There’s nothing quite like a brand refresh for breathing life into stale marketing, sales, and customer engagement efforts.
Unfortunately, brand refreshes get harder to pull off as organizations grow and mature — meaning the orgs that would benefit most from a refresh are often the least likely to pursue one.
At Salted Stone, we’ve helped dozens of companies refresh their brands and implement the changes throughout their brand ecosystems. In this article, we’ll explore why brand refreshes aren’t always as difficult as they might seem on the surface, and when you can expect positive ROI from a refresh.
What is a brand refresh?
A brand refresh is the process of updating and modernizing an existing brand to more closely reflect an organization’s current state and improve their positioning for future changes.
Though often used interchangeably with the term “rebranding”, the term “brand refresh” usually implies a lighter touch. Typically, a brand refresh involves refining brand elements rather than scrapping them and starting from scratch.
In pursuing a brand refresh, you might focus on just the visual components of your brand such as your logo, colors, typography, patterns and graphics, photo treatments, and icon styles.
Usually, however, a brand refresh also involves non-visual brand story elements, such as your mission statement, elevator pitch, product/service names, and key value propositions.
Brand refreshes can be major or minor, and they are often pursued in conjunction with large brand-related projects, such as website redesigns.
Why do brands need refreshing?
The obvious answer is that a refresh can fix an outdated brand — but it’s worth exploring why and how brand identities become outdated in the first place.
As time goes on, brands get old for three main reasons.
- First, there’s the fact that an old brand is implicitly no longer new, and the number of people to whom it will seem fresh and exciting diminishes as a function of time.
- Second, the world moves on and there are external aesthetic trends which can render even the most modern designs outdated. This is why you can instantly pick out almost any logo from the 90s or 2000s without much trouble.
- Third, as organizations grow and change, there’s often a growing dissonance between the brand and the current state of the org, i.e., a feeling that the brand identity no longer reflects who the organization “really is.” This is especially true as employees turn over, and the people who made the decisions about the existing brand are no longer present in the organization.
Pursuing a brand refresh can help bring the brand identity into the modern era, make it new and exciting again, and make it more reflective of the spirit of the organization. This in turn is a boon to marketing, sales, and customer engagement efforts.
The challenges of refreshing an enterprise brand
The organizations who would benefit most from a brand refresh are those that have grown and changed the most since their brand identity was established. Unfortunately, it’s these same businesses who have the hardest time accepting the risks and costs of a brand refresh.
Implemented properly, a brand identity should be applied to almost every asset an organization creates. That includes:
- Print collateral
- Sales sheets and brochures
- Presentation decks
Simply put, the more of these assets you have, the more difficult it will be to refresh all of them. This is especially true when branded assets are not organized in a central location.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also a positive relationship between the difficulty of refreshing a brand and the number of employees and teams an organization has. That’s because a brand refresh often involves not just redesigning assets, but also changing the way employees speak about a brand.
Socializing a refreshed brand often takes longer than the actual work of refreshing it. It’s not uncommon for our clients who have undertaken brand refreshes in the past to complain that they find employees using elements and language from the old brand years after the fact.
The secret to getting positive ROI from a brand refresh
If you were hoping that we’d have some magical way of easily updating all existing branded assets and socializing the changes throughout your organization, we’re sorry to disappoint. The inescapable fact is that this is hard, time-consuming work. And that’s where the ROI equation starts to break down.
That is, unless you don’t update everything.
The secret to unlocking the positive ROI from an enterprise brand refresh is to accept that you don’t need to refresh every asset or retrain every employee. A lightly refreshed brand tactically applied to your most visible assets can provide many of the benefits of a full refresh without sacrificing the usability of older assets.
The trick is striking a balance between the new brand and the old. Too big of a difference, and users, leads, and customers might get confused if they see an older asset or hear an older term being used by your employees.
For example, if you change the name of your organization or go from a muted grayscale color palette to a bright neon one, that can create friction when both brands exist simultaneously.
But if you pursue the refresh thoughtfully with an experienced partner, there’s actually a lot you can do to update your logos, colors, typography, graphics, brand voice elements, and other aspects of your brand without departing too wildly from what came before.
From there, it’s just a matter of:
- Updating key assets right away, such as the most visited parts of your website and most-used sales collateral
- Applying the new brand identity to new assets as they’re created
- Updating older assets when you have the capacity and resources
See this example of a brand logo refresh below:
This iterative approach to branding is usually the best option for large, mature organizations.
In fact, we’d argue that it’s not just beneficial, but necessary. If you wait until you have the time and resources to completely refresh your brand, that day might never come, and eventually your brand identity will become so outdated that nothing short of a total overhaul will do.
Our experienced designers would be happy to assess your brand and determine if a light refresh is right for your organization.