Rebranding vs. Brand Refresh: What Are They and Why Do Companies Need Them?



The great Heraclitus once said, "Change is the only constant in life." In the realm of business, these words echo with resounding truth. The dynamic nature of markets, technology, and consumer behavior necessitates companies to adapt, evolve, and reinvent themselves continuously. Here's where rebranding and brand refresh come into play. They serve as transformative tools, allowing businesses to keep pace with change while maintaining relevance. But what exactly are they, and how do they work?

What is Rebranding?

Rebranding is a strategic overhaul of a company's corporate image, identity, or brand. It goes beyond a mere logo redesign or marketing tweak. It’s a deep-rooted transformation that often entails changes in the brand's mission, vision, values, personality, and aesthetics. 

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Consider the remarkable rebranding journey of Old Spice. Once known for its 'classic' scent, it was a brand associated more with the older generation. However, in 2010, Old Spice embarked on a radical rebranding and marketing strategy. With the introduction of the "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign, Old Spice shed its old-fashioned image and became appealing to a younger demographic, thereby gaining a new lease on life.

Old Spice | JFL Retail

What is a Brand Refresh?

In contrast to the comprehensive nature of rebranding, a brand refresh involves making changes to the existing brand name's look and feel while maintaining its core identity. This process is more like a renovation than a rebuild, modernizing the brand to resonate with current market trends and consumer preferences.

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A classic example of a brand refresh is LEGO. In the early 2000s, LEGO was on the brink of bankruptcy due to its overly diversified product lines and failure to resonate with its target market. However, rather than a complete rebrand, LEGO decided to refresh its brand. It refocused on its core products (the LEGO sets) and embarked on collaborations for themed LEGO sets (like Star Wars and Harry Potter), reviving the brand's appeal. Additionally, LEGO implemented enhanced marketing efforts, including digital campaigns and the development of the LEGO movie. The result? LEGO saw a remarkable turnaround, reestablishing its beloved and iconic status without losing its familiar identity.

Why Companies Rebrand or Refresh

Businesses decide to rebrand or refresh for several reasons, each tied to the necessity of change.


The competitive business landscape demands that brands remain relevant. This relevance comes from aligning with customer needs, industry trends, and cultural shifts. When a brand seems disconnected from these dynamics, it may choose to rebrand or refresh.

Take Burberry, for instance. The luxury brand suffered a blow in the 2000s when its iconic check pattern became synonymous with 'gang wear' in the UK. Burberry decided to rebrand, minimizing the use of its check pattern and revamping its collections. The rebrand successfully revived Burberry's luxury status and broadened its appeal.

Growth and Expansion

As businesses expand into new markets or demographics, they often need to rebrand or refresh to cater to a new audience. 

Case in point: Spotify. In 2015, the music streaming giant refreshed its brand to better connect with its growing global audience. Spotify introduced a vibrant color palette and a lively aesthetic, bringing a youthful and energetic vibe that resonated with music lovers worldwide.

Mergers and Acquisitions

When companies merge or acquire another business, rebranding becomes crucial to integrate the brands and create a cohesive identity. 

Consider the examples of United Airlines and Continental Airlines. Post-merger in 2010, the new entity adopted a rebranded identity using United's name but Continental's logo and livery, effectively symbolizing the union of the two airlines.

Rebranding vs Brand Refresh checklists

So, those were some of the big signs that a company might be either successfully rebranding or refreshing its brand. But remember, it's not just about ticking off the boxes. It's really important that both these moves, whether it's a rebrand or a refresh, are backed up by good research and a solid game plan to make sure they hit the mark

Rebranding Checklist

✔️ Significant change in the brand's mission or vision that warrants a new identity. 

Example: Old Spice, once a traditional aftershave brand, decided to cater to a younger demographic, necessitating a radical shift in its branding.

✔️ A merger or acquisition that requires the creation of a unified brand.

Example: When United Airlines and Continental Airlines merged in 2010, a new brand identity was created to symbolize the united front.

✔️ The current brand identity is outdated and no longer connects with the target audience.

Example: The fashion retailer Burberry underwent a rebrand to shed its gang-related image and reposition itself as a luxury brand.

✔️ A significant expansion or diversification of products or services that the current brand identity doesn't cover.

Example: FedEx changed from its original name, Federal Express, to better represent its wide range of services beyond express shipping.

Brand Refresh Checklist

✅ Minor changes in the brand's mission statement, vision, or target market that call for a brand update rather than a complete overhaul.

Example: Dunkin' Donuts simplified its name to Dunkin' to reflect its expanded focus on coffee and other beverages.

✅ The desire to stay relevant and competitive in an evolving market.

Example: Google updated its logo to a more modern, sans-serif font to align with digital aesthetics.

✅ The brand has strong brand recognition still, but certain elements have become outdated or stale.

Example: Starbucks simplified its logo by removing the "Starbucks Coffee" text to create a sleeker, more modern design.

✅ Changes in the brand’s design trends, such as color schemes, logos, or typography to stay current with design trends.

Example: Instagram updated its logo in 2016 to a more minimalist design, keeping up with the flat design trend prevalent at the time.

Knowing When It's Time for a Brand Refresh or Rebranding

Recognizing the right time to rebrand or refresh is a game-changer. Here are some signs that it might be time for one:

Outdated Brand Image

If a brand feels outdated compared to competitors, it might be time for a refresh. This needn't be a total overhaul; subtle changes can work wonders. 

Take the example of Instagram. In 2016, the social media platform refreshed its logo from a vintage camera to a minimalist, gradient icon. This refresh reflected Instagram's evolution and kept it in line with modern design trends.

Change in Business Strategy

When a company alters its business model, product offerings, or target audience, rebranding becomes necessary to reflect these changes.

Netflix offers an illustrative example. What began as a DVD rental service evolved into a streaming giant, and along this journey, Netflix had to rebrand multiple times to communicate its new offerings effectively.

Understanding the need for rebranding or a brand refresh, recognizing the signs, and acting on them are all keys to remaining competitive. But once the decision is made, what's the next step? 

The Proper Steps in Rebranding a Company

Embarking on a rebranding journey is akin to navigating a ship through uncharted waters, necessitating a carefully charted course. Here are the key steps involved:


The initial step involves comprehensive market research, understanding the competitive landscape, market share, customer needs, and current trends. Take the case of Cadillac, once considered an 'old man's car'. In a bid to attract younger customers, Cadillac embarked on extensive market research before initiating its successful rebrand.

Strategy Formulation

The research insights then help in crafting a clear brand strategy, redefining the brand’s vision, mission, and values. This strategy becomes the guiding light for the brand guidelines throughout the entire rebranding process.

Creating a New Identity

With a new strategy in place, brands can create a fresh visual identity. This involves a logo redesign, typography changes, color palette alterations, marketing materials and more. The rebranding of Airbnb, for instance, introduced the 'Bélo' logo, reflecting the brand's global outlook and its focus on building a sense of belonging.

Brand Rollout

Once the new brand identity is crafted, it needs to be implemented across all platforms and customer touchpoints. Ensuring consistency in web design and implementation is crucial.

The Proper Steps in Doing a Brand Refresh

While less drastic than rebranding, a brand refresh follows a similar approach.


The first step involves an audit of the current brand to identify elements that need updating. The goal is to enhance what works and improve what doesn't.


Once the necessary changes are identified, brands modernize these brand elements, while ensuring the brand's core identity is preserved.


Crucially, the brand must then communicate these changes to its audience, typically through a targeted marketing campaign. 

A classic example of a brand refresh done right is Google's evolution in 2015. The tech giant refreshed its logo, shifting from a serif to a sans-serif typeface. While the change was subtle, it echoed Google’s ethos of simplicity and user-friendliness.

The impact of rebranding and brand refresh

Let's delve into more instances of rebranding and brand refresh, both successful and unsuccessful.

Successful Rebranding: MasterCard

MasterCard offers a stellar example of successful rebranding. In 2016, the financial services corporation launched a minimalist new logo, moving away from its dated 1996 design. This move was a strategic response to the digital age, simplifying the logo for better display on mobile devices and digital platforms. The rebrand was well received and symbolized MasterCard's evolution from a traditional credit card company to a modern, digital payment solutions provider.

Unsuccessful Rebranding: Tropicana

Not all rebranding efforts are triumphant, as exemplified by Tropicana. In 2009, the juice company decided to replace its iconic packaging featuring an orange with a straw in it with a minimalist design. However, this change led to a 20% drop in sales and a massive customer backlash. Consumers felt the new packaging looked generic and struggled to recognize the brand they loved. Tropicana swiftly reverted to its old packaging, a costly lesson in understanding the emotional attachment customers had to their original brand identity.

Successful Brand Refresh: Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts' brand refresh is an example of clever adaptation to new market dynamics. In 2018, Dunkin' Donuts shortened its name to In 2018, Dunkin' Donuts shortened its name to just "Dunkin'. This decision was part of a brand refresh strategy aimed at repositioning Dunkin' as a beverage-led brand, reflecting the fact that beverages, especially coffee, made up 60% of the company's US sales.

With this complete brand overhaul and refresh, Dunkin' aimed to highlight its beverage offerings while also streamlining the brand for the digital age. This move was met with positive responses, as it demonstrated Dunkin's commitment to evolve with the changing preferences of its customer base.

Unsuccessful Brand Refresh: Gap

Gap, the popular clothing brand, attempted a brand refresh in 2010 that proved disastrous. The company replaced its classic blue box logo with a new design overnight without any prior communication. This abrupt change left customers confused and disgruntled, sparking a social media uproar. Faced with a barrage of criticism, Gap reverted to its original logo within a week.

These examples underscore the importance of strategy, customer insight, and communication in implementing a successful rebranding or brand refresh. They also highlight the potential risks of getting it wrong. The decision to rebrand or refresh is not to be taken lightly. It's a strategic move that, when done right, can propel a brand to new heights, but if mishandled, can result in costly consequences.

See you at Bolder

Both the rebranding and brand refresh serve as strategic tools for companies to keep their brands dynamic and relevant. The journey from deciding to implement these changes to executing them requires strategic planning, creative thinking, and careful implementation. But, when done right, the result can be a revitalized brand, ready to shake the market with a renewed sense of purpose and appeal. 

This constant evolution, after all, is the heart and soul of the business world. We believe in empowering brands that care and drive positive change. Need rebranding, a brand refresh, or haven't decided on one yet? We are happy to help. Get in touch with our team to have a chat to see where we can help.

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