March 19, 2024

Rebrand vs. Brand Refresh

Which one is right for your business?

“Winston Churchill”

“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.”

These days, consumers demand brands to keep up with their shifting attitudes, beliefs, and needs.

Yet the businesses that thrive are not those jumping at every new trend or market opportunity that presents itself. Instead, they are in lockstep with these changes, selectively and strategically acting on opportunities that support their mission, move the needle forward for their vision and extend their purpose.

Knowing when and how to act is not reserved for the most gifted or highly educated. In fact, both can only get you so far if you are not well prepared. It’s the brands built upon a solid foundation that greet these changes with confidence and an opportunistic mindset, because they are clear and united in why they exist and how they add value for consumers. Everything from product innovations to social posts are benchmarked against thoughtful, well-crafted brand standards before they are pursued and deployed. By doing this, these brands continuously deliver on authentic brand expression along with visual and verbal consistency to create mindshare with consumers.

Being in the day-to-day of the business and hyper-focused on the industry can distract from the truth that your brand needs attention. But it takes carving out uninterrupted time for evaluation and reflection to know the strength of a brand. As a litmus test, we encourage you to ask a simple and honest question: “Is my brand, as it stands, holding me back?”

Those who answer yes often assume it’s time for a rebrand or a refresh. But this is setting up for failure.

Don’t get me wrong, action is better than inaction, but spending too much time exerting energy in the wrong places exposes your brand to greater risk of falling behind. More important than Googling the differences between a rebrand and refresh is understanding why your brand is no longer resonating. It’s an exercise in vulnerability, and one where the quality of input is directly correlated to the success of the output.

At Hyperquake, when we start working with a brand, we focus on asking the right questions to uncover the crux of their business challenges. That knowledge helps us determine the exact strategic and/or design solutions that may be needed. Some critical questions in this process include:  

  • What are your core brand values, and how do they align with the values of your target audience?
  • Are you looking to enter new markets or reach a different audience?
  • Is your current strategy aligned with your long term goals and vision?

Once we have a diagnosis, our team can begin to shape and form our approach, whether that is a refresh, rebrand, or something else.

Think about a refresh as painting a new room in your house. It isn’t a fundamental change; it’s a way to preserve the integrity of what already exists while making it more relevant and interesting. Conversely, if the house requires a complete overhaul, it may be time to move. This is a full change of identity, and one that will translate into a better future.

Applying the painted room metaphor, a brand refresh is best suited for brands that aren’t necessarily interested in a new brand identity, but rather a development of their brand story. This may look like:

  • Keeping your core identity and core values, but aspiring to reach a new audience or connect to your current audience more deeply
  • A core brand image that could be strengthened to remain relevant or liven up a visually stale identity or messaging strategy
  • Needing support to remain recognizable as a constantly evolving brand

In 2022, Instagram announced a refreshed visual identity that involved a custom typeface, updated color palette and a modular branding system. These changes were driven by the insight that the global community, which was rapidly growing on the platform, craved an immersive and inclusive space. While Instagram’s brand values of creativity, connectivity, and simplicity still resonated, the visual expression needed a lift. The smaller tweaks to the brand elements communicated that Instagram was not only a place to create and connect, but an outlet for exploration and avenue to drive culture forward.

Cynthia P., Creative Director, Instagram from Meta

“Together, we kept the best of the brand, while
infusing it with new energy and powers of expression.”

On the other hand, reinvention calls for big change. Enter a rebrand. This would be a consideration if the existing brand strategy is stagnant or outdated, or a business is moving into a new innovation with a product or service. There’s a number of reasons one would consider this route:

  • The core brand values are out of line with the values of your target audience, or doesn’t convey your personality and ethos
  • Company’s branding (logo, colors, font) is outdated in the current market
  • The brand identity is just a logo and providing no competitive edge, or not resonating with your audience
  • There is a new product or service launch that requires careful consideration and crafting around the marketplace opportunity

Airbnb is one brand that required a complete transformation. The company was founded by three men who rented out sleeping space on air mattresses in their living room in order to make rent. But over the years, the platform has become much more than finding a place to stay; it embodies belonging to a community, wherever you may be in the world. To better capture this idea of belonging, Airbnb reimagined their brand with a new brand promise, values, logo and website, amongst other things, to transform the company from a technology brand to a lifestyle brand.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky

“It turns out the answer was right in front of us.
For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses.
But really, we’re about home.
You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong.”

The nuances of rebrands and refreshes are far beyond what you read here, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Bringing in an outside perspective with a wide-lens view and a network of resources for market research is invaluable to ensure the changes made are impactful and existing customer loyalty is preserved. It’s an investment in your brand, one that requires a slow down in order to speed up, but will pay off ten fold.

The good news? You don’t need a refresh or a rebrand every time a consumer shifts on you. You just need a strong brand that reinforces your decision to stay the same.


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