When not to change your brand identity

Written by David Adams, Head of Brand, Freshfield.

In my last Fresh Thinking blog post, I looked at some of the justified business reasons to change your brand identity. However, there are also occasions when carrying out a brand refresh or full rebrand is simply not advisable.

A rule of thumb should always be to avoid changing your brand identity if you’re simply looking to ‘freshen things up’ or put a plaster over a bigger problem.

Given both the financial and time investment involved in a brand refresh or rebrand, it’s critical that organisations avoid falling into the trap of using one of the following reasons as the sole justification to change their brand identity.

Reasons not to change

Bored with the existing brand

Boredom or over familiarity, is rarely a good reason to overhaul your brand identity. Updating or extending your colour palette or font choice, reviewing your tone of voice and messaging or having new photography commissioned, can revitalise your brand and marketing assets without going through a brand refresh or full rebrand.

New management wants to leave a mark

Of course, it’s tempting for a new CEO or marketing director to want to leave their own mark on an organisation and signal it’s taking a new direction. If, however, the fundamental purpose, positioning or value proposition isn’t changing, you’d be advised not to rebrand.

Poor brand awareness

This is less about your brand identity and more about the effectiveness of your marketing and communication strategy. Look at this before considering a brand refresh or rebrand further.

Not understood in the market

This again is not so much about your brand identity, but more of a failure to effectively communicate and engage with your audiences. Your brand proposition needs to be clearly defined and then effectively communicated through compelling messaging, as opposed to embarking on a brand refresh or rebrand.

Moving offices

Just because you might be moving office shouldn’t prompt you to consider carrying out a brand refresh or rebrand, simply because it’s convenient to do so at the same time as updating your stationery and marketing materials.

Too soon

Brands take time to mature, to grow in reputation, authority and awareness. If an organisation or brand has only been rolled out in the last three years, it’s probably too soon to be considering a brand refresh or rebrand. This is only likely to confuse the market and threaten to damage any already established customer goodwill and trust.

A competitor has recently rebranded

The circumstances, motivations, and goals of other organisations are likely to be different to your own. As such, you should be guided by your own brand strategy as to deviate from this might be damaging.

When it already works

Consumer brands Tropicana in 2009 and Gap in 2010 were badly damaged when they rebranded and did not receive the support of consumers or the market. Such was the negative feedback, particularly on social networks, that both brands very quickly readopted their previous brand identity. Both were established and successful brands, and market research would have told them such a step was quite unnecessary.

As previously discussed, changing your brand identity isn’t something that should be entered into lightly. It is absolutely crucial therefore that there is a sound business case behind any decision to do so.

The potential loss or damage to established brand recognition, goodwill and trust, the often high cost of implementation, and the fact there is no guarantee of success, mean that organisations need to be confident in the likely benefits, as well as clear on the justification for change.

Successful brands develop and grow through the implementation of sound brand strategies, and it is here that organisations need to look first, before moving ahead with a brand refresh or rebrand.

Freshfield’s branding team has decades of experience of helping organisations and marketing teams manage and deliver brand refreshes and rebrands. Please contact David Adams if you would like to discuss your own situation.


Written by David Adams, at Freshfield

For more information, please contact David or the Freshfield team on 01772 888400.

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