Rebrand vs Brand Refresh: What’s the Difference?


When a business transforms their message, changes their look, and/or adapts more to the current market, are they rebranding, or refreshing their brand? And really, what’s the difference? For many who don’t spend their days brushing up on design terminology, it’s easy to get confused about these two terms and what they actually mean. From an outside perspective, the ideas may seem similar, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, they’re certainly not.

In a nutshell, a brand refresh is like giving your company a touch up, or a revamp, while rebranding necessitates tearing down all you’ve built and starting up again from scratch. So if you’re considering a new direction for your business or start-up, but aren’t sure how deep you need to dig, here’s a basic outline of the key differences to help you decide.

Refreshing your brand

Maybe you feel a bit embarrassed handing out your business card, or giving out the link to your website—or maybe you’ve even received less than stellar feedback on your visual identity. Or, maybe you simply feel your look no longer captures the essence of what you’re about. Maybe you have a strong business but it’s a bit of a struggle to attract top talent—for any number of reasons, likely having to do with your optics.

Think of a brand refresh as a new face for your brand: even though it has a strong foundation, it feels somewhat stale or dated. Typically, the goal is to ensure you keep up with marketplace trends and maintain your competitive edge. A refresh is not always surface, though. Depending on your needs and goals, it can be a wide-ranging endeavor to redefine both your visual and verbal language across many touch points. It can also include abandoning the stuff that’s slowing you down or which no longer serves you.

A brand refresh can include updating your design, logo, or slogan, switching up your colour scheme, trying a new font, creating new marketing materials, or all of the above.

Rebranding: back to square one

Maybe your business or start-up has recently gone through a major transition—a merger of sorts, perhaps. Or maybe, for whatever reason, your business model or strategy has changed. Maybe it’s all been very dramatic, and due to what has become a downright negative brand image, you actually need to distance yourself from your previous identity. Or, maybe you’re simply failing to set yourself apart.

In the case of foundational issues that may be hindering your success, a deeply desired biz model shift, or the need to circumvent a PR disaster, go with a rebrand. This is the right choice when your current brand is no longer sustainable and you need cut your losses and start anew. A rebrand allows you to get out from under current brand associations be they negative or not. It may simply be that low costs and unbeatable savings used to define you, but you now see the need to reposition your brand as focused on quality rather than best prices. It’s important, however, to have a plan in place before you go ahead and abandon your brand as you know it.

A rebrand usually means creating a new brand personality, designing a new backdrop for your business, overhauling your image as a whole, and rooting yourself within a different market.

While both a refresh and a rebrand can be very positive events in the life of a business, it’s important to do it really well! Obvious, right? By getting the right branding studio on your side, you can avoid refreshing or rebranding in a way that is too trendy, or unfocused, and achieve results that resonate meaningfully with your customers rather than alienating them or cluttering your brand.