Brand Refresh vs. Rebranding – What’s right for your business?

It’s no secret that we love branding at NOUS. In fact, we believe branding is at the heart of everything we do and is vital to a successful business. Great branding is memorable, it sets you apart from competitors and can drive stronger engagement and foster business growth.

But branding is far more than designing a logo – it’s what tells your audience who you are, what you do, and most importantly, why you do it. 

It’s how businesses can better connect with their audience and build stronger relationships with them, turning them from one-off customers to loyal brand enthusiasts.

So – TLDR; branding is important to the overall performance and growth of your business.

If you’re reading this article, then potentially your brand is in need of a little love and attention. You may be stuck in a proverbial rut and looking for what to do next. Do you rebrand or do you refresh? Where do you start?

Rebrand vs. Refresh: The Difference

“Brand refresh” and “rebrand” are often used interchangeably when considering a new brand pathway for your business – but each option differs significantly in terms of the work involved to achieve it.

Brand Refresh

A “brand refresh” means you have good bones to start with. It’s typically focused across visual enhancements, such as adjustments to existing elements of your brand’s visual identity or adding in some new ones to further evolve it. 

Businesses often consider a brand refresh if they’ve carved a strong position for themselves in their market and established themselves as a recognised brand of choice to their audience. Often, this process can take several years to achieve, resulting in a brand’s visual identity to age over that time. 

A brand refresh can help to revive the look and feel of a brand, to make it more contemporary or evolve it in line with business demands.

For example – Mastercard had an interesting brand transition that is a strong example of leveraging your established brand image. The iconic brand symbols were retained in the logo refresh in 2016 after 20 years of gaining familiarity with customers from their iconic logo. The relatively minor design adjustments helped to evolve the brand and reveal a more contemporary look. They then went one step further in 2019 to remove the brand name altogether given the strong recognition of the brand symbols. It was also more accommodative digitally, with the logo becoming easier to read on mobile devices and not be affected by legibility of the brand name at smaller display sizes.


“Rebranding” is a bigger beast, involving complete changes to the look and feel of a brand’s identity. Because of the scale of this, a rebrand is often reactive to a particular event or otherwise a major change required to reinvigorate a brand whose identity may no longer align with what it was when it started. 

Rebranding involves basically starting from scratch, creating a new identity and image that is entirely transformed from your current brand to influence or change perception or to establish yourself in a new market or to a different audience.

For many businesses, this may be an overhaul of your current logo and branding suite, but for bigger brands with established visual identities, a rebrand can look like a shift in communications with its end customer to adjust how it’s perceived overall.

For example – McDonald’s was weighed down by its perception as being low-brow and unhealthy in the 90s and early 2000s, particularly in the wake of the documentary of “Super Size Me”. As a result, without touching their iconic golden arches, McDonald’s rebrand strategy focused entirely on how its marketing collateral and communications could better support the brand’s positioning as a more health-conscious, affordable and convenient food vendor, while also prioritising sustainable sourcing practices.

What’s right for your brand?

Both rebranding or refreshing your brand can be lengthy and costly processes, and are not without risk. A brand project can often be suggested as an easy answer to ‘fix’ a marketing issue but without careful consideration can cause more issues than it resolves. 

Ensuring you have the right reasons to review your branding will help set a strong foundation for where you go next. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your business’s vision or values reflected in your brand?
  • Are you expanding into new locations or markets that may not identify with your current visual identity?
  • Do you have new products or services that have outgrown the current brand architecture?
  • Is there a company merger or acquisition on the horizon?

If you answered yes to any of these, then a rebrand may be the answer for you. But if you’re still feeling the branding itch – a brand refresh may be the right choice, especially if:

  • Your brand lacks cohesion or your brand guidelines are being used more as a suggestion
  • Your brand is no longer connecting with your audience
  • Your brand is not delivering cut-through in market

If you’re not sure what your brand needs right now – we probably do. NOUS makes brands all day, every day for more than 20 years, and we’d love to talk to you about yours. Give us a call on 07 3003 0722 or drop us a note at [email protected]

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