A rebrand is always tempting. A shiny new logo...some bright colors...a fun write up in AdAge praising your fresh look...It’s definitely an alluring idea.
But it’s not always necessary. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Your personal boredom with a brand that works is not a call for a rebrand. If you are tired of your look, or cringe when you have to hand out business cards, there’s always room for a light refresh. You can simplify your logo, lighten your color palette, refine your website, and still stay in line with your existing brand.
A full rebrand, however? You’re going to need some bigger reasons for that. Here are 5 signs that your brand might need a makeover:
1. Your brand no longer matches your values
Times change, and with it, markets change. What used to be an “acceptable” brand would now cause a social media uproar (looking at you, the “sex sells” advertising of the early 00s).
Take a look at GoDaddy: once famous for it’s provocative and frankly misogynistic Super Bowl ads and attempts to make web hosting seem “sexy”, it now has a gentler and simpler brand that focuses on “empowering entrepreneurs” to follow their passions. Instead of borderline R-rated TV commercials, the updated brand focuses on 3D animation and illustrations. The values of GoDaddy changed over the years, and they needed their brand to reflect that.
The GoDaddy logo evolution, showing how the company has grown to appeal more broadly to people and has stopped relying on an “in your face” personality to sell web domains. photo source
So if you find that the ethos behind your company has changed, that the reason you do what you do is different: it may be time for a rebrand.
2. You’ve dealt with some bad press
Hopefully this doesn’t happen, but sometimes your brand gets some press worse than a bad Yelp review. After this, your brand begins to be associated with whatever that press was. So if you want to change your reputation, one of the easiest ways is to change what your brand looks like, and break that association.
For instance, Uber went under a rebrand after reports of the hostile work environment their ex-CEO created came out. Even though they’d only just rebranded a few years prior, it was needed to shake the reputation they’d gained. They softened their logo, using a rounder sans serif and sentence case to move on from the “visual manspread” that was their previous blocky all-caps logo. This clear evolution showed a dedication on the part of the company to move on from their toxic culture and into a new era.
(This doesn’t always work- unfortunately, it seems no amount of admittedly well done logo redesigns will disconnect Facebook from it’s many scandals, especially since it doesn’t seem to have actually stopped doing what caused it’s issues in the first place. But more on that in point #5)
3. The needs or interests of your audience have changed
Audiences can be fickle, and you don’t need to rebrand for every whim of your customer base. However, if you start to notice a real change in the attitudes of your audience, to the point where it’s affecting your sales, a rebrand could help put you in a more favorable position in your audience’s eyes. You’d have to follow through with your commitments, though: if you notice your audience is placing more emphasis on being eco-friendly, and want to rebrand to fill a more conscious place, then you need to commit to being a more environmentally conscious business. Otherwise, the rebrand will come across as hollow and won’t be as successful.
Think about a lot of fast food companies in recent years. As fast food began to fall out of favor with audiences thanks to the rise of fast-casual dining like Panera and Chipotle and a general increase in health-conscious eating, they had to do something to gain back the customers they once had. Changing their product lineup wasn’t really enough: offering grilled options, salads, and apple slices instead of fries didn’t do much for businesses that had brands built on being associated with fries. Since the brand hadn’t changed, it just seemed like a fast food company desperately trying to get people to come back.
But recently, chains like Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Burger King have all expanded their brands to emulate the fast-casual chains they were competing with. They have newer, more refined logos, brighter color palettes, suites of illustrations, witty social media presences, trendy restaurant spaces to encourage actually sitting and eating, and actual plant-based food options to back up their emphasis on healthier food. Their updated brands and business practices reflect the changes in their audience, and now both brand and customer focus on the food part of fast food, rather than the fast.
Pearlfisher, McDonald’s illustration-heavy packaging
JKR, part of Burger King’s retro new brand identity
4. Your offerings are different, or your brand has expanded
Maybe your brand has started offering new products or services. Maybe you’ve slowly been changing your products so that they don’t look anything like what you offered in the beginning. Either way- the thing your business does, is not the thing that it did when you first created your brand. Now would be a great time for a rebrand. It’s a time to affirm your new place in the market, update current customers on your new offerings, and reach potential new customers who might like your new products when they didn’t before.
Look at Kia. Previously known for its affordable cars and quirky hamster commercials, Kia’s lineup has been slowly improving over the last few years. It’s cars have moved on from the infamously boxy Soul to the new, sleek Stinger. But their logo, blocky letters contained in an oval, stayed the same until a few weeks ago:
This new logo, supported by a trendier color palette and high-fashion photography, paints Kia as a brand that inspires customers with their mobility needs (and makes much nicer cars).
5. Things are looking a little outdated.
It may seem to go against what I said in the intro, but there is a difference between a logo you’re tired of, and a brand that is outdated. However, if you are tired of your logo- maybe it’s worth a deeper dive. It might not be the only thing that’s old!
Like I’ve said before: markets change. Branding that worked in 2001 would not work in 2021- the ideals and needs of audiences are different. Flashy primary colors, 3D effects, and dramatic flair don’t work in a market that values authenticity, nature, and humanity.
Rebranding your brand because you feel it’s outdated is a valid reason, but make sure you’re looking at all aspects of your company to see if there’s room for growth there, too. Maybe your messaging needs a refresh, or your ethos needs a 2020s boost. All of the samples I’ve listed here were outdated for reasons beyond their visuals: GoDaddy was using offensive messaging; KIA still looked like it sold bargain cars even after it’s product lineup evolved; Uber’s brand was associated with its reputation and not its product; and most fast food chains were scrambling to keep up with an evolving fast food market. But the reason these brands’ rebrands worked is because they updated the business with the visuals. If GoDaddy had kept its “webhosting is sexy” message, but slapped a sans serif logo on top, it wouldn’t have worked. Facebook’s rebrand may look good from a design perspective, but it didn’t succeed in changing their rep because they continue to allow the spread of false info on their site, and don’t seem to be making any significant changes to stop that. They have a new logo, sure, but they’re still the same business- nothing changed.
Successful rebrands are not just visual. They’re changes to the very essence of the business. If your rebrand isn’t backed up by a change in your business itself, it will come across disingenuous and pander-y. Look at Petco, Staples, the infamous GAP….people reacted negatively to these updates because there was nothing to support them. None of these businesses changed anything about themselves except for the logo, so there was nothing to convince audiences that there was any need to change what they were already used to.
It’s time for a rebrand when some key part of your business has changed, or needs to change. If that’s not the case, perhaps a lighter refresh might help spark some life into your brand while maintaining what your customers already know and like about you.