To rebrand, or not to rebrand? That is the question.

by admin on October 6, 2011

Rebranding is a term that graphic designers love: “Woo hoo! Let me take that really ugly logo and have a crack at wowing the pants off it!”.

But simply changing your logo isn’t all that’s involved in a rebrand. Instead, maybe what you really want to consider doing is a brand evolution?

As a business owner, it’s important to understand the difference between both the options, as well as the implications, before you give your designer carte blanche.

First things first, it’s important to realise that your logo is not your brand.

Sure, it’s an important part of your brand, but it’s not the whole thing. Your brand is a complex combination of all the things you do to provide an experience for your customer. Your logo is like the summary, giving your customer an overall idea of what they can expect from you, but your brand is all the little things you do, say, present and offer in order to meet (or exceed) that expectation.

So what’s the difference between a rebrand and a brand evolution?

As the name suggests, a rebrand is when you re-do your brand.
As we’ve just discussed, your brand is more than just your logo, so it stands that rebranding is more than simply changing your logo.

Businesses who rebrand do it for a substantial reason. The new brand looks considerably different to what it did before. The overall design of marketing materials, point of sale, signage, stationery, uniforms, product displays, product packaging and even the tone used in communication is very different. Your sales process may change to suit the new experience you want to provide to your customer.

Rebranding is generally used when a big statement needs to be made: when you want to move into a new position in the market, or want to reposition yourself in your existing market. It’s a way to say to your customer: “We’re really different (better) than we used to be. We’re bigger/better/stronger/more fun than you think we were before”.

Brand evolution, on the other hand, is a more gentle approach.

It likely stills involves a change to the way the logo looks, and/or the way marketing materials, point of sale, signage etc looks. But it’s not a complete removal from the previous logo, so existing elements and colours may carry through. Brand evolution is more about freshening, modernising, simplifying the way a brand looks, creating a subtle shift of perception in the marketplace, rather than changing the brand completely.

What are the implications of rebranding?

There are the tangible things like the cost of completely redoing all of your materials (like anything and everything that your logo appears on!), as well as less tangible things like effects on your existing customer base. In completely changing your brand, you risk alienating your existing customer base. People are creatures of habit, and also very judgemental. If they feel that your new brand has changed their perception of your product, or they don’t feel included by your new brand, you run the risk of them moving to your competition.

It’s for both these tangible and intangible reasons that many large companies choose to evolve their brand gradually in stages (sometimes constantly) rather than a single, sudden rebrand.

Examples of Rebranding and Brand Evolution

This Hannover Airport logo is a great example of a brand evolution:



The new logo still has key elements from the original logo – the colour has been tweaked, the font modernised but the “H” icon is almost exactly the same. In a successful rebrand, the feeling of the brand doesn’t change – customers may notice the difference, but won’t feel an adverse reaction to the new logo because the underlying message of the brand is the same as before.

Now let’s look at this complete rebrand for YMCA:



Not only do the logos look completely different, but the feel of and the messages communicated by this new logo are completely different.

It’s obvious that the YMCA is trying to attract a younger market by offering lots of colours and a “funkier” look. I wonder though, do older segments of the YMCA’s customer base feel left behind by the new branding? It’s important to consider whether the potential gain of a younger market share outweighs the potential loss of existing customer base?

Images from Rebrand 100 Global Awards 2011

You might also like to check out this post showcasing the evolution of some world famous brands.

Over to you

Have you seen a rebrand that you really like, or one that went horribly wrong? Share it here and let me know why you think it worked (or didn’t).

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Evan Foster October 7, 2011 at 3:34 am

I like the new(-ish) Woolworths logo. The apple-like swirl at the top conveys freshness, reinforces their tagline as “The Fresh Food People” and also looks sleek and classy. I’m a fan.


Karoline October 7, 2011 at 3:56 am

Hi Evan,
I really like the new Woolworths logo too! I think this is a great example of a successful rebrand.
It was a much needed update to the old one (that had previously evolved over time, but never really changed all that much, so felt old and outdated). Note that they completely changed the store layouts, the point of sale material and the staff uniforms at the same time, and updated the layout of the catalogues (cleaner, bigger pictures of products).

All that comes together to give the customer a “fresh, market grocer” feel both in and out of store – carrying through the experience that is “promised” by the new logo.
If Woolworths had just changed their logo, do you think the overall effect would be the same?


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