring supply chain costs and overall inflation have left all companies looking for ways to raise their prices. A brand refreshing is one of the most effective ways to justify those cost increases in the minds of consumers.

The truth is, customers will always pay a little more for a brand they consider premium than one that has the same stale, outdated look and feel that it’s had for years.

Improve Customer Retention

Attracting new customers is one thing, keeping them around is another. Brand refreshment signals to your existing customers that you are evolving alongside their needs, and staying one step ahead of the competition.

Customers like to feel that the brands they associate themselves with are current and relevant. As we’ve mentioned above, nothing signals renewed relevance like a brand refresh.

Attract Top Talent

A brand refreshing is a valuable opportunity to update your employer brand as well. Not unlike customers, most employees would rather work for a company on the leading edge of its industry than a legacy brand that’s resting on its proverbial laurels.

A refresh signals to employees that your company is abreast of current trends and tuned in to employee needs.

Get More Funding

For companies looking to attract investors, a brand refresh is one of the best ways to broadcast your value proposition as an innovative organization worth taking a risk on.

Just like customers are more likely to pay more for brands they consider premium, investors are more likely to allocate funding to companies they perceive as leading the field with fresh ideas and a bold look and feel.

When is the Right Time to Do a Brand Refresh?

Brand Refresh - When is the Right Time to Do a Brand Refresh - Ignyte Brands
For companies who are already convinced of the benefits of a brand refresh, the next question is usually, how do I know when the time is right to invest in one?

For most companies, a brand refresh is necessary every three to five years, depending on how quickly their particular market changes.

Consumer products across industries like fashion, food & beverage, beauty, and wellness generally need to refresh their brands more often to stay abreast of trends and maintain relevance.

B2B brands on the other hand, across industries like healthcare, technology, financial services, and information technology, will typically need to refresh their brand every five years, plus.

Regardless of which sector your brand operates in, there are a few telltale signs a brand refresh is necessary. If any of the following five common signs look familiar with your brand, it may be time to consider an update.

Your Brand Feels Outdated

The most obvious sign that a refresh is necessary is a brand that just looks and/or sounds like something from a previous decade. You don’t have to be an expert in brand design or brand messaging to recognize an outdated brand.

On the both visual and verbal side, the clearest sign of an outdated brand is cliché. If your logo and/or tagline feels like it could have been autogenerated by a robot programmed with a hundred other brands like yours from ten years ago, it’s probably time for a refresh.

Your Brand is Inconsistent

As brands grow and evolve, one of the most common issues they encounter is a lack of focus across their various touchpoints. If you have multiple brands with wildly divergent names and/or logos, a refresh is probably in order.

Inconsistency doesn’t have to involve multiple brands, though. If each of your marketing pieces and/or sales presentations looks like it was created by a slightly different company, a refresh is the really the only way to realign stakeholders around a cohesive vision for the brand.

You’re Facing Increased Competition

One of the surest signs a brand refresh is in the cards is mounting threats from the competition. This could come in the form of innovative new players entering the competitive landscape and threatening to take market share.

Or it could be simply that your closest competitor has refreshed its brand and is speaking to customers in new and more appealing ways. In either case, a brand refresh is the best way to stay one step ahead of the market.

Your Marketing is Underperforming

Marketing is a not-insignificant investment for every business. (Or at least it should be.) If you’re not seeing the results from your marketing campaigns that you once did, it may be time to refresh the driving force behind them: your brand.

Underperforming marketing is often tied to the inconsistency mentioned above, but it can also be down to the fact that your brand is simply no longer resonating with your target audiences. As we already touched on, waning relevance is a critical concern for every brand—especially those that have been around for a while. It’s also one of the surefire signs a refresh is necessary.

You’re Looking to Appeal to New Audiences

Looking to your expand offerings into new markets? To do so, you’ll probably have to attract a new set of eyeballs. One of the best ways to appeal to new audiences is to refresh your brand with them in mind.

Whether it’s a younger audience, an older audience, or a different socioeconomic demographic altogether, expanding the relevance of your brand to a new customer segment often means retooling your brand identity to signal that you’re no longer confined to serving the needs of your traditional customer base.

How Do You Successfully Refresh a Brand?

Brand Refresh - How Do You Successfully Refresh a Brand - Ignyte Brands
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of a brand refresh, as well as the right time for a refresh, let’s take a look at how to do a brand refresh.

Successfully refreshing a brand involves four key steps. Think of them as your brand refresh checklist. Be sure you’ve completed each previous step before you move on to the next one.

Following this brand refresh process will set you up for a success in creating a crisp, new look and feel for your brand.

Understand Current Brand Perceptions

Like all branding initiatives, the most successful brand refreshes start with research. While it isn’t necessary to do exhaustive qualitative and quantitative research into those you serve, it always helps to better understand customers’ current needs before you attempt to refresh your brand in a way that is uniquely relevant to them.

This could take the form of a limited set of customer interviews and/or a brief online survey around what they expect from your brand.

Redefine Brand Strategy

Working with the insights from your customer research, think through the ways in which your brand positioning and messaging needs to be adjusted.

Your brand strategy includes everything from your brand compass to your brand personality to key differentiators. Taking a fresh look at these important components of your brand framework, whether they need to be updated or adjusted, and how they affect key brand messaging elements like your tagline, is an important part of any brand refresh.

Redesign Brand Identity

Typically, the most central work to any brand refresh is an update of visual identity. This includes your logo, color scheme, typography, photographic style, etc.

Because your visual identity is the most immediate and visceral representation of your brand, refreshing that identity has the most immediate impact on customers. A crisp, clean new logo is one of the best signals that a brand has its gaze set firmly on the future.

Reactivate the Brand

The final step of any refresh is to reintroduce your brand to the world. Updating your website and social media channels is one of the first and most immediate steps, but a refresh is only truly successful if your target audience is aware of it.

This means a proactive marketing campaign to get your rejuvenated brand in front of the eyes of those who need to see it. Think through the channels where your customers already are (social media, television, radio, etc.) and craft a brand activation campaign designed to get attention.

Brand Refresh Examples

Companies that remain stagnant while their competitors reinvent themselves with fresh looks and relevant ways to communicate can expect to lose their competitive edge in no time.

The world’s top companies undergo brand refreshes all the time. Here are a few notable brand refresh examples that show just how impactful a refresh can be.

Starbucks

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Starbucks had reinvented its image a number of times over the years. In 2011, however, it unveiled its most dramatic iteration yet. Most notably was the lack of the name “Starbucks Coffee” anywhere in its logo.

It was the type of bold move that only a household-name brand could pull off, but it was perfectly in keeping with what the company had become: minimalist, experiential, and about much more than just coffee.

Mastercard

Brand Refresh - Examples Master Card - Ignyte-Brands
Simple, seamless, unmistakable. When it comes to brand refresh examples, the latest iteration of the Mastercard brand was far from a drastic overhaul. For a company in the midst of a digital era constantly in flux, trust and familiarity were critical aspects to retain.

The interlocking red and yellow circles are so recognizable that, like Starbucks, MasterCard was in the unique position of completely removing its name from the new mark. The resultant brand is thoroughly modern and yet steeped in a legacy of integrity.

Southwest

Brand Refresh - Examples Southwest - Ignyte Brands
Challenge: communicate a company culture defined by compassion to an increasingly jaded audience. Hoping to connect with millennials and business travelers alike, Southwest chose an iconic symbol of humanity for a post-ironic market: a heart.

The heart is an emotive punctuation for a brand personality centered on personal touch. A redesign of the company’s livery, airports, and website rounds out a refresh that is modern but true to Southwest’s DNA.

Zenefits

Brand Refresh - Examples Zenefits - Ignyte Brands
Zenefits is a unique case where the need to refresh its brand arose on multiple fronts, each more drastic than the last. After growing to a $4.5b company just two years after its founding, Zenefits found itself in a major compliance scandal that quickly devalued the company to the tune of $2.5b.

Apart from that, however, hardly anyone in their target audience knew who they were. A full 80 percent of HR professionals had never even heard of the brand. The Zenefits brand refresh is an example of a more profound change, driven by goals of reinvention, competitive differentiation, and brand awareness.

The Takeaway

If you’re wondering whether your company needs a brand refresh, you’re not alone. A brand refresh is a great solution for a company who needs a facelift.

Primarily a cosmetic solution, a refresh can nonetheless be wide-ranging and deeply impactful. Just be aware that a brand refresh is not designed to solve deeper-seated issues with positioning, architecture, or misalignment.

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A prolific blogger, speaker, and columnist, Brian has more than a decade of experience in design and branding. He’s written for publications including Forbes, Huffington Post, and Brand Quarterly.