Refresh or Rebrand? How to Update a Business Identity for 2024

By Phase 3
January 11, 2024



In April 2022, we published a blog about consumer brand expectations. The blog touched on recent global events, like the pandemic, and how they have influenced purchasing behavior. We noted that these trends were driving many companies to think about rebranding.

The business landscape continues to change rapidly. Adapting to these changes remains crucial for all business leaders. Savvy business leaders track changes in how consumers think and what they focus on and adapt their company to match their customers' needs. Brands that don't reflect their customers in this time of change will not perform as well as those that do.

If you are one of those leaders, you might wonder if it's time to rethink your brand. When done with empathy, flexibility, and strategic thinking, a complete rebrand or even a minor brand refresh can build trust. It can also inspire both customer and employee loyalty. This post will update the previous one with new information, best practices, timelines, and budgeting tips for an effective brand refresh rollout plan in 2024.

Brand Trends for 2023 and Beyond

Last year, we reported increased consumer demand for brand transparency and a wish that companies address issues like racial justice and inequality. Younger generations want brands to be more sustainable and mission-driven.

This year, these trends have become even more important to consumers. HubSpot’s Top Consumer Trends of 2023 identifies the up-to-date trends impacting consumers' brand perceptions.


Consumers Support Brands Committed to Social Advocacy

Companies that openly support social causes have a significant impact on consumer choices. They hold more influence due to their proactive approach to addressing societal issues. HubSpot reports that 49% of U.S. adults feel that brands should do more regarding social advocacy. They identify essential issues as racial justice, income inequality, affordable healthcare, and climate change. Also, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are critical to consumers' purchase decisions. In 2022, 17% of consumers reported to HubSpot that DEI was an important consideration. For 2023, that number is 42%.


Data Privacy Concerns are Driving Purchasing Decisions

Consumers are worried about their digital footprint and consumer trust is at an all-time low. According to HubSpot, 81% of consumers worry about how companies use their personal data. 72% say they're more likely to buy from companies they trust to take care of their data. Successful brands will embrace today's privacy-first world and nurture customer trust and safety.


Consumers Use (but Don’t Trust) AI

HubSpot revealed that one in three consumers use artificial intelligence (AI) technology like chatbots and ChatGPT. However, only 26% actually trust content created with AI. Many also worry that AI is going to take over their jobs. As brands incorporate AI into their customer and employee experiences, establishing transparency and authenticity will be important to cultivate consumer confidence.


The Humanization of Brands

This is not on HubSpot’s list, but we think this is a rising trend for both B2C and B2B brands. People want to buy from people, not nameless, faceless entities. Wise business leaders infuse their brands with relatable and authentic human traits and engage with customers one-on-one. This is not about creating a brand mascot or persona. It entails incorporating your brand with the same values, preferences, personality, and emotions as your target audience. A humanized brand feels authentic to customers and cultivates trust, loyalty, and emotional engagement.

If your brand is not reflecting these critical consumer trends, it might be time to rethink your strategy. Depending on the level of consumer disconnect, you may need a complete rebrand or just a brand refresh. Both are strategic efforts a company can take to enhance its brand image, but they differ in the extent of changes made to various brand elements. Here are the differences between a brand refresh and a rebrand.


What Do We Mean by Rebranding? 

HubSpot defines rebranding as when a company develops a new and differentiated identity in the minds of customers and other stakeholders. This is more than a "refresh" of a logo or a website. A true rebrand is reflective of a shift in business strategy.

A rebrand is a comprehensive and fundamental overhaul. It could include changes to the brand's identity, positioning, messaging, and core values. It may result in a new name, logo, visual identity, tagline, and a redefined brand mission. The rebranding process often involves a deep dive into the brand's essence and may transform its entire identity. Communication during a rebrand is crucial because explaining the reasons for the transformation to stakeholders, including customers and employees, will help them understand and embrace the new direction.


What About a Brand Refresh?

A brand refresh involves making subtle updates and modifications to certain aspects of the brand. These changes are made without completely overhauling a company’s identity. The primary goal of a brand refresh is to modernize and revitalize the brand, ensuring that it remains relevant and appealing to the target audience. A brand refresh may include updates to the logo, color palette, typography, or other visual elements. The brand's core values and overall identity remain largely intact. Communication during a brand refresh typically focuses on evolution rather than revolution. The emphasis is on highlighting improvements and modernizations to the existing brand.

A brand refresh is a lighter, more incremental update aimed at keeping your brand current. A rebrand is a more profound transformation that involves significant changes to achieve a new positioning or identity. The decision between a refresh and a rebrand depends on your business's specific goals, challenges, and opportunities.

Here is the critical point to remember. Don’t ignore current consumer perceptions of your brand. Whether you need a rebrand or refresh, your brand is your most valuable asset. It is your reputation. It is the feeling people feel when they see your logo, hear your business name in conversation, visit your social media pages, or walk into one of your locations. The power of a strong, relevant, and clear brand is tremendous. It can make or break your business.


Should You Do a Rebrand or Brand Refresh in 2024?

Here are some reasons to contemplate a rebrand or brand refresh in the coming year.


Reasons for a Brand Refresh

  • Modernization: If consumers perceive your brand as out-of-date or old, it's time to refresh your visual identity. Updating your logo, color palette, or typography keeps your brand current. It also helps maintain a contemporary, relevant image by following design trends.

  • Adapting to Market Changes: Responding to shifts in consumer preferences, market dynamics, or competitive landscapes may prompt a brand refresh. Keeping your brand in sync with your target audience's evolving needs and expectations is crucial. For example, if your target audience embraces sustainability, evolving your product line and messaging to emphasize reducing environmental impact would be a smart brand refresh.

  • Consistency Across Touchpoints: Inconsistency in brand visuals and messaging across channels and platforms affects consumer perception. Refreshing can bring coherence and uniformity to brand perception. For example, your website, social media accounts, and traditional advertising should all use the same messaging, logos, color palette, images, and fonts. If they don't, a refresh is necessary.

  • Incremental Improvement: A brand refresh allows for gradual changes, enabling you to test and implement changes and updates without drastically altering your overall brand identity.

  • Maintaining Recognition: If your brand is well-known or has a solid customer base, you might opt for a refresh to modernize the brand without losing the recognition you've built over time. This is especially relevant for well-established brands looking to appeal to new generations of consumers.


Reasons for a Rebrand

  • Strategic Repositioning: This is a fundamental shift in your business strategy, target audience, or market positioning. A rebrand is necessary if your company is losing market share to competitors, struggling with a fragmented product mix, or lacking a cohesive identity. Apple did this in the late 1990s, transforming from near-bankruptcy to becoming one of the world's most valuable and influential technology companies.

  • Overcoming Negative Perception: If your brand has developed negative associations or faces reputational challenges, a rebrand can help distance your company from the past and create a fresh start. Phase 3 helped Royal Food Service overcome the perception that they were just another "big box" provider. The new brand highlighted Royal as a family-owned organic and locally sourced produce provider with extensive specialized expertise and a community focus.

  • Mergers and Acquisitions: Following mergers or acquisitions, a rebrand may be necessary to create a unified identity that reflects the combined strengths of the companies and products involved. The Phase 3 brand team recently did this with our client ProMach, pulling together 26 different companies, 26 different logos, disparate collateral, and websites into one cohesive brand.

  • Diversification of Products or Services: If your company expands or changes its offerings significantly, a rebrand may be necessary to reflect the broader scope and communicate your new value proposition to a larger target audience. For example, Dunkin' Donuts recently announced a strategic decision to rebrand, dropping the "Donuts" from its name to reflect a broader focus on beverages and overall food offerings beyond just doughnuts.

  • Legal Issues: Legal challenges like trademark disputes or public relations issues may lead to a rebrand. The purpose is to avoid legal conflicts and protect intellectual property. Philip Morris rebranded to become Altria Group to address challenges faced by the tobacco industry.

Ultimately, the decision to undergo a brand refresh or a rebrand should be driven by a thorough analysis of your company's goals, market conditions, and the need for alignment with the evolving business strategy.


Process / Checklist

The Phase 3 brand team offers a detailed checklist that can help you keep track of the process of rebranding or refreshing your brand. The checklist will include the necessary business elements that may need to be addressed, starting with your visual identity, like your logo, and moving into physical elements, like your website, advertising, internal and external signage, and more. This list is not exhaustive but rather a place to start. Your company may have other elements to update when planning a rebrand or refresh, so ask a brand expert to help you think it through.


Timeline and Budget

A complete rebrand rollout plan can take four to six months, longer if you need to rebrand and update your digital channels. A rebrand can also be a considerable cost – from $60,000 to $500,000, depending on expenses such as signage, uniforms, and fleet vehicles. A brand refresh rollout plan would take less time and expense but should not be rushed or completed without considerable strategic planning.


Managing the Cost of a Rebrand

Managing the costs of a rebrand or a refresh over time requires careful planning, budgeting, and ongoing evaluation. Here are key steps to help you manage the expenses associated with a rebrand:

  1. Conduct a Comprehensive Cost Analysis: Identify all current brand assets, including visual identity, marketing materials, branded elements like signage and uniforms, and digital assets. Determine the extent of the project – whether it involves a complete overhaul or specific elements such as logo redesign, messaging, and visual identity updates.

  2. Set a Realistic Budget: Based on the analysis, allocate budgetary resources to different aspects of the rebranding process, from research and discovery through launch and follow-up. Include a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses or changes in scope.

  3. Prioritize the project components. Focus on the elements that impact brand perception or customer touchpoints the most. Distinguish critical components essential for success. Consider other less critical elements as projects for a later time.

  4. Use a Phased Approach: If your refresh or rebrand involves multiple components, consider a phased approach for both design and rollout. Start with your prioritized elements and tackle the rest when you can.

  5. Engage Key Stakeholders: Ensure alignment with key internal stakeholders to gather insights, address concerns, and build support. Also, seek customer feedback or market research to guide decision-making and ensure the rebrand or refresh resonates with your target audience.

  6. Explore Cost-Efficient Options: Evaluate if you can manage certain aspects of the process in-house or if outsourcing is more cost-effective. Leverage project management tools to streamline workflows and reduce design revisions and approvals costs.

  7. Implement Cost Controls: Use project management tools to track expenses, milestones, and deadlines. Conduct regular budget reviews to identify cost overruns and take corrective actions as needed.

Successful cost management during a rebrand or refresh rollout plan involves strategic planning, ongoing monitoring, and adaptability to ensure that your investment aligns with your desired outcomes and benefits your overall brand strategy.


Digital-First Launch

Whether you choose a brand refresh or a complete rebrand, taking a digital-first approach to launch your rollout plan is a strategic imperative. This approach aligns with the modern consumer's online presence. Your customers are using digital channels to connect, engage, and try your brand first. Brands that prioritize and optimize their digital presence are better positioned to thrive in the current competitive business climate.

Revamping your website and social media to reflect your new brand identity is important. Then, develop a comprehensive social media strategy for the brand launch, leveraging the latest features and trends on the platforms your customers are using. Send targeted emails to your existing audience announcing the rebrand or refresh, explaining the changes, and showcasing the new brand elements. Make sure to include plenty of calls to action and links to your updated digital channels. Ensure all online content is optimized for search engines, incorporating relevant keywords related to the rebrand and updating meta descriptions and tags.

By prioritizing your digital channels and strategies, you can effectively communicate your rebrand or refresh to a broader audience, engage with customers in real-time, and create a seamless and immersive online experience during the rollout and beyond.


Branding is an Investment

Remember that your brand is a valuable asset that extends far beyond visual aesthetics. Any change you make to your brand, whether a refresh or a complete rebrand, is an essential investment in your business's long-term success and resilience.

If you're contemplating a rebrand or refresh in 2024 or have questions about the process, feel free to reach out to the Phase 3 brand team today.