Rebranding Strategy 101: Everything You Should Know Before Doing a Rebrand

Kim Lavia
Kim Lavia
March 20 | 9 min read

Rebranding is no easy feat. Trust us, we weren’t always called Superside. If you want to know more about all that, check out our rebrand story. Rebrands are an emotionally-charged roller coaster—and they can cost a lot of money and require a lot of time and effort. Even with all of the careful thought and planning put into a rebranding strategy, they’re always a risk.

That being said, when they go well, rebrands can help a business rise to the top. From positioning a company in a new light, to attracting more customers, there are definitely many reasons why a company should rebrand.

In this blog we outline:

  • The difference between rebranding and refreshing a brand
  • The pros and cons of doing a rebrand
  • Some rebranding strategy tips, and things to know before jumping in

Read on to juice up your rebrand repertoire.

When is Rebranding a Good Idea?

There aren’t many instances in which a company needs to create a fully new brand. Often, just a brand refresh or an updated logo can do the trick. Changing your name, company purpose, site URL and the like brings on a whole list of tasks and risks. We'll go into more detail about that below.

Whether to rebrand or not is a decision most companies face at some point, particularly those who have been around for some time. Awareness that something needs to be changed or fixed is a good start, however, an understanding of how deep the issue runs can greatly help in deciding whether you need a surface-level update or should hit the reset button completely.

We suggest performing a brand audit before making any big decisions to understand the current state of your brand.

The Difference Between a Brand Refresh and a Rebrand:

rebrand versus brand refresh

Though often used interchangeably, rebranding and refreshing a brand are two different things.

Refresh = reimagining your brand’s look and feel. Anything from updating your brand colors, to changing your logo or slogan, refreshes are primarily a cosmetic touch-up. When doing a refresh the core of your brand remains the same.

MasterCard decided to go for a brand refresh in 2016 by introducing a new logo. The company opted for a minimalist design and simplified its iconic circles by filling in the overlapping area with a vibrant orange. The typography was pushed down to sit underneath the logomark in an all lower-case sans-serif black font.

Though the new logo was quite different from the old one, MasterCard’s brand at the core remained the same.

“The digitization of commerce processes and increased connectivity of consumers is driving a digital transformation that will provide seamless payment choices. To reflect a readiness and optimism about this transformation, Mastercard is introducing an evolution of its brand identity - simplified, modernized and optimized for an increasingly digital world.” — MasterCard press release

Rebrand = reevaluating and regenerating fundamental attributes of your brand such as positioning, target market and product offerings. Sometimes, this may even mean changing the company’s original name.

A company that did more than a refresh and went full-force into a rebrand was Staples. The upbeat office supply company positioned itself as “The Worklife Fulfillment Company” with a fresh look and five new internal brands, including TRU RED, the company’s office supply sector. With a new focus on being a solutions provider to enhance productivity and inspiration, Staples needed a rebrand to showcase this shift.

“The home office and the office at home are not as different anymore. We all want tools that help us be more productive and inspired wherever we are. The new brand’s promise to help our customers this way seems to really resonate.” — Sam Krause, manager of strategic research and projects, Staples

Partial rebrands can be a good idea when companies are making a pivot or need to shed their past. Sometimes companies can go 50-100 years without needing much of a change, but this isn’t true for all.

Another term that’s tossed around a lot is brand development, which actually has a lot more to do with your positioning and messaging than it does your visual brand.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of rebranding to help you better understand if a rebrand is right for your business.

Pros of Rebranding

There are a lot of good things that can come along with doing a rebrand. From attracting more customers, to standing out from your competitors, below are a few pros of rebranding.

the pros of rebranding
✔️ Potential to attract new customers

With times, trends and technology changing, customers change too. To remain relevant, rebranding helps capture the attention (and hearts) of new potential customers, expanding your reach, fanbase and even your bottom line.

✔️ Helps you stand out in a saturated market

First impressions are everything, so make them count! Your offerings can be similar to your competition, but if you establish a strong brand from the get-go, chances are that your audience will choose you instead of the other guys.

✔️ Gives you a clear strategy to progress as a company

Rebranding is a time of reflection and definition so this is an optimal time to determine (or redetermine) what your company values and goals are. This can help motivate your team to work towards common goals, leading to alignment across the company and even more success for the business.

✔️ Gives you brand credibility

Rebranding is a great opportunity to boost credibility with potential and existing customers. Focus on refining your brand’s mission, vision and values to help give your target audience a clear idea of who you are and what you’re about. For example, if you value optimizing the customer experience, you’ll need to make sure that you follow through with that to build trust in your brand.

Cons of Rebranding

The cons of rebranding

When a company rebrands, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Even if you are super prepared, you will never fully know how the rebrand will perform once it’s rolled out. Below is a list of some cons that can come about after rebranding.

❌ Traffic to your website can dip or drop significantly

This is particularly critical if you change your website domain with your rebrand. This can either be a short-term issue where website traffic picks up after a couple of months, or lead to a disastrous downfall that you’ll have difficulty recovering from.

❌ Customers may not LIKE the new you

Everyone has opinions, and sometimes these opinions can come back to bite you (ahem, Sears rebrand of 2019). After months of working on a company rebrand it stings when your customers are far from fond of it. Bear in mind that every company that rebrands experiences this—you just want the majority of customers to like your brand as opposed to rejecting it.

❌ It can get quite expensive

Rebrands aren’t cheap. From website creation to product line expansions, depending on the size of your business, this may be a huge investment you’ll have to mentally and financially prepare yourself for.

If you feel that these potential risks are outweighed by the potential benefits, then you’ve got a case to do a rebrand.

Rebranding Strategy Tips and Advice

rebranding strategy tips

Now that you’ve heard about the pros and cons of rebranding, and have been (hopefully) inspired by some rebrands from 2019, here are some tips to leave you with:

  • Analyze and understand your market
  • Define your company’s vision, mission and values
  • Create a powerful brand story
  • Have a holistic rebranding strategy
  • Don’t rebrand as a means of escape
1. Analyze and understand your market

Ensure that a significant amount of research goes into the market you’re in, the trends within that market, and the consumers you wish to attract. This wealth of information will help in making key business decisions such as product offerings and messaging. A major loss in a rebrand is the lack of knowledge or understanding of these elements, so be sure to stay on top of this to avoid #rebrandregrets.

Glossier is a brand that truly has an understanding of its audience and aligns its product offerings accordingly. The beauty products brand took to their blog and Instagram to ask followers: What’s your dream face wash? Inspired by its findings, Glossier then applied this newfound knowledge to the formulation and design of a new product that went on to be a hit among its customers.

2. Define your company’s vision, mission and values

Consider these your north star when beginning the process of rebranding. Your messaging and everything else you put out to the world should always come back to these three definitive brand elements. Consistency here helps boost brand credibility, professionalism and trust among your target audience.

No matter where you are in the world, you’ll find that the Starbucks experience is virtually the same. The Seattle-based coffee chain is a leader in implementing and maintaining brand consistency from its product offerings to its relaxing and enjoyable experience on a global scale.

”We look at the brand not as a piece of advertising, but everything we do communicates who Starbucks is. The place, the physical environment, really has become an extension of the brand and it's very important to the success of the company." — Howard Schultz, Founder, Starbucks

3. Create a powerful brand story

By understanding your target market and what resonates with them, it’s easier to give your brand a story. Take, for example, eyewear brand Warby Parker. With consumers’ growing awareness of and interest in the origins of products and sustainability, Warby Parker uses that to its advantage. The brand tells the story of how it operates as a socially-conscious business offering designer eyewear at affordable prices.

Warby Parker takes a behind-the-scenes approach by sharing how its glasses are made, including the process of design through manufacturing. Its transparency and contribution to retail sustainability resonates with potential and existing customers, giving them reason to support the brand.

“Our customers, employees, community and environment are our stakeholders. We consider them in every decision that we make.” — Warby Parker

4. Have a holistic rebranding strategy

All marketing touchpoints have to be consistent, contribute to your brand story and make sense. When rebranding, you’re making an effort to solve a problem, answer questions, or grow as a company. If there’s any form of disconnect, it all falls apart.

Dropbox had a clear vision in its successful rebranding strategy. According to a blog post by its designers, the brand repositioned itself as a place “where in-progress work happens as opposed to old finished project storage.” From the fresh illustrations that showcase Dropbox as a dynamic and personable brand, to its functionality and offerings, every piece of the Dropbox rebranding puzzle came together beautifully thanks to a holistic rebranding strategy.

5. Don’t rebrand as a means of escape

If you’re trying to cover up a reputation crisis, distract from internal company problems, or are simply bored, don’t consider a rebrand. Not only does this lessen your brand’s credibility, but it can be a significant waste of time and money, (especially if it isn’t a success). Work to fix the outlying problems before tackling something as big as a rebrand.

The Gap made heads shake instead of turn when one of the most popular American retailers rebranded back in 2010. Seemingly overnight the brand launched a simplified logo that didn’t resonate with its audience. The sudden change in visual identity and lack of communication about it left consumers confused, resulting in a not-so-successful rebrand. Likely done out of boredom or “just because,” this is an example of a rebrand you probably won’t want to emulate.

So, are you ready to rebrand?

Rebranding is hard, which is why many companies choose to outsource it to an agency or brand professional. There’s so much to consider, and many design elements that need to be executed on. Hopefully these rebranding strategy tips and rules help guide you on your way to a better brand.

As exciting and intriguing as a rebrand may be, it’s important to consider where the need or want for a rebrand stems from before jumping in. Some people will choose to rebrand out of boredom (a reason not to), while others do it because they're repositioning their brand (a reason to).

Take a step back to evaluate if a rebrand is best for your business. Maybe all you need is a refresh. Superside is an on-demand design service that works with clients big and small on anything from email design, to yes, full blown rebrands. If you’re interested in learning more, set up a call with our team to explore how we can work with you.

Kim Lavia
Written by
Kim Lavia
Kim is a writer and content strategist living in Toronto, Canada. She’s fluent in fashion, a dedicated dancer, and lover of handwritten notes.

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