Rebranding vs Brand Refresh: Which One Is Right For You?

Change is necessary for every business to survive, and as a business owner, that can mean making important decisions about your company's branding. Market expectations, audiences and current trends develop quickly across industries, and your branding plays a vital role in your business’s success in the market.

If you’re finding that your marketing is no longer bringing in the engagement or revenue it used to, your business looks outdated compared to competitors, or customers are looking beyond your brand to get products and services, it may be time to consider refreshing your brand or going for a full-scale rebrand to set your business back on the right path and maintain your competitive edge – not to mention that all-important brand equity.

There are big differences in how brand do-overs and refreshes work, and one option may be more beneficial than the other, depending on your company’s needs.

Read on to learn more about the differences between a brand refresh strategy and a rebrand and which is right for you.


How To Choose Between Rebranding And A Brand Refresh

The names are similar, but the purpose — and effects — differ greatly.

Businesses may choose a brand update or rebranding to achieve distinct objectives. A brand update – or refresh – aims to modernise outdated brands or revitalise those falling behind market trends.

On the other hand, a rebrand is an altogether more radical undertaking that tackles problems lying deep within the brand.

A brand overhaul takes a brand back to basics and builds it back up to completely reposition it within the market. A rebranding project aims to create a new brand identity that will change how customers, investors, competitors, and employees perceive your company.


What Is A Rebrand?

Let’s put it this way. If the brand refresh process is a facelift – a rebrand is more like a rebirth, a complete transformation into a new being.

Revamping a brand involves a comprehensive overhaul of a brand’s strategy, value proposition, positioning, messaging, and core identity before reintroducing it to the market. It’s much more than a simple change in logo design, or updating your brand values.

Through rebranding, a brand can completely redefine itself, tap into new markets, attract fresh customers, and distinguish itself from competitors.


The Benefits

Although taking on a complete rebrand is a big undertaking, the benefits of rebranding have been proven time and time again.

The benefits of a rebrand can include:

  • Distancing a brand from negative perceptions
  • Opportunities to enter new markets and increase prices
  • Attracting more valuable customers
  • Improving brand image and stakeholder engagement
  • Differentiation from competitors


When Should You Choose To Transform Your Brand?

Many events can trigger the need for brand updates – some more positive than others.

When a business experiences growth, it can see its target audience grow, too. This means that its brand strategy must also change with a new visual identity to cater for new demographics and geography.

A business may also choose to update its branding when it goes through an acquisition or merger or when the brand has drifted away from its original brand strategy.

In more challenging situations, a business may update its branding if it finds it cannot keep up with — or outpace — its competitors because it cannot differentiate itself in the market.

Additionally, brands encountering fierce consumer backlash are becoming more common thanks to growing consumer demand for accountability and the ever-present churn of debate on social media.

Brands that don’t feel as though they can recover may find creating a new brand is the only way to keep the ship from sinking. In this case, a brand transformation can reconfigure brand positioning, attract new audiences, and refocus a company’s brand story to weather the storm of bad press.


How Often Should You Rebrand?

It’s said that, on average, a business will undergo a rebrand once every 7–10 years. However, the main indicators a business should consider it include:

  • Its offering has changed or developed
  • Its audience has changed or expects different things
  • Its marketing strategy is no longer working
  • It’s become out of date

It’s important to note that the process can take between 12–18 months and requires a healthy budget. With this in mind, it’s crucial to ensure that this investment aligns with your business goals.

Conducting a brand audit is a great place to start. This involves thoroughly examining your current brand to identify areas for improvement and understanding why changes are necessary. By doing so, you can determine if a brand overhaul is the best course of action for your business, or not.


Brand Reinvention: The Success Stories


In its 46-year history, Apple has expanded its portfolio of sub-brands and products well beyond computers, which is why its brand reinvention saw it evolve from Apple Computers to Apple Inc. This meant Apple could reposition itself in consumers’ minds as more than a computer manufacturer; it also made phones, portable music players, and TV streaming.

Along with its name change, Apple stripped away the rainbow colour palette from its iconic Apple logo and replaced it with a monochrome alternative, signalling a shift into a sleeker, more sophisticated era that prized itself on smooth, intuitive user experiences as much as it did on its modern product designs.


Chiefly, Airbnb reformed its brand to differentiate itself from its competitors. The messaging became clear; to take a holiday in homes listed on Airbnb meant you could belong anywhere, and that’s the very slogan they chose: ‘belong anywhere’.

Using a simple, evocative logo that could be used across every touchpoint, Airbnb’s new identity set the business up perfectly to be able to expand and succeed in every country in the world.


Facebook is one of the most ubiquitous brands in the world, and its rebranding process from Facebook to Meta draws on that ever-present nature the company has built up with its new Infinity Loop logo redesign.

However, the new brand, Meta, seeks to distance itself from the social media facet of the business and expand into the quickly developing metaverse — a digital virtual reality world that has opened up endless possibilities for a wide range of industries. It is a move that opens the brand up to new ventures away from social media and distances it from the tumultuous history Facebook has had in recent years.


What Is A Brand Refresh?

A brand refresh will keep the brand and all its essentials intact, and the brand’s market position will likely stay the same.

However, a refresh will give the brand a new look and enhance its functionality by updating and refining the company’s brand messaging, brand elements tone of voice, and strategy.

Often, a company refresh results in a new logo, a new tagline, new fonts, and even some new products or services.


The Benefits Of A Brand Refresh

Although a brand update or refresh doesn’t dig as deep as brand reinvention, there are still a wide range of important and lucrative benefits business owners can access.

Firstly, a brand refresh brings a brand up to date and ensures it is a strong brand and is still competitive in its current market. You’re able to modernise your brand while keeping its core intact, meaning the current brand can still speak to the same audience in the same market, but with an attractive, contemporary visual identity.

However, if expansion is the goal, a brand refresh can still facilitate this. New visual elements from a brand refresh may attract new customers, building on the company’s share in its current marketplace. Plus, by refreshing marketing materials, you can bring your brand back into the centre of public consciousness. Some iconic brand refreshes have got a lot of attention.


What Changes During A Brand Refresh?

What is changed during a refresh will depend on the needs of the existing brand. Generally, the following elements will be changed in a brand refresh:

  • Logo design
  • Visual identity
  • Service and product offering
  • Tone of voice

Old logos will be updated to keep the brand looking modern; visual identity will be changed to focus the brand; services and products may be tweaked to respond to developing audience expectations; and finally, tone of voice brings the whole package together, distilling the brand into a recognisable entity that customers will relate to, understand, and trust.


What Are The Signs That Your Company Needs A Brand Refresh?

Refreshing a brand is often a strategic move to keep it relevant and competitive in the ever-evolving market. Here are some signs that your company might need a brand refresh.

1. Outdated visual identity. If your logo, colours, fonts, or overall style seem outdated compared to other companies or what’s currently popular, it might be time for a change.

2. Changing target audience. If your target audience has shifted and your current brand doesn’t resonate with them anymore, it’s a sign to update your brand to better connect with your new demographic.

3. Negative reputation. If your brand is associated with negative perceptions or outdated stereotypes, a refresh can help you change the narrative and rebuild your reputation.

4. Inconsistent branding. If your brand assets and messaging lack consistency across different touchpoints, it can confuse customers and weaken brand recognition. A refresh can establish clear brand guidelines and unify your brand image.

5. Internal changes. Changes in leadership, company values, or strategic direction might necessitate a refresh to reflect the new vision and direction of the company.

6. Declining sales. If your company is experiencing declining sales or losing market share, it could be due to a lack of relevance or differentiation in the market. A brand refresh can reignite interest and attract new customers.


When Should You Choose To Do A Brand Refresh?

A brand refresh streamlines a business. It discards what is slowing down progress and helps to clarify its goals, market position, and offers.

Of course, an attractive benefit of a brand refresh is that it requires less time and money. A brand refresh can take as little as 3–4 months—a blink of an eye compared to the years-long process rebrands can sometimes require.

If you’re already working with a good brand with a positive reputation, a rebrand will not be necessary to boost your company’s performance. A brand refresh can give you all the benefits you need to keep up with and overtake your competition.


How Often Should You Do A Brand Refresh?

There is no particular schedule you should keep to when considering a brand refresh. It is more important to refresh your brand at the right time and for the right reasons.


Revolutionary Makeovers: The Evolution of Iconic Brands


Starbucks turned 40 and embarked on a highly successful brand refresh that would tell the world it offered more than just coffee. In a brand transformation that prioritised simplification and clarification, the Starbucks Coffee banner was removed from the logo. It freed the brand up to apply the branding consistently across the growing variety of products on their menus, from breakfast foods and salads to cakes and smoothies.

Papa Johns

Papa Johns — formerly known as Papa John’s — refreshed its brand a few years after a scandal saw its founder, John Schnatter, resign. Some would argue that its brand refresh would help to distance it from said scandal, but the company states the refresh aimed to put its pizza ingredients centre-stage in its messaging.

The Papa Johns colour palette includes red (tomato), green (fresh basil), white (pizza dough), purple (garlic), and yellow-green (pickled pepperoncini).

The stretched typeface makes reference to Papa Johns’ fresh and stretchy pizza dough, and the brand has also adopted a hand-drawn illustration style that highlights the brand’s playful persona and hand-crafted pizzas.

This refresh makes the brand all about its pizzas instead of focusing on its founder’s name.


Dunkin’ Donuts was in the lucky position of being able to refresh its brand in the knowledge that its customer base were already using some of the changes. Dunkin’ Donuts became Dunkin’ — a name Dunkin’ customers were already using day-to-day thanks to its well-known “America runs on Dunkin’” campaign.

Dunkin’ took on a brand refresh to refocus as a speedy-service, beverage-oriented brand. Its iconic pink and orange colour palette stayed put, honouring its heritage while modernising its typography, identity, and even its menu to respond to changing customer desires.


In Summary

A rebrand and a brand refresh are fundamentally different.

The former will reinvent a business from the bottom up to set it off in a new direction, while the latter will take what is already working within a brand and run with it, letting go of anything that is holding a brand back.

Modernisation, clarification, and market share expansion are often the key benefits of a brand overhaul and a brand refresh, but business owners should do their research and carefully consider which option is right for their business before diving in.


Looking To Rollout Some Brand Changes?

At Studio Noel, we’re brand experts who love every part of the branding process. Whether you’re looking to start anew or give your existing brand a new lease of life – we’re here to help.

Our teams can help you decide which direction will be best for your business and have the skills and knowledge necessary to guide you through the entirety of your branding project with individually tailored workshops, strategy sessions, and more.

We can even help you create new brand guidelines so that your team is on board with the new look and feel of your brand.

Contact us to discuss your branding needs!

further reading
Skip to content