When someone says “rebrand,” your mind may go toward famous (or infamous) visual examples such as Gap, King Arthur Flour, and most recently, Facebook’s Meta announcement. Our mind tends to think visually first, but a rebrand is much broader.
What is a rebrand?
A rebrand is a change in brand identity for your organization. It covers all aspects of what makes a brand, including identifying differentiators from competitors, establishing vision and mission, and clarifying voice and tone. The process also involves creating a visual identity and physical and digital touchpoints for a consumer’s interaction with your brand.
Said another way, if a brand is a series of promises, then a rebrand should align these promises and set expectations with your consumer so that they have a consistent experience.
Note that when we say a full “rebrand,” we mean much more than just a logo redesign. A logo is just part of a much wider rebranding process that includes brand positioning, messaging, colors, typography, perception in the mind of the consumer, as well as the brand’s physical and digital presence.
What is the difference between a partial rebrand and a full rebrand?
You may have heard of the terms “partial rebrand” versus a “full rebrand.”
A partial rebrand is when a company tweaks or slightly adjusts an aspect of their brand, such as an update to colors, a logo design tweak, or a shift in visual image representation. This often happens when a company's vision or mission does not change, but enough time has passed that an update is needed to keep the brand fresh and relevant to its consumers. A partial rebranding should never “surprise” your audience. It should feel like a natural progression.
On the other hand, a full rebrand means that your core values, mission, or vision have changed, new products or services are being offered, an acquisition has taken place, or your brand has undergone a major identity change that warrants a change. This may entail a new name, new logo, new voice and tone, or other significant visual and brand identity changes.
The following steps can apply to either a partial rebrand or a full rebrand. The choice should be determined by the organizational leadership’s vision and goals, as well as research into the current market.
Do you need to rebrand?
Before we launch into the process of a rebrand, it is important to determine if a rebrand is needed. It may be time for a rebrand if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Adding new markets, products, or services
- Needing to recapture relevance with your consumer (or realign with the way your consumers are already moving)
- Customers or employees are not aligning with your current values
- Undergoing a fundamental business transformation such as a merger, acquisition, or management change
Still unsure if a rebrand is needed? We created an easy rebranding quiz to help you determine whether a brand update may be right for your company. We also offer a downloadable rebrand guide to provide additional insight and direction.
10 Steps That Lead to a Successful Rebrand
The process of creating and launching a new brand may be altered slightly depending on the scope and type of company, but every rebrand should include research, execution, and launch phases. The following steps outline a framework for a total rebrand.
1. Align Stakeholders
This first step may sound like a no-brainer, but to have a successful rebrand, you need to be sure all key stakeholders in your organization are aligned. This alignment is crucial for a smooth process both internally and externally with your branding agency of choice.
Before interviewing an agency, be sure your team understands:
- That a rebrand is needed and to what degree (partial versus full rebrand). See the above rebranding quiz , and have all stakeholders take it together if there is any debate. Your agency will also have insight into this, but it is beneficial to already have had a discussion internally.
- Who will manage the project from your organization's side? This person will need to understand the time commitment required to manage internal and external resources, as well as the project scope and timeline.
- Who is responsible for review and approval? If the CEO is hard to get a hold of, they should probably not be included in every meeting. However, that means that the marketing team needs full approval powers so they can keep the process moving. Otherwise, the rebranding project will stop and start, leaving everyone frustrated.
- Who will be responsible for collecting data needed during the rebranding process? This may be the same person responsible for project management on your side, but it may also be someone else, especially if you have a very technical product or service. Pro Tip: You will be your agency’s favorite client if you package and send notes and feedback in one cohesive, organized document. Seriously, they will send you a birthday card every year!
- What is your budget? A rebrand takes a lot of resources, both in time and, yes, hard cost. Knowing your budget up front helps your branding agency and internal team understand what parameters they need to consider when looking at contracts and scope.
2. Know Your Product or Service
Again, this step may sound basic, but it is vital that you know your product and services before moving forward. A thorough understanding of your business and key competitors enables a productive research phase built on strong data. Much of this information should have already been created when you developed your business plan or yearly investor reports, but an extra look will help you make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Plan on coming to your first marketing meeting with the following ready:
- Who you are (background, founder's story, etc.)
- What you are seeing (marketplace, product evolution, etc.)
- Facts and details about your products and services AND what makes them stand out from your competitors
- List of competitors
- Sales data, including past revenue and future goals (like performance metrics—in other words, how do you know that you have had a successful brand launch?)
- Who you think your current consumers are
3. Research Your Audience and Competitors
This research step is where you begin to get into the meat of your rebrand. However, it can also be the most frustrating step for team members as it takes time before they can “see” any progress. Remember, research sets the foundation and direction of a rebrand, so it is vital to the project’s success. Here are a few factors you should consider:
- Your audience personas (determine whether these are the same or different from your current audience)
- A list of key competitors, including their products or services offered and what sets each competitor apart
- Any pertinent consumer research reports (for instance, are you going after Gen Z? If so, what relevant data is out there already that pertains to your product and their buying habits?)
- Any website or digital analytics that are beneficial to know concerning key buying trends, average sales, and any current site user flow patterns
4. Determine Your Brand Archetype and Your Voice and Tone
Now that you know the marketplace and your products, your audience, and their habits, it's time to find how you fit within the brand archetypes in your space. You may find a gap that your company can fill, or you may find an archetype that’s shared by others but uncover a sub-archetype that can help distinguish you. Determining your archetype can help you craft your brand essence, voice, and tone. The essential items you should identify in this phase include:
- Brand archetype
- Brand attributes
- Vision and mission
- Voice and tone
5. Determine Your New Name (if necessary)
Not every rebrand will require a new name. If you decide that a new name is warranted, then the new name should coincide with the research that has been done up to this phase, including your decisions on brand archetype and voice and tone. You never want your name to be out of step with where your company is heading.
If you’re looking for an example of a company that chose a new name along with a new logo during a rebranding, look no further than Spero Financial. You can see how their new name aligns with their brand identity here:
Once you settle on a new name and start a trademark application with a reputable attorney (Insider tip: Never waste time, money, and resources by launching into the next phase if your name is going to be held up in a trademark dispute), you are then ready to create your brand’s new visual identity.
6. Create Your Visual Identity
You are finally at the step where the magic happens, where pen meets paper (or mouse meets Adobe in most cases) and the visual creation takes place.
The previous steps should all serve as a guide for determining the visual identity. For instance, the founder may want to have a pink dog as her logo and brand colors, but if her audience is primarily male and the brand archetype is an “outlaw,” this direction may not be best. Be sure everyone understands the findings from the steps prior when reviewing a visual identity.
The visual identity should include:
- Logo (horizontal and vertical orientation, favicon, as well as full color and one color)
- Typography (fonts, header stylings, etc.)
- Visual representation (types of images to be used)
- Color palette(s)
7. Create Your Brand Guidelines
Once you approve your new visual identity, it’s time to set it in stone by establishing your brand guidelines. This guide should serve as a reminder to your internal team and any external partners that may request to use your brand items of how to use your branded items.
At a minimum, your brand guide should include:
- Voice and tone (including mission and vision)
- Logo downloads
- Logo “do’s and don'ts”
- Image examples
- Fonts and usage
- Color palette
8. Create Your Brand Collateral
You will never realize all the places your logo appears until you undergo a brand launch. Suddenly, you find that you had printed your logo on a lunchbox and handed it to clients ten years ago, and your sales team is still occasionally going into the closet to hand it out to potential clients years later.
Be sure to perform a full audit of your software and hardware, as well as any sales and marketing collateral you use. This step will allow you to update to the new brand standards on each. A spreadsheet may with this step, as it gives you an easy way to track action items, if they have been updated, and who is responsible for overseeing that they are updated, ordered, delivered, etc.
Brand collateral that may need to be included in a rebrand rollout includes:
- Branding on invoices
- Logo on products
- Event collateral
- Sales collateral
- Email signatures
- Social profiles
- Company uniforms
- Internal company software icons
9. Align Your Employees and Key Stakeholders
A rebrand does not follow a “build it and they will come” mentality. Instead, it is more like “build it and you will find people are constantly altering it.” In order to have a successful launch and ensure that your new brand does not erode over time, your internal team needs to understand the rebrand direction and the resources they have available to them when creating assets for your company.
If every touch matters in a brand — from telephone greetings and email signatures to checkout processes on your site — then you need to be sure every person within your company understands the importance of your brand. Arm them with the tools they need to defend your new brand.
Make the new brand a big deal for your internal employees and help them feel your excitement. (Remember, launching a new brand is a lot of work, so reward them for their investment in this endeavor.)
10. Launch the New Brand to Your Audience
Finally! The hard work is finished, and you are ready to roll out the rebrand to your audience. You can choose to launch everything at once or opt for the soft launch route.
Whether you choose a hard or soft brand launch, make sure you and your team have planned your approach. You never want a rebrand to “leak” into the community. It should be planned and purposeful. You will likely need to find a balance between delaying launch in an effort to get it all “right” versus jumping the gun and planning a reveal without securing internal buy-in or having necessary collateral ready.
Here are a few items to consider when launching your brand:
- How are your suppliers or partners being told? Should it be at the same time as your consumers?
- Would a launch event help you control the message and pace of the announcement?
- Is your internal team armed with the tools and resources they need?
- Is there a significant event, sales pattern, or historic date that needs to be considered for this launch?
When you examine a rebrand from tip to tail, it’s an extensive process that takes a considerable amount of time and resources to execute. When it’s done right, it results in increased market share, customer loyalty, and brand authority. Pulling the trigger to initiate a rebrand of your company can be scary, so it’s essential to make sure you’ve got the right agency at the reins. Here at The Brand Leader, we’ve spent the last 22 years helping more than 1,000 brands tell their story. We’d love to help you get started.