Refresh vs. Rebrand — what’s the difference and how to choose between them.

BRIGADE BRIGADE, is an independent, woman-owned branding and design agency providing distinct creative solutions that re-energize tired brands and help savvy marketing teams take on the leaders in the category.

At some point, every brand (if you’re lucky) will face the question — do we rebrand or refresh? Sometimes, this question comes up because your existing branding doesn’t feel quite like you anymore. Sometimes, your target market shifts and you need to make a change to ensure you’re speaking to the right people. Whatever the reason, it’s a pivotal moment in the life of your brand, and should be treated as such! 

What we’ve learned working with countless brands on reinvigorating their brands, is that many well-meaning teams are unsure of the difference between a refresh and rebrand, and therefore, don’t know which is more appropriate for where they are in their lifecycle. Well, let’s clear it up!

A refresh. 

Established brands have heritage and roots that run deep. When there is interest in holding onto that history and equity, we would move forward with a refresh. As a branding firm, when embarking on a refresh, we look closely at the foundation of the brand and identify what’s working and relevant for the audience so we can leverage those assets. To better understand the reasons behind the move to change things up, we also consider a brand’s new positioning, goals, business objectives, etc. We’re interested in knowing how the client wants to re-enter the marketplace, so we can inject some fresh assets to help achieve all of these objectives. 

If a brand refresh is successful, while things have changed, your brand will still be recognizable to a core consumer. This is accomplished by maintaining some elements from the past — both in messaging and design. 

If you’re considering a brand refresh, make sure you hold on to the heart and soul of your brand so you don’t alienate your core consumers, inject new components that connect to your refreshed positioning (and resonate with your target market!), and finally, stay (continuously) up-to-date on who your consumer is and how they’re experiencing your brand.

A rebrand. 

A rebrand is a totally different path — where a brand leaves their past self behind and completely revamps. Many times, we see these overhauls happen because of culture shifts or company missteps. But in other cases, it’s just time for a brand to take on a new personality. 

Burger King is a great example of a rebrand done recently, and seemingly, successfully. JKRGlobal overhauled the identity of the beloved restaurant chain for the first time in 20 years. And, according to Rapha Abreu, vice president and global head of design at Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King (via The Dieline), “Every design element was intentionally reimagined to better reflect the new Burger King food journey. The design principles capture the unique characteristics of the Burger King brand—mouthwatering, big, and bold, playfully irreverent, and proudly true.” 

In this case, a lagging brand needed an injection of attention, so more drastic moves were implemented. And apparently, those moves were successful. According to Fast Company, “Burger King’s rebranding efforts were a huge success… The fast-food underdog out-performed McDonald’s by 66% with consumer purchase intent. Customer visitation intent increased by 39%, and Burger King received 1.1 billion impressions in the first five days of the rebrand. The company’s stock rose by 7.8%.”

SO, all of this is to say… whether your sights are set on a big shift or subtle one, there are things to think about when you’re considering a change in your brand’s identity. You could leave it to chance, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Refresh? Rebrand? Give us a call and we’ll help you sort it out.


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