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Rebranding in 2021? Don’t go it alone. Introducing the most comprehensive guide available.

by Casey Schmidt  |  January 28, 2021

20 min. read
A billboard that reads 'Rebranding'.

Mediocrity is like quicksand – the more we move around in it, the more it absorbs us.

It’s easy to get complacent as a brand, especially if we’re seeing success and outperforming our competition.

A hand being buried in sand.However, these minor triumphs will become major failures if we don’t strive for greatness. How do we do that? One way is through rebranding.

This article details the ways rebranding shocks our brand to life. When stuck in the quicksand of mediocrity, there’s a rebranding lifeline hanging somewhere overhead – grab on and pull yourself out. Let’s begin!

What is rebranding?

Rebranding is a marketing method designed to create a stronger brand identity. This not only includes changing brand elements such as the visual elements and messaging, but is also a long-term commitment to convince audiences the core brand is different.

Rebranding is often confused with a short-term change of visual elements. Even though changing a logo or company name is a part of the process, it doesn’t represent a complete rebranding.

Different colored envelopes.If a brand changes their color scheme from red to blue, this signifies a minor change for customers. Furthermore, it lacks the comprehensive, deep-rooted qualities of a rebranding.

Much more than a new aesthetic, a rebrand inspires new values, concepts and confidence in audiences.

Now that you know what a rebrand is (and what it isn’t), let’s make sure you understand why it’s so important.

Some common (and some not-so-common) rebranding benefits

In this digital age with its speed of change, any brand that refuses to ‎innovate will die.” – Bernard Kelvin Clive

There are some basic, fundamental benefits that come with an effective rebranding included in this list. I also incorporated lesser-known positives to expand your idea of what a good rebranding can help you accomplish.

Brings contemporary style to your brand

When people hear the word ‘style’, they assume it’s referring to some type of visual aspect. However, in this case, it’s much more than that.

A color scheme magnified.First, let’s explain the common issues brands have over time. Almost certainly you are bound to become antiquated, in some way, as a brand. Sometimes it happens overnight, other times it takes years.

Whatever the case, it’s going to happen. Your brand is going to lack a modern touch and style. This is why a rebranding can be so helpful. Audiences expect brands to stay current with modern challenges.

Occasionally, overhauling visual branding elements fixes this lack of modernity. However, this is only part of the equation. Rebranding not only brings a contemporary style to visuals, but also to messaging, brand voice, advertisements and more.

Imagine the impact a rebranding can have if it creates a more vibrant, evolved style.

Sparks separation from the competition

There’s a good chance you have a good idea of who your competitors are. You’re likely aware of how successful they are at the things they do.

Sometimes, it seems like no matter what we do as a brand, we can’t find a way to break free from the pack and stand out.

A businessperson wearing boxing gloves.Brand differentiation is one area where rebranding changes a company’s outlook. Whether your brand is too similar to its competitors, or whether it isn’t outperforming the competition, rebranding gives you a chance to fix both issues.

It’s fair to say that a rebranding helps audiences see a specific brand in a whole new light. If it’s hard for customers to tell your brand apart from a direct competitor, imagine the positive impact you’ll receive by creating a whole new image.

Expands your potential target market

Let’s face it: our target market is a dynamic group that can change at any moment. Sure, we can get a general handle on who we want to target, but there are often undiscovered groups to find.

Part of bringing in these new audiences is the analyzation and research process. If we look for them, we may find them.

However, part of expanding our market comes from a rebrand. If there’s a group we believe would enjoy our company’s products if we updated our values, style and visual elements, this could be highly beneficial.

An infographic about loyalty programs.There are limitations – we can’t create brand loyalty in every market out there – but these limitations should be pushed to their absolute brink to give us the widest audience range possible.

Breaks the chains of the mundane

There is a huge difference between rebranding to avoid stagnation vs. rebranding out of fatigue, monotony or indifference. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Sometimes, a brand can get into a rut. Team members lose enthusiasm, audience interest wanes and things begin to stagnate. A big change at this point can reinvigorate your brand and break you free from the mundane.

Chains breaking apart.With an effective rebranding, there are new, exciting vibes of energy that shine through in campaigns and projects. This makes a huge difference for a brand’s overall outlook.

Remember that this is a potential positive benefit of a rebrand, not a reason to do one.

Dials back creative restrictions

Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” – Edward De Bono

We don’t always realize it, but a lot of creativity is curbed by our branding. Sometimes this is an acceptable result, other times it needs a few tweaks to make it right.

A painter showing colorful creativity.Recognize that our brand and all its elements, such as logos, style, colors, tone, messaging and more can act as a handcuff to creativity. This happens because of restrictive values and traditional language that isn’t as relevant anymore.

Rebranding acts as a way to free creativity, updating different brand elements in a manner that allows for all types of projects and campaigns to fully express new ideas.

Now that you see some different ways rebranding can be beneficial, let’s determine when to do it.

When should we undertake a rebranding?

Rebranding is a necessary part of business, but that doesn’t mean we should do it every so often just because. Instead, we need some concrete reasons laid out before even considering such a vital change.

Here are the main reasons to rebrand.

Your brand values have become a hindrance

First things first: a lot of times, updating or changing your brand values is a huge part of a rebrand. Other times, they stay completely the same.

When in the midst of a rebrand, values may change. Most everything else needs to be updated to reflect these changes.

Blue and white text that reads 'update'.So, why would your values be hurting your brand? It’s possible that times have changed, leaving your values lagging behind. It’s also possible that your brand has transformed, doing new things and needing new values to support this transformation.

When your values are a hindrance or even just not aligned with current brand requirements, they need to be addressed.

You’re targeting new markets

This doesn’t require a massive overhaul to accomplish. In fact, a few key decisions during the process are enough to succeed.

As time goes on, new markets emerge and leave brands scrambling for ideas on how to reach them. At some point, it becomes clear that the status quo is not the solution.

For example, a lot of research about demographics shows that different generations prefer a variety of things and require separate values from brands. Sometimes, this is irrelevant to certain brands. Other times, they are directly impacted.

People on a crosswalk.If a certain age group is too young to be a consumer of a brand’s products, they are disregarded from their focus. However, time changes everything, and these ages may eventually make up a large part of your market.

When this is the case, a rebranding is the only difference between your brand reaching this new market or your competitors scooping them up first.

You’re facing new industry developments

New developments in your industry force your hand. This comes about in different ways.

First, it’s entirely possible for consumer preferences to dictate the change.

If, for example, people no longer want sugar in soda, a soda company might need a rebrand to update its stance. Failing to do so may result in competitors passing it by.

A sugar cube-filled soda.Second, industry developments that cause a rebrand may also be related to new tech. If your competitors are able to offer new technology and you can’t, it could be disastrous.

It’s best to get out ahead of these industry disruptions by implementing new methods into your process. Doing so makes your brand a leader on the forefront of change.

Now that you’re familiar with when to rebrand, it’s important to understand how big of a rebrand you should make.

How big of an overhaul should your rebranding be?

It’s always a big deal when you decide to rebrand. However, it’s not always a big ordeal. You might need a complete overhaul or you could just need to touch a few things up here and there.

It’s important to understand the risks of a drastic rebrand before making any decisions. Here’s a breakdown of the different options.

When is a minor rebranding ideal?

A smaller-scale rebrand makes sense when things are going well but there’s room for improvement.

A neon sign that reads 'change'.A smaller change focuses on visual elements, rather than a comprehensive disruption to values, ideals, etc.

Also, a successful brand with a longstanding history may take a minor approach to rebranding in order to maintain the relationship built with its audience.

When is a more comprehensive rebranding superior?

A total rebrand indicates something big needs to change. This includes things like brand values, ideals, product updates, revamped services and more.

Some common reasons for massive updates are an expansion to international markets, an extensive merger or a failing brand overall.

Expanding globally requires a big update in order to connect with completely different markets. Mergers require a drastic rebrand because it’s confusing to customers to have co-existing brands as one.

Blocks that read 'growth'.A comprehensive rebranding doesn’t mean you’ll be changing 100% of your branding elements. Though this is technically possible, it just isn’t very realistic or effective. Aim high but keep it realistic.

Once you’ve decided whether you need a comprehensive rebrand or a minor touch-up, it’s time to begin the rebranding process.

3 rebranding process requirements

There are some simple rules and necessities to follow in order to have a successful rebrand. I’ve listed three that are crucial to take into account.

1. Take a comprehensive approach

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” -James Cash Penney

Rebranding extends further than redesigning a logo, adding a color scheme or updating a website. Think about how your brand functions as a whole, rather than a few individual parts, and you’ll understand why a comprehensive approach is vital.

This means that a detailed strategy should be put into place for each new area and element affected. Furthermore, this plan should reach all different platforms and places your brand exists. This includes both digital and physical spaces.

A hand moving chess pieces.A comprehensive approach means that everything is synced and working in unison during the process to accomplish a similar goal. It doesn’t mean that in order to rebrand, every single element needs a rework.

In fact, sometimes this idea could send the wrong message. A comprehensive approach prevents small brand inconsistencies.

2. Evaluate your current branding

This part of the process is crucial! If you don’t make a sincere effort to evaluate your current branding, it could be devastating.

This research must include detailed insight into what types of things are working and still fit the new vision, and also what types of things need to go.

A team of workers researching graphs.Don’t make the mistake of thinking a rebranding has to completely erase the past or make a brand unrecognizable. There are going to be elements that are working well and need to be preserved.

Keeping some things and getting rid of/changing others is key to a successful rebrand. This is why a detailed evaluation is a must before making big decisions in the process.

3. Research your rivals

One of the underrated keys to a successful rebrand is the process of gathering information. This includes analyzing the market, but more importantly, it involves finding key details out about the competition.

Just as we don’t want to discard elements that are working well, we shouldn’t ignore branding efforts of our competitors if they’re working well for them.

Three different people moving large shape structures.This research gives us insight into what types of branding will come about in the future and how our direct competition will manage it. The more information we have about the market, and more specifically, our competition, the better chance we’ll have at an effective rebrand.

If you follow the above suggestions, everything will fall into place. In order to make sure you go above and beyond, I’m going to give some tips that many brands fail to follow.

Key rebranding tips to guide you

At this point, you’ve got a good amount of information and are ready to lay out a detailed blueprint to an effective rebranding. However, we want to inspire and revolutionize our brand, not just change it.

Therefore, I detailed some dynamic ways to give your rebranding some extra luster.

Tips to spice up your slogan

Many times, a brand slogan is a big part of a rebranding process. This occurs when it no longer fits any of the values associated with the brand. It also is required when a rebrand makes the slogan weaker or misaligned.

However, even if your rebrand doesn’t require a slogan update, it should at least be looked at and evaluated just in case.

An infographic about brand slogans.If you do end up revamping the slogan, here are some important factors to consider. First, remember that it should be used to showcase an important benefit or feature you offer. Get creative and make it subtle. Anything too on-the-nose can be a little flat.

Next, consider how it draws a line between you and the competition. Does it say something about you that no other brands could claim for their own? Finally, keep it short, simple and genuine. You don’t want a complex slogan that has audiences scratching their heads.

Here’s an example of a popular slogan that demonstrates the importance of this process: ‘Every Little helps’ (from popular UK brand, Tesco). Notice how punchy this phrase is? It wastes no time getting to the point.

The Tesco brand slogan.It’s also easy to follow yet complex and poetic enough to get audiences thinking about what Tesco encompasses.

Lastly, it suggests that Tesco offers certain valuable services to customers. Use this type of example as a baseline when reworking your own slogan.

Real ways to revitalize visual elements

Whether you’re making a minor tweak to a logo or creating a new color scheme, visual element changes present unique challenges.

Luckily, it’s easy to overcome these issues by focusing on your overall branding and applying what you learn to the visual parts. Here’s a breakdown of the more common visual element changes you might undertake.


Most people think of a logo when they hear the word ‘rebrand’. This is because the logo is front and center. It also represents so much and elicits strong feelings one way or the other about the brand it belongs to.

When changing your logo, consider what works and what doesn’t with the current one. Next, determine the reasons you’re making a change. For example, if you’re in need of a more modern look, you might keep a digital representation while discarding a traditional aspect.

Whatever you decide to do with the logo, don’t overwhelm your audiences visually. Make it creative yet simple. If there’s text, consider how the font is working. If there are colors, evaluate their efficacy as well.

Color scheme

Scientifically speaking, colors are responsible for drawing out different emotions and feelings. Even if it’s only a slight effect, this psychological impact cannot be ignored.

An infographic about color in logos.If your current color scheme is giving off the wrong vibe, consider changing it up. If blue is too calming for the way your brand operates, switch to a less “warm” color scheme.

If your red is too intrusive and hostile, switch to warmer colors that are more calming.

Finally, keep in mind that colors change based on our environment and evolving tech. Smiley-faced balloons.

What once was red might be green if everyone begins wearing yellow-tinted glasses while working on a computer or smartphone. Prepare for this possibility.

A helpful hint to standardize consistency

A branding guide, style guide and brand-wide commitment contribute to a successful rebrand through brand consistency.

An infographic about uniformity.Outside of these, there is also the power of collaboration. If you’re able to create a collaborative system, consistency is certain to follow.

This includes getting valuable input from all company departments and even customers. The more collaborative the effort, the better the chance consistency will be standardized throughout.

Examples that make a good case for rebranding

It’s not always easy to commit to a rebrand, even if it’s minor. It helps to look at success stories in order to get a read on how others before you managed. Here are some powerful rebranding efforts:

1. McDonald’s

McDonald’s has been a staple in the fast food industry since its inception, offering cheap and quick meals that are family-convenient. Their rebranding was likely the result of outside pressures, as well as changing societal norms.

Why they rebranded: For many years, McDonald’s was vilified in the media as being responsible for unhealthy eating habits of its customers. Fair or not, a popular documentary targeting the unhealthy nature of fast food mostly targeted McDonald’s, likely due to its huge success in the industry.

Combating these allegations with a complete rebranding seemed like the best option, since ignoring this expanding media craze didn’t seem viable.

What they did: McDonald’s began by revamping their menu. They not only added items, but they also changed some language and subtracted items.

The McDonald's stores remodeled.Their trademark ‘supersize’ option was no more, as a result. They also provided a lot of alternative new food choices, meant to make meals nutritionally complete.

This meant that their traditional menu was completely revamped, adding things like salads, fruit and milk.

They also restructured the physical natures of their restaurants, modernizing them while moving away from the ‘cafeteria-style’ feeling they once had.

2. Target

Target decided, after being a discount store brand for many years, that they could have their cake and eat it too. This resulted in a rebranding that mixed quality with low-pricing.

Why they rebranded: Target’s stores were at one point seen on the same level as their competitors in terms of quality. That is to say, similar brands like Walmart, etc. were perceived to be roughly equal.

The obvious reason for rebranding, then, was to separate themselves from their direct competitors. They needed to position themselves as a brand that is of a higher quality overall.

What they did: Target’s rebranding was comprehensive, resulting in drastic changes to their advertisements, store structures and products.

The Target stores remodeled.Though not a fancy department store, they attempted to sell some of the higher-end products and designer brands. They also made sure the atmosphere in their company stores gave off a better vibe than their competitors.

Their advertisements targeted a wider market and sold the idea that shopping at Target was now an extravagant thing to do.

3. CVS Health

CVS Health is an American healthcare company that aims to use modern technology in order to make staying healthy convenient.

Why they rebranded: Sometimes, a brand needs some skeptical analysis in order to make progress. For CVS, this resulted in a rebranding that re-emphasized brand values and made up for past mistakes.

One of the brand’s major services, CVS Pharmacy, had seemingly gone against the health-focused ideals CVS promoted by selling tobacco products at their locations.

Getting a medical prescription and tobacco in the same location made CVS question whether it was doing a disservice to customers and the brand.

What they did: CVS first decided they needed to put a greater focus onto their commitment to health. They did so by adding to their logo, which now has a big red heart under the CVS letters.

The CVS logo.Next, they made the decision to remove tobacco products from the CVS Pharmacies. To ensure audiences were aware of this, and to fully commit to the rebrand, they advertised the fact extensively.

4. Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts was long known for its sweet donuts, served in a convenient fashion for on-the-go customers. Because of the changing times and their evolving capabilities, they decided a rebranding was needed.

Why they rebranded: Sometimes, a brand name is perfect for the longest time, but then becomes an unexpected restriction. This was the case with Dunkin’ Donuts, whose name implied their stores sell donuts, drinks and nothing more.

In reality, Dunkin’ Donuts sells sandwiches and other snacks as well. A name change was a chance to allow their stores more freedom to attract wider customer ranges.

Their physical store locations also were lagging behind the times, so a modern restructuring of each made sense.

What they did: Dunkin’ Donuts became just Dunkin’, their logo was updated, stores renovated, menus changed and overall layout modernized.

The Dunkin' Donuts logo.They also moved forward with the idea to put a greater emphasis on beverages, rather than donuts. This took place in more ways than just the name change. Dunkin’ locations were given new tap systems for cold drinks.

5. UPS

Unlike some of the other examples listed here, UPS, the delivery service, didn’t have a massive rebrand. In fact, it’s hard to argue in favor of completely rebranding UPS. They did, however, make some changes that helped them better address what they can do as a company.

Why they rebranded: The evolution of modern shipping needs was part of why UPS felt the need to rebrand. They were capable of doing much more than their brand image presented.

They also might have felt pressure to rebrand to combat their potential similarity to their direct competitors, FedEx.

What they did: The biggest part of UPS’ rebranding was their slogan, as it was a memorable way to indicate what UPS could do for customers.

Initially, the ‘moving at the speed of business’ slogan seemed reasonable. However, it didn’t really spotlight UPS’ newfound strengths and comprehensive abilities as a company.

The UPS former slogan.They changed it to, ‘what can brown do for you?’, which not only showed a deeper focus on the customer, but also implied (rightly) that they were able to handle so much more than simply deliveries.

They have changed the slogan since, but the rebranding certainly shed new light on their brand image.

Use the above examples as a way to guide your own rebranding efforts. Chances are there will be similar challenges for you to overcome.

Clearing up misconceptions: Is rebranding negative?

Certainly, there are times when rebranding has been used as an attempt to disguise a past transgression. Many believe that any time a company rebrands itself that it is a direct result of some mistake they had previously made.

So, how much truth is there to this? Rebranding is for the most part not used to hide hypocrisy or change a tainted brand image.

A hand turning a dice from 'positive' to 'negative'.Instead, it’s usually just a way for brands to adapt to changing times and fight stagnation. In fact, it’s not advisable to commit to a rebrand simply to hide a mistake.

People won’t forget your error that quickly, and your rebrand will be less effective.

Remember that rebranding isn’t something that should be done lightly. You’re not attempting to sweep issues under the rug. Instead, you’re breathing serious excitement into your brand and reworking its potential.

Some closing thoughts

Armed with these strategies and a new understanding of modern rebranding, you’ll be able to decide if and how you want to begin your own rebrand.

Take the opportunities you have available and run with them, creating a new vision and image that leads your brand into the future and beyond. Good luck!

Check out our complete branding guide to learn more.