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7 things to consider to successfully execute a brand refresh

Last Updated 
Posted on
July 5, 2022

Whether we like it or not, change is one of the only constants in our world – this is true on personal, national, worldwide, and even universal levels. We won’t wax poetic on the benefits and pitfalls of constant change, but we will say this: companies need to acknowledge and embrace change to stay relevant and successful, especially in today’s online era of seismic cultural and business shifts.

One of the best ways for your company to stay fresh and relevant in the eyes of your customers is by completing a thoughtful, well-informed, and well-planned brand refresh. An effective brand refresh will help your brand stay ahead of industry trends, remain competitive, and represent itself authentically to your ideal customers.

What is a brand refresh?

A brand refresh is a strategic approach to update many aspects of their brand identity, ranging from their company or product positioning, messaging, brand voice, brand visuals, and brand guidelines.

“A brand isn’t something you do once,” explains Aimtal CEO Janet Mesh. “Like a person, your brand will evolve over time to reflect new interests, values, and core beliefs. Executing a brand refresh is a great way to modernize and strategically showcase these changes.”

What’s the difference? — Brand refresh vs. rebrand

Brand refreshes and rebrands often get lumped together, but they’re very different things. Thinking about your brand as a person can help differentiate between refreshes and rebrands.

A brand refresh is like a facelift for your brand. Think of those moments in your life when you get new clothes, a new haircut, a new hobby, and maybe some public speaking lessons to add to your resume. You won’t completely change your brand’s visual elements, mission, personality, and messaging. Instead, you’ll analyze and update parts of your company’s brand identity to create a more accurate representation of the company today and where it’s headed in the future.

Conversely, a complete rebrand overhauls all aspects of your brand and represents a complete repositioning of your company. If we think of a brand refresh as a facelift, a full rebrand equates to legally changing your name, getting a new passport, and moving to a different country to start a new life. A rebrand can have advantages, but should only be considered for a company that wants to overhaul its look, feel, and direction completely.

A brand refresh is a better option for organizations with an already established brand identity that needs some modernization. In most cases, it’s easier, quicker, and less costly to complete than rebranding, and allows a company to narrow its focus to the parts of its brand that aren’t working or need to be modernized. A few reasons you might need a brand refresh include:

  • Your branding needs a visual update
  • Your company or its values have changed
  • You’ve grown in size
  • You’re offering new products and services
  • You need to reconnect with your target audiences
  • Your target audiences have changed

Don’t let a brand refresh’s more limited scope fool you, though. A refresh will be successful if you take the time to identify why you need one, what you need to change, and how you will do it.

The top benefits of a brand refresh

If done correctly, a brand refresh will provide your organization with a host of benefits and help it stay relevant and competitive for years to come. A solid rebrand can:

  • Elevate brand awareness: Updating your logo, visual style, and brand voice is a great way to generate buzz, both within your existing customer base and your market sectors.
  • Increase revenue: A good brand refresh will differentiate you from your competitors and highlight what makes your company unique. You’ll be able to show your customers exactly what problems you can help them solve and demonstrate why you’re their best choice, which in turn will generate more sales.
    As we noted above, a brand refresh will also generate publicity, which is critical for expanding your business. Most people won’t become customers the first time they see or hear about your brand, so increasing brand impressions is a great way to generate sales.
  • Improve customer retention: A brand refresh will show your existing customers that you’re growing and changing so you can continue to provide them with quality products and services. Your customer base wants to make sure what they’re paying for isn’t outdated or irrelevant, and a brand refresh is a great way to show that staying up to date with industry trends.
  • Stay relevant in a quickly changing world: The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and the way we think about work, and your brand’s values and messaging need to reflect that change. Utilize a brand refresh to show you understand how the world has changed and highlight the steps your organization has taken to stay relevant and competitive.
  • Attract new talent: No one wants to work for a company stuck in the last decade (or century), so showing you’re hip and relevant will make you more appealing to prospective employees. Thanks to the “Great Resignation,” employees have more say over where and how they want to work than ever before, so presenting yourself as a modern company in touch with today’s norms and trends will go a long way when presenting yourself as a great place to work.

Alright, now let’s get to the good part: how to actually do the thing!

7 things to consider before starting a brand refresh project

1. Establish your goals

As with any good marketing strategy or initiative, you’ll need some solid goals in place before you begin refreshing your brand.

“You shouldn’t decide to undergo a brand refresh just because you’re bored,” Janet says. “First, you need to decide whether now is the right time to update the direction of your company to reflect what your customers need and want.”

Having goals will help you narrow down what you need to refresh and will provide you with concrete ways to measure the success or failure of your undertaking. Decide what you want to get out of your refresh, and write down these goals for your team to reference as it moves forward.

These goals might include engaging your existing customers, driving new leads, modernizing your organization’s look to align with a new product release, or updating your voice and tone to reflect your market. Every company’s goals will differ depending on its needs, but the key here is to have a solid set of goals to reference as you decide what needs to change.  

2. Identify what’s working and what isn’t

Since you aren’t throwing your entire brand identity out the window, you’ll need to take stock of what’s working with your current brand and what you need to change. Your list of goals should help you identify the weak points of your company’s identity, but doing a brand audit is a crucial next step to narrow down what needs to change.

Create an internal team to take stock of your brand’s existing assets. These include your values, mission, voice and tone documents, visual assets like logo, font, color scheme, and website, and your content marketing offerings. Solicit and incorporate feedback from both internal stakeholders and your customers – find out what they like and don’t like, and try to identify any pain points associated with your brand.

Ask key questions in your brand audit, such as:

  • What are your brand’s strengths? What is sacred and should NOT be changed?
  • What are your brand’s weaknesses?
  • What challenges does your brand face?
  • What is unique about your brand?
  • How does your brand appeal to your ideal customer?
  • What problem does your brand solve?
  • How does your brand differ from competitors in your industry?
  • If your brand was a person, what adjectives would you use to describe them?
  • When you think of your brand, what comes to mind first?
  • What have you heard (both good and bad) from others about your brand?

Using these questions as a jumping-off point, create a list of recommendations based on the feedback you receive. Does everyone love your logo? Well, then maybe you should focus on updating your fonts and other design elements. Did you receive feedback about your brand voice being out-of-touch with your target audience? Put updating your voice and messaging at the top of your to-do list.  

3. Think about your target audiences

One of the primary reasons to execute a brand refresh is to ensure your brand is well-aligned with your target audience and attracting new customers. If you haven’t yet created buyer personas for your brand, now’s the time! If you have, it’s time to revisit them – just as values and brands change over time, so will your ideal customers.

Identify 2-3 target audiences you’d love to see buying your products or using your services and create a specific person for each. Think about each persona as a real person, and flesh out their characteristics. Try answering these questions for each persona to understand better what your refresh needs to include.

  • What is their occupation and job title?
  • What is their personality?
  • How do they look and talk?
  • How will they use your product or service?
  • How do they connect with your current brand?
  • What challenges do they face?
  • What matters most to them?
  • How do they prefer to be engaged with?

You can use this feedback in your brand audit to help inform these personalities, but you’ll also want to reach out directly to your existing customers to better understand who they are and what they want. Send out surveys to your email subscribers, or if you’ve built lasting relationships with some of your customers, ask them if they’d be willing to answer a few questions about themselves and what they like about your organization.

Once you’ve created or updated your buyer personas, update your list of goals to tailor your refresh to these personas.

4. Check out your competitors

The adage “Know thy enemy” remains as accurate today as it was when it was coined 2,500 years ago. While Sun Tzu probably never worked on any brand refreshes, we’re pretty confident he’d be a big proponent of doing competitor analyses.

Take some time to review how your direct competitors position themselves and check to see whether they’ve recently refreshed any elements of their brand identity. Use this analysis to identify industry-wide trends and to see what parts of a brand identity are most emphasized in your sector.

Don’t try to emulate or copy parts of other organizations’ brand identities, though. You want your brand refresh to differentiate you from your competitors and make a unique case to prospective customers about why your organization is better suited to their needs.

Make sure your new brand identity is yours by doing a secondary analysis after completing your refresh internally but before your launch. Take your new messaging points and values and do a simple Google search of them combined with the names of a few of your biggest competitors. Are your messaging and values yours and yours alone? Great! You’re ready to send your brand refresh out into the world. If you find significant overlap with your competitors, however, you’ll want to rethink some of the most common points and find ways to make them unique and specific to your brand.

5. Revamp your mission statement and values

Updating your brand’s mission statement and values to better reflect today’s world and the needs of your customer base is a vital component of a successful brand refresh.

  • Brand mission statement: Your mission statement is the high-level statement that lays out the organization’s purpose and goals. It should be actionable and provide your customers (both potential and existing) with an idea of what your company does and what impact it hopes to have. For example, when the work management product Trello executed its rebrand, it changed its mission statement from “Organize everything, together,” to “Trello helps teams move work forward.” As you can see, their new mission statement defines who they help (teams) and what they help with (moving work forward).As you refresh your mission statement, think about your audience personas and the problem your company solves for them. Make it snappy, punchy, and informative, so readers can immediately understand why you do what you do.

  • Brand values: Your brand’s values are the central tenets your organization lives by. These values directly inform the choices your organization makes, your messaging, and even your company culture.
    Creating a set of values that aligns with your target audiences’ and the world around you is crucial for generating leads and forming long-term customer relationships. According to the Harvard Business Review, 64% of consumers develop brand loyalty because of the values they share with an organization.Take stock of your current values and identify any that are out of touch or don’t mesh with your ideal customer’s values. Replace them with values that will help guide your organization into the future and attract new business. For instance, Accenture Strategy found that 66% of consumers rate transparency as one of the most desirable values a brand can have, so consider incorporating it into your new values to help increase brand loyalty.

One easy way to share your values with the world and connect with like-minded consumers is to take an opinionated stance on an issue (or issues) surrounding your industry, your country, or even the world. In today’s increasingly polarized world, showing you care can significantly enhance your prospective buyers’ perceptions of you. In fact, Edelman found that two-thirds of consumers will choose a brand based solely on its stance regarding a specific political or social issue.

6. Update your brand’s visual elements

Updating your brand’s visual identity and aesthetics is a highly visible way to refresh your brand and modernize your look.

“You shouldn’t completely change your logo or other visual elements as you refresh,” advises Aimtal’s Senior Creative Manager João Vincente. “Instead, focus on areas that look outdated and could benefit from modernization. This might include replacing your brand’s fonts, giving your website a fresh new look, or updating your logo to look more current or professional.”

Just as websites and advertisements have become much slicker in the last decade, corporate graphic styles and aesthetic sensibilities have evolved significantly. Here are a few tips to bring your visual identity to life in 2022.

  • Logo: Your logo is the first thing people will associate with your brand, so make it simple and memorable. Current modern design trends feature include the use of geometric shapes, bold watermarks, and minimalism. Here are a couple of examples of well-refreshed logos to give you some inspiration–as you can see, it doesn’t take much to achieve an updated look.

  • Color scheme: Your color scheme should be uniform across all your visual brand material, so pick colors that go well together and stand out from your competitors. Don’t pick too many colors, though, or you risk confusing your customers. Adobe Marketo Engage found that 95% of top 100 brands use just one or two colors in their branding, so keep it simple.
  • Fonts: The fonts you use will supplement how readers perceive your brand, so choose ones that align with your brand identity. If you’re trying to modernize your look, we recommend picking some sans-serif fonts during your refresh–they’re clean and look great on phone and computer screens, which is where many people will first encounter your brand. Check out this helpful guide from Canva for more on choosing fonts.
  • Art, illustration, and image style: You’ll need to decide what kind of imagery or illustrations your brand uses for its visual assets. Do you only want to use photos of real people to promote your brand? Perhaps you’d like to use a version of the modern and popular Corporate Memphis style? Spend time thinking through various visual styles and consider which one best suits your brand and values. There’s no one correct answer here, so solicit feedback from members of your organization and reach a consensus based on their thoughts.
  • Website: Your website will be the first point of contact many of your prospective customers have with you, so make sure it’s aligned with the rest of your visual style, modern looking, and easy to use. Consider using responsive design and clean, uncluttered layouts to bring your website up to date.

7. Examine your tone and voice

“A brand refresh shouldn’t only include design, logo, color palette, or font changes. It’s also a great opportunity to revisit your company’s messaging,” says Emily Desrosiers, Aimtal’s Senior Content Manager. “Should the tone and voice be adjusted to better fit the brand’s personality? How does your audience prefer to be spoken to? Consider these questions when refreshing your brand’s identity.”

Your voice and tone will dictate how consumers see the “person” behind your brand, so make sure it aligns with your values and company mission. Use this refresh to take stock of how you communicate with the world, and update your voice or tone to avoid sounding stuffy, old, or outdated. If done correctly your voice will be a great tool to attract new customers, so make sure it sounds like someone they would want to talk to.

Don’t conflate voice with tone, however. They’re very different parts of your brand identity.

  • Brand voice: Your brand’s voice is your brand’s personality. It stays constant across all your communication channels and should articulate your brand’s value and point-of-view to readers. For instance, HubSpot defines its voice as “humble and empathetic,” meaning all its outward-facing communications will embody these two principles.
    Your brand should have a consistent, recognizable voice with which to confidently explain your unique value proposition. To start, decide how you want others to perceive your brand and make a list of adjectives that describe your desired perception.
  • Brand tone: Your brand’s tone is the mood in which your voice speaks. It’s how you speak to individual buyer personas while keeping their specific needs and perspectives in mind.
    The tone your brand takes will also vary by setting. While it may work in your favor to have a silly or irreverent tone on social media, few customers will appreciate jokes and witty banter when troubleshooting a problem with your support team. Just as you would in real life, it’s essential to gauge the situation before committing to a tone.

Planning your launch

Phew – that was a lot to cover! If you’re still with us, congratulations! You’ve done most of the heavy lifting required to make your refresh shine. Now, you just need to get your branding ducks in a row before you dive into the external world and show off your new plumage.

For the pre/post-launch phase, you’ll need to make sure your new brand is implemented uniformly, your content marketing offerings mesh with your upgraded identity, and you have a solid plan in place for communicating your refresh to the world.

Not to worry, though, we’ve got some more advice to help you out.

Create new branding guidelines

Once you’ve identified and replaced the areas of your brand that need a makeover, you’ll want to codify these changes in writing, so everyone in your organization knows how to best represent your brand moving forward. If you already have a branding guidelines document, update it to reflect the changes you’ve made during the refresh. If your organization doesn’t have a document like this, now is the perfect time to create one!

Your branding guidelines should include all the information someone needs to write, speak, and create on-brand content. At a minimum, your brand guidelines should include your:

  • Mission statement
  • Values
  • Brand personality, voice, and tones
  • Your design elements like logo, color scheme, and font catalog
  • Examples of proper and improper branding usage

Your guidelines document should also provide your organization with instructions about how to use their various parts of your brand to communicate effectively with the world. Since your brand refresh will dictate the look and feel of your brand for the foreseeable future, make sure this document is detailed and easy to understand and follow. Write it so that future members of your organization can find all the information they need regarding your brand without asking you for help.  

Keeping an up-to-date brand guidelines document is the best way to ensure your brand remains consistent across all channels. Lucidpress recently found an organization can increase its revenue by up to one-third with consistent brand presentation, so it’s critical to ensure your company has the tools it needs to stay on brand at all times.  

Make sure your content marketing is on-brand

Content marketing is essential to a successful marketing strategy, so you’ll want to make sure the content you create is well-aligned with your brand identity.

Make sure that all the social media content you produce uses the proper voice and tone, as dictated by your new brand guidelines. You’ll also need to work with your design team, so your refreshed logo, colors, and fonts are being utilized in new graphics and videos and that they stay consistent across all your channels.

If you have a newsletter, you may need to refresh its look and feel to reflect the branding decisions you’ve made. A newsletter is also a great place to share your new look and feel with a dedicated audience of loyal subscribers, so try to plan your newsletter’s makeover with the launch of your brand refresh.

You’ll also need to ensure your blog reflects your new brand identity. Don’t simply delete old posts and replace them slowly with new content – you’ll lose valuable SEO keyword rankings. Instead, head over to your Google Analytics dashboard and list the posts and pages that drive the most traffic to your website. Focus on updating these posts for visual elements, voice, and tone. Once you’ve launched your brand refresh, you can start to go in and edit other, less high-performing posts as needed.

Strategically launch your brand refresh

You’ve worked hard to create an updated brand identity, so you should show your efforts off to the world! To this end, creating a thoughtful brand refresh rollout plan is important. Create a dedicated blog post with a compelling narrative laying out where your brand has been in the past, why you decided to execute a strategic refresh, and where your brand is headed in the future.

A good launch plan will also help your organization control the narrative around your brand refresh, which is especially important in today’s online, interconnected world.

“Before you launch, make sure you’ve considered what the online response to your refresh will be – both positive and negative,” says Janet. “People will always have an opinion on the changes you’ve implemented, and you want to make sure you’re prepared to guide that conversation positively and successfully.”

Unfortunately, haters gonna hate, especially on the internet. Just look at what happened when Slack updated its logo in 2019. To avoid a similar situation, work internally to identify any points your audience may take poorly and create talking points to counter those narratives. Make sure you’re diligent in explaining the reasoning behind your refresh and keep the conversation pointed positively. Don’t get caught up in online arguments with naysayers, and especially avoid interacting with trolls.

Cheers to a new(er) you!

If you’ve followed these steps and taken the time and effort necessary to pull off a first-rate brand refresh, great job! Remember that your brand isn’t a static identity and you may need to continue tinkering with it based on the feedback you receive post-launch.

Finally, if you’d like to perform a brand refresh but don’t have the time or resources it takes, consider drawing on the expertise of an expert marketing agency (like us).

For more great marketing tips, be sure to check out our free collection of guides on topics like mastering social media, generating quality leads, and SEO optimizing your content.

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