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InsightFeb 21, 2023

What are the signs that a company should start a rebranding process?

Written by Kyle Schruder RGD, Creative Currency, and Elana Rudick RGD, Design Is Yummy
Photograph of woman holding ice cream cone in front of ice cream shop. Brand Identity for Stella Jean’s Ice Cream by Studio Millie

As we get ready to launch our lnternational Branding Awards, we asked leading creative professionals to shed light on rebranding.

Caitlin Wharton RGD, Founder & Creative Director, Studio Millie: 

We used to advise our clients to develop a brand identity that could last a lifetime. Now, we live in an ever-changing world rife with dynamic content, so a set-it-and-forget-it strategy is a one-way ticket to boring town. While it's paramount to have brand recognition, we now ensure our clients' visual identities have enough wiggle room to adapt to changing trends and stay relevant in their current industry. Here are a few things we look at when deciding if rebranding or brand strengthening is the right path:

  • You struggle to use your brand assets or feel boxed in by the assets you have (i.e. default to two colours from your palette or reuse the same graphics over and over).
  • Your customer or their needs have changed or your own company's goals or values have changed.
  • You are introducing a new branch of your business or a new product
  • You see other brands getting experimental with reels, email marketing or on their website and want to incorporate current trends into your brand but aren't sure how.

Kyle Schruder RGD, Associate Creative Director, Lead, Healthcare Marketing, Creative Currency:

From my experience working in-house, an early sign that a brand needs a refresh is that staff pushes the limits of the existing brand, abandoning the narrative and resources created when the company last established its brand.

Often this is marketing or sales departments building new pitch decks because they feel they need a new brand story to better connect with their audiences. Teams building off-brand resources is usually a sign that the core brand message needs to be better understood internally or that your company has evolved and your brand needs to be updated to reflect that. So, when you see teams "doing their own thing" to try and make the brand fit their needs better, it's often a good time to take stock and decide if you need to tighten up your current brand standards or revisit your brand to make it fit where you are as a company today.

Elana Rudick RGD, Creative Director at Design Is Yummy:

Talks of rebranding pop-up during obvious times of transition like a merger or acquisition or if a company’s services have evolved or expanded. When a company experiences pain points, like their visual identity feeling limited in use cases, a rebrand becomes apparent. The brand just “doesn’t work” or “feel right” anymore. From our experience, by the time a company starts questioning if it’s time for a rebrand, it’s usually overdue. As designers, we can encourage companies to regularly assess their brand and its visual representation and remind them that rebranding is a natural step towards the growth of any business.

Maria Sinisterra RGD, Co-founder and Designer, Tardigrada Design Studio:

The sign I consider most significant to indicate the need for rebranding is the case where a company's brand messaging is inconsistent across all customer touchpoints. It is confusing and frustrating. The brand thus fails to engage its intended audience and a rebranding strategy is required. An effective brand strategy considers every part of the company and every customer interaction.

Another indication would be if the company has undergone a significant shift and the brand no longer accurately captures the core of the mission and vision of the organization. A successful brand strategy reflects the most up-to-date goal and vision of a company.

Gordon McLean RGD, Principal at Cadre Creative Agency

Rebranding by its very nature is intended to be regenerative. It requires organizations to continually adapt and evolve by being different and by acting differently while allowing strategy to drive tactics.

  • Age: On the one hand, the reassurance of tried-and-true brands is comforting to current customers, but it can be incredibly limiting to growth.
  • Adversity: For several reasons rebranding a sinking ship is never a good idea. However, once on a path to recovery, a rebrand can break with the past and re-establish itself in the market and, at times, stimulate substantial growth.
  • Overcrowded competitive landscape: Rebranding can generate new life and energy by re-establishing a position that is unique and meets the needs of the target audience better than anyone else.

Mehdi Ghareh Mohammadi RGD, Founder & CEO, SHIFT DO Studio Inc.

To put it simply, branding is no different from a person's personal identity and how it connects to the community. If your branding is not accessible, is not able to communicate well with the target audience through the visuals and messaging and has not made a positive impact, then it is time to change. Remember to not lose the ethos of the brand in the process.

Denny Kurien RGD, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Rayvn Design:

Rebranding isn’t about changing who you are, but about bridging the gap between who you are now and who you want to be. Consider rebranding if:

  • You are facing a significant decline in sales. It could be due to outdated branding, negative associations or a failure to connect with the target audience.
  • Your company is shifting its focus. A rebranding could help signal the change to customers and stakeholders.
  • Your company's reputation needs to be restored following negative media attention, public perception or associations.

The goal of rebranding is to essentially create a new and differentiated association in the minds of your current customers, investors, prospects, competitors and employees. The re-brand should support your core message, while connecting with your audience in an authentic way.

Raymond Brand RGD, Independent Graphic Designer:

As soon as your confidence in the branding begins to slip, even a bit. You feel the need to justify or explain the logo and become hesitant to use it instead of excited. It’ll often happen once you have established a rhythm. The quality of the brand identity no longer represents the quality of what you have to offer because your needs have evolved and branding can’t keep up.

Minal Kharkar RGD, Creative Director, MK Branding + Design

Rebranding your business is a natural part of the life cycle of any company. We believe that customers buy with their gut and they will judge a book by its cover. Rebrand when:

  • You're not staying up to date with your customer preferences.
  • You need to shift focus toward an entirely new demographic.
  • If you feel like your deliverables and brand message aren't in sync.

Valérie Yobé RGD, President, la tribu grafik:

Never rebrand for rebranding! There are many factors that should be addressed depending on the context, the longevity of the company, its workforce and clients. While there are mutiple reasons to rebrand. One of of the most important reasons for me is if your brand is not versatile enough to accurately represent the diversity of your products, services and the people working for you. A rebranding process is not a fashionable exercise. It should always be the result of a deep introspection, a vision for the future and a deep knowledge of what makes your company stand out.

Kyle Schruder RGD

Creative Currency

I lead design at Creative Currency, leveraging my background in editorial design and branding to lead projects that help organizations tell their stories more effectively, present information more clearly, and engage audiences more deeply.

I also serve on the RGD Board of Directors, and volunteer for committees, mentoring, portfolio reviews and more.

Elana Rudick RGD

Design Is Yummy

I'm the Founder & Creative Director of Montreal-based design studio Design Is Yummy. Over the past 15 years, I've had the opportunity to collaborate with countless creatives, build successful design teams and foster meaningful relationships with clients. I speak on design and the business of it and mentor for the UI/UX Design Career Track at Springboard. When not working on my RGB glow, you can find me picking through design books or at home baking with my 2 small humans.


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