9 signs you should update your branding

When is it the right time to refresh your brand image? Without a compelling reason, you could be throwing away years of accumulated customer trust and brand awareness.


Is it time to change up your branding?

This seemingly simple question is fraught with peril. Changing your organization’s identity when it’s not necessary is a waste of time and money, yet waiting too long can be disastrous.

When should your brand get a refresh or even a complete overhaul? Here are nine red flags that communicators should watch for and address:

1. Your brand mission has evolved.

As market conditions and strategies change, businesses change. Often firms end up in a much different place from where they started and it’s necessary to rework the brand to keep up.

A good example is CVS Caremark. The company was initially a combination of CVS, a regional general store/pharmacy, and Caremark, a pharmacy benefit management firm. Over time, it evolved into a healthcare giant with so many components under one roof that they changed their branding to “CVS Health” and positioned the company around a new purpose: helping people on their path to better health.

This reorientation changed many things, including their decision to discontinue cigarette sales in all stores.

2. Your brand has become constraining.

When firms start out, they often want their branding to be highly descriptive so that consumers can easily understand what they do. Over time, this specificity can become limiting.

An example of this is Dunkin’ Donuts. The earlier iteration of its branding quickly conveyed that one if the chain’s stores was a place to get a doughnut and coffee. However, after the company expanded into other foods—additional breakfast items, lunch, etc.—and more drinks, it decided to drop the “donuts” and focus on a unique and condensed form of the name and logo.

3. Your brand is confusing.

Sometimes a business will end up with a name and/or messaging that confuses rather than identifies its products and services. When this is the case, an immediate brand change is essential.

The most famous example of this is Google. The search engine was initially called BackRub because it was based on analyzing backlinks. Not surprisingly, people found the name confusing and the company’s co-founders rebranded the business within a year.

In 2015, after more than a decade of transforming the way people use the Internet, it was time for another rebrand. This time, the focus was on reflecting the current and future ambitions of the company.

4. Your new branding reflects a business change.

Your brand might be fine, but because of a business change—a merger, an acquisition, a diversification, a legal dispute, etc.—it’s necessary to change it up.

A good example of this is Andersen Consulting. In 2000, the organization was spun off from Arthur Andersen and needed a completely different name. An unexpected benefit for the company was that a year later the Andersen name was tarnished by the Enron scandal.

They introduced a name and brand identity that has since become synonymous with high-performance, industry-leading consulting. “Accenture” was moniker created by combining the words “accent” and “future,” and was meant to communicate the company’s focus on helping their clients create their future.

5. Your brand doesn’t stand out.

Good branding isn’t just about looking and sounding good, it’s also about sticking out from the crowd. A brand that doesn’t feel differentiated in the market from its competitors needs to be rethought.

A cautionary example of this is Gap. The firm was blessed with iconic branding—a signature font in a signature blue box—but decided to mix things up in 2010 anyway. The new branding was a fail: it came across as bland and unoriginal. The company quickly switched back.

6. Your brand doesn’t work well in all contexts.

Occasionally, a brand works well in some contexts but not all, and so it needs to be reworked. For example, it may not be well suited for foreign languages, countries, or alternative formats.

An example of this is Airbnb. The firm had a fortunate problem: it was thriving abroad as well as on mobile, but its existing branding, the word “airbnb,” wasn’t ideal for either. With its 2014 rebrand, the company switched to an icon and visuals that could be applied more widely. They introduced the “bélo” and hoped it would become a global symbol of belonging that everyone could share.

7. Your brand has a bad reputation.

In some cases, a brand becomes a liability instead of an asset. When consumers start to associate a brand with negative experiences or actions, it can be time for a change.

An example of this is Philip Morris. As part of an effort to improve its tarnished reputation and disconnect from the strong association with tobacco products, the company shed its original name in favor of the not-very-memorable Altria.

Sometimes, bland is preferable to bad.

8. Your organization wants to command a premium.

If a firm wants to command a premium for its products or services, it may need to rebrand to convey that level of quality. What works for some market segments often doesn’t for others.

For example, Castelle, a maker of outdoor furnishings, had a perfectly serviceable brand. However, it did a major rebranding—new font, new logo, even a new tagline (“Handcrafted luxury furnishings”)—to better appeal to the upscale audience it wanted to target.

9. Your brand simply feels outdated.

Tastes change and it’s necessary to keep up. For inexplicable reasons, certain things fall out of fashion and a brand can become outdated.

This can be seen in how the Pepsi brand has evolved over the years. From the name (Pepsi-Cola to Pepsi), to the colors (red only to red and blue), to the font (serif to sans serif), the brand has been continually tweaked and reimagined to keep it feeling current and relevant.

What are your compelling reasons to refresh a brand, PR Daily readers?

Anthony Del Gigante is chief creative officer at MDG Advertising, a traditional ad/branding agency made digital, with offices in Boca Raton, Florida, and Brooklyn, New York. A version of this article originally appeared on the MDG Advertising blog.

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One Response to “9 signs you should update your branding”

    Cassidy Kusumoto says:

    Seeing the way some brands have updated and rebranded (or strategically chosen not to) over time is very interesting depending on what audience they want to reach or how the function of their company may have changed

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