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October 6, 2021

The Difference between a brand refresh and rebranding

By Danielle Matthews 3 Minute Read

Branding is one of the most important pieces in marketing every company needs. Unfortunately, it's harder than it looks. Here, we’ll explain the difference between a brand refresh and rebranding, to help you understand what you exactly need. 

Your brand is a person’s first impression of you and so much more. In a way, it’s like a relationship. There are many things that are needed to create a sense of trust and loyalty between you and your customers. As with any relationship, looks and first impressions matter, but the essence of who you are is key to building a lasting, true relationship. It is a culmination of who you are at your core, how you look, how you treat others, and what truly motivates you.

So, now that we’ve established what branding is, let’s talk about when your brand isn’t working for you and what you can do about it.

Is Your Brand Still Relevant?

It is natural for brands to become stale as life and trends evolve around us constantly. Taking a hard look at your brand and deciding how you will keep it relevant is a healthy habit you should keep up with regularly.  

Most brands opt to go for a refresh, while some rebrand entirely. These two terms are almost always mistakenly interchanged and it drives me insane. They are not the same, though elements of a refresh are present in a rebrand. 

What is a Brand Refresh?

Think of a refresh as going on a date with someone new. You will probably dress a little nicer, maybe do your hair a bit differently, put on some makeup or cologne, and present the most desirable set of traits that will ultimately hook your date on returning for another one with you. You haven’t changed who you are at your core (at least, I would hope you haven’t), but you're simply making yourself look more appealing to get a person interested in getting to know about you—including your beliefs and core values. Over time, you have the opportunity to build trust and a reputation with your date that could last for years.

A refresh usually involves updating a logo, fonts, and occasionally, color. But, it doesn't stop there. Other parts of the company visuals that reach the target audience are also updated. The goal is to spark new interest and attention.

Taco Bell recently refreshed their brand in more ways than one. They updated their logo, fonts, and color palette and also introduced new visuals into their marketing. What’s interesting to note is the changes made inside the stores. Many of their restaurants have undergone a recent facelift. To keep up with the evolving trends in design, lifestyle, and dining, Taco Bell went to the extent of revamping their stores to enhance customer experience. 

No longer do you feel cheap and dingy while eating in an outdated Taco Bell restaurant. You can still enjoy budget tacos while feeling hip!    

Who they are hasn’t changed; they still serve the same tasting budget-friendly tacos, but they just updated their image to connect with consumers more and spark interest again with their customers.

What is Rebrand?

If a refresh is like a first date, then rebrand would be more like going through personal or spiritual enlightenment. You may develop a new system of beliefs or core values. This change could alter the type of crowd you associate with or the things that make you unique. A rebrand is a complete overhaul of who you are, not just visually, but at your core. 

A true rebrand is harder to find with the terms getting so easily confused and admittedly, even within agencies, we seem to screw up  the two terms all the time. Examples of a true rebrand would be Cingular merging with AT&T to create AT&T Wireless, Bell Atlantic Telephone becoming Verizon (now I am dating myself), and GMAC becoming Ally Financial. USA Today has listed a few more here

 Usually, rebrands occur for the following reasons:

  • A merger
  • Damage control
  • Change of mission, priorities, or offerings
  • Change of target market
  • New core values

A rebrand focuses heavily on repositioning a company’s messaging, tone of voice, and the core values at the heart of the organization. Next, changes to the visuals and collateral follow. Rebrands consist of plenty of market research and messaging sessions to narrow in on discovering who your organization is at the heart of it all. Nothing wrong with a little self-discovery :) 

What Can You Expect With Either a Brand Refresh or Rebranding?

Both take time, careful research and planning. How are you best able to connect with and reach consumers today? Do you still believe in your mission, or has your company’s passion changed over time? Be prepared to invest extra time and money into this endeavor if you want to do it right.

Before you start, talk to an expert on branding before moving forward in either direction. They will help you decide which path is right for you and guide you along in the process. Most true rebranding strategies will ask the right questions to help you uncover your new brand. The next step is strategizing how that should look visually and interact with your audience.  

Don’t expect it all to happen overnight. A complete rebrand could take a year to get off the ground with all the planning, strategizing, and execution that is required to do it properly. Remember, this will be the first impression of your brand and the lasting impression for your following. You want to invest time and money to take a deep look at your organization. If you rush the process, you may find you’ve missed the mark a few years down the road and need to do it again.

Need Help With Rebranding?

When you combine our StoryBrand expertise with our design services, it’s apparent that we know the right questions to ask to assist with your rebranding efforts.  Contact us to learn more!

Danielle Matthews
About the Author
Danielle is VDG's Senior Art Director. Whenever she gets a minute to herself she enjoys binge-watching Netflix, reading, obnoxiously loud music, fishing, drinking obscene amounts of coffee, and probably being an all-around nerd.

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