Reposition, Rebrand or Refresh. What does your brand need?

Brand Refresh or Rebrand?

As opinions change and attitudes shift, so do needs, wants and tastes. A brand that’s hip and sought after today may be on the nose tomorrow.

All brands are, by necessity, in a state of constant evolution. Customers, competitors and even your service offer will change. And as sure as night follows day, somebody at some point will say, ‘We need to rebrand’.

So, should you refresh a brand to give it a new lease on life, move away from your current offer or kill the whole thing and start all over again?


First. Some clarity.

Everybody has their own idea of what brand and branding mean and they often get used interchangeably. So, for the sake of this article, here’s a simple definition:

Brand: How the company is perceived, both good and bad, by existing customers and prospects. Their ideas about the company, its product and service offer and the benefits of using or buying them over those of a competitor.

Brand Position: Put simply, how you will appeal to your chosen customer segments, differentiate yourself from competitors and what products or services you will offer. Your brand position will drive your tactical marketing, not just communications and advertising.

Branding: Every touchpoint seen, heard or felt by the customer of your business. The list of what constitutes branding is long and goes well beyond your corporate identity and logo. Branding’s job is to create and trigger the ‘Brand Image’. A favourable perception that hopefully resides in the minds of your entire audience. Every branding activity should reinforce the brand image.

For a simple explanation, let’s use a fictional airline ‘QiteSmug’ as an example.

Brand: Travel and aviation services.

Brand Position: Greed. Deliver massive shareholder returns at the expense of the customer.

Branding: A large marsupial (or rat), flights at exorbitant prices, poor customer service and facilities that would embarrass a low-cost Irish airline. Everything is driven by the need to return exponential shareholder value; service, staff, and facilities are all the targets of relentless cost-cutting.


Lets rebrand. Sounds easy, but you may be creating more problems for yourself.

Changing your brand means changing the service offer or product range people know you for. Companies that change their brand successfully are rare and those that manage it have strong brands, evolve their offer slowly or use a brand architecture approach. There is rarely a ‘hard change’. Brands can and do change what they ‘are’ – Amazon and Netflix are good examples – if they have enough equity.

Repositioning the Brand requires you to abandon the brand position you currently have for a new one. Your brand position drives how you look and act, what you sell and how you sell it, so changing it would have a profound effect on your brand image. Rebranding would mean repositioning the brand and changing its look, feel and experience.

Repositioning a brand means changing how you are perceived and what you stand for. It is possible but it is expensive and success stories are rare. It takes a lot of time, energy and money to build brand equity, which makes repositioning an option that you should avoid like the plague.

Rebranding is an entirely new beginning – it involves changing the brand’s Position and Branding and is a far more in-depth proposition. You are drawing a line under what you once were, ditching all the experiential assets that customers associate with you and effectively losing the equity the brand has acquired at great cost. A rebrand takes longer, requires more resources, costs more, and the outcome will vary depending on the range of issues affecting the change.

A rebrand is what you need if your brand can’t continue in its present form (usually signalled by a steady decline in brand equity) or when a clear statement of change is required to inform your current market that you have undergone a significant re-orientation of your business.


Back to your ‘brand’ future.

An option worth considering is a Refresh. If your brand enjoys strong engagement from its target market, ongoing loyalty and high sales from its customer base, then a refresh is for you. The essence of the brand remains intact and you retain brand equity. The same positioning, values and mission, but the brand’s look, feel and execution at each touchpoint are updated. Revising what made you successful, distilling the good and doing away with the bad is often a better way forward for an established brand.

Changing your brand sounds great at after-conference drinks, especially if you’re talking to somebody with a vested interest in working on yours. There are legitimate reasons for a rebrand. Your business may need to move in a completely different direction for a range of reasons, association with a toxic issue, a fundamental shift in the market or a shift in consumer perceptions.

But don’t even think ‘rebrand’ until you have defined the business problems you are trying to solve.

It’s tempting and exciting to see a rebrand as a fresh start and the beginning of new possibilities –  but before you do, invest time in thinking what your brand does and the value it delivers to your customers as well as what you do well (and what you don’t!). Do this to avoid investing in a process that will deliver disappointing results or worse, result in you going out of business entirely.

Need help deciding what your brand needs? Give us a call.

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