Have you considered whether it’s time to refresh your brand? And if so, how do you even go about doing it? We understand it’s an imposing task — after all, your brand is the result of so much work, from perfecting your message to making sure every aspect of your brand identity is synced. Change is scary and messing with your brand once it’s established can feel like going back to square one.
But, it’s important to remember that your brand is a tool.
A complex, multi-faceted tool designed to emotionally resonate with consumers — but a tool nonetheless. You use it to give your product or service a recognizable identity that represents what you do, which can then be employed to build relationships with your target audience. But just like any tool, you can only use it so much before it becomes worn down and in need of repair.
This is the essential idea behind a brand refresh. Unlike a rebrand, it’s not a completely new approach, but rather a recalibration — to stick with our metaphor, you can imagine a rebrand as reaching into the toolbox to find a completely new tool that works in a completely different way.
But how do you “do” a brand refresh? And how do you even know if you need one?
In this article, we’re going to explore what a brand refresh should achieve and how to identify when the time is right to take the plunge — with examples of the best brand refreshes from recent history.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
Why Is A Brand Refresh So Important?
Different markets change at different paces, but none remain static — whether you’re in the fashion industry, the fast-food sector, or a financial brand, consumer tastes are always shifting. Even if those shifts take years to unfold, eventually your brand will find itself in a marketplace that it was not designed for.
The context that informed your original creative decisions may no longer be relevant, while new challenges and trends may demand considerations you were not even aware of before.
This is why a brand refresh can be so important.
While rebrands are probably best reserved for when your existing identity has become too closely associated with negative keywords or has demonstrably lost its ability to resonate with consumers, a refresh allows you to optimize what already works and incorporate new considerations or design choices into your winning formula.
Here are some of the key ways that giving your brand a fresh lick of paint can help your business.
1. It can grab your audience’s attention
Making small changes to your brand identity is a great way to grab the attention of consumers and achieve some free publicity. The rise of social media, online communities, and the demand for constant news stories mean that there are an untold number of commentators who’ll gladly review, analyze, or just share their opinions on your brand refresh online.
As long as your brand refresh isn’t universally hated, you’ll be able to take the negative feedback alongside the good and reap the rewards of being at the front of consumers’ minds.
2. It can increase sales
Creating a buzz can have a direct knock-on effect on your bottom line — if consumers are thinking about you, there’s an increased chance that they’ll begin considering your brand in their purchasing decisions and convert.
3. It can justify raised prices
Changes in the marketplace can sometimes mean that you’re left with no choice but to raise the price of your product or service. This isn’t an easy thing to do — as demonstrated by the furor surrounding Netflix’s 2022 price hikes.
A refresh can allow you to reposition your brand slightly so that its identity reflects the new, higher price tag — and can represent a break with the past that can go some way to softening the blow.
4. It can improve customer retention
If your brand refresh is triggered by changes in consumer behavior and preferences, then repositioning your identity to fit these changes sets your brand up to improve customer retention.
Consumers like to feel that brands are listening to them, so using a refresh to highlight your commitment to their needs can be an effective way of re-engaging those already loyal to your brand.
5. It can help recruit top talent and attract funding
Consumers are not the only ones who will take note of your brand refresh. An update to your employer brand alongside your consumer-facing one can be a great way of realigning your business with the latest employment trends in your industry and helping you stand out from the crowd when it comes to attracting top talent.
This also applies to attracting funding from investors. A refresh can be a great way of turning the page on a period of growth and signaling to all that your company has evolved and matured.
When to Refresh Your Brand
Knowing when to refresh your brand and when to opt for it over a complete rebrand is a challenging decision to make. Though a refresh has numerous benefits, as already listed if done without research or a strong understanding of your target audience, they can actually be counterproductive.
Even something as simple as flattening your logo — a trend that was influenced by the growth of mobile channels, smaller screens, and app icons — has many critics up in arms.
The key to knowing when the time is right for a brand refresh is making sure that your brand manager and marketing team have a finger on the pulse of your brand so that they can constantly monitor its health.
The best way to achieve this is to use brand monitoring software like Latana. This way, you can see whether your brand awareness is growing or flatlining — and see which demographics it isn’t resonating with. This might give you some clue as to the direction your refresh should take.
You can also look at brand understanding, a KPI that allows you to gauge whether consumers understand what you do, or brand consideration and preference which measure how consumers factor your brand into their purchasing decisions. Finally, there’s brand associations — you can check whether consumers align your brand with the same keywords that you believe its identity is built around and if there’s a gap, then maybe it’s time for a refresh.
Another good reason to refresh your brand, especially its visual identity, is just to stay up to date with the latest trends. Unless your brand heavily utilizes a sense of legacy or heritage, then you really don’t want your look and feel to appear outdated when compared to the competition. However, the old adage “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” is certainly true here — and we recommend that you look into the health of your brand first, before potentially upsetting consumers who’d grown attached to your original look and feel.
How to Do a Brand Refresh The Right Way (with 3 Examples)
A good brand refresh is one that carefully takes your precious brand identity and tweaks it here and there to make sure it’s in fighting shape for the current challenges of the market.
Though they can each look different and achieve different things, the same important considerations act as the foundation on which all of them are built.
1. It must take your current brand perception into account
Knowing when to perform a brand refresh can also help make a success of it. If you’ve done your research, you should have a strong understanding of how consumers perceive your brand and where there is room for improvement.
Just doing a refresh because your competitors are, recalibrating different features randomly, and copying the latest trends is not advisable — instead, you should have an idea of what you want to fix or adjust and this should be backed up by clear observations you’ve made whilst tracking the health of your brand.
2. It must redefine your brand strategy
As you make small changes to your brand, this is a great opportunity to make sure that your brand strategy is aligned with the current challenges of the market and the demands of consumers.
For example, flattening your logo means it can appear clearly on mobile devices or be used more flexibly across different channels — so maybe now is a good time to also commit your brand strategy to focus on these digital or mobile-first channels.
Changing your font might improve readability, but what else can you do to address accessibility for your brand? Ultimately, a refresh is a great opportunity to make sure the numerous parts of your brand are all working in unison and striving towards the same goals.
3. It must update your brand’s identity
This one might seem like an obvious one but if you’re making small changes to brand strategy — striving to be a more inclusive brand for example — you must make sure that this is clearly visible to consumers in your brand identity.
The most common types of brand refreshes are visual updates to logos, often alongside changes to a brand’s website or app — but these don’t have to be purely technical or cosmetic in nature. Think about how your brand’s aesthetic or the functionality of your website could reflect your new brand strategy and build your revamped identity from that.
4. It must reactivate your brand
The last step of any brand refresh is the process of getting it back out there on the marketplace to resonate and interact with consumers. Once you have given your brand a fresh lick of paint, make sure to reintroduce it to the world with as much fanfare as you can muster.
Run marketing campaigns on the channels where your target audience will see them and back up your brand’s new look with a creative that hammers home the mission upon which its transformation was predicated.
So, now we know what goes into a great brand refresh, let’s take a look at 3 brands that pulled them off with aplomb.
When Starbucks changed its logo in 2011, it was partly in response to the brand’s global recognition and dominance in the coffee shop sector. The removal of “Starbucks Coffee” from its logo is important because it not only symbolizes the company’s position as a market leader — for which the brand name was no longer necessary to trigger recognition —but indicates that the brand now intends to be about much than coffee.
Indeed, Starbucks is a place to work, grab a snack, or meet up with friends — so it makes sense that the specific nature of their name was dropped. And as a result, the brand was able to open itself up to an even broader audience.
Burger King’s 2021 brand refresh represented something of a backward step for its logo — reverting to the flattened form that was used by the brand between 1969 - 1999.
By harking back to their heritage, their new look evokes a retro feel that is very much in line with the current trend for nostalgia marketing. Meanwhile, the colors chosen were intended to represent the brand’s renewed push to highlight its use of fresh ingredients.
The online chat and community platform Discord began life as a place for gamers to interact and share strategies, but its successes allowed the brand to eye a broader target audience outside of the world of gaming.
To accommodate this change in strategy, Discord refreshed its brand.
This one isn’t a big change at all and is a great example of how a refresh needn’t be about reinventing the wheel — but rather making small adjustments to your existing brand. Discord explained in a tweet that:
"We're updating our brand look. Improved logo, font, colors. Not too different: just a little friendlier. Discord has become a place where people come to explore, grow, and belong. So we're updating our look to be just as welcoming."
Refreshing your brand is not something your should do lightly. However, if you can identify areas where your current identity is not meeting the expectations of consumers or helping you overcome the challenges of the market — a refresh is a great way of correcting course before things get worse.
As with any brand strategy decision, doing it right requires a strong understanding of your target audience and how they perceive both your brand and the competition — and the best way to get on top of this is to track your brand’s health.