How to develop your rebranding strategy

In today’s content-driven world, more and more brands are launching every day. Creating a memorable brand identity, and keeping your brand image fresh is important, and it shows your audience that you take your visual brand and creative direction seriously. With a strong brand comes the need for ongoing rebranding efforts -– whether that’s a partial brand refresh, or a complete rebrand and redesign of your logo, color palette, iconography, and brand identity.

As part of managing your brand, conduct a brand audit every six months or so, and see how your audience feels about your messaging and your look and feel. Then, plan out your rebranding strategy. The best rebrands incorporate audience feedback, use organized brand kits, and create a continued opportunity to build reach and awareness.

Here’s what you need to know to keep rebranding costs down and maximize the success of every rebranding campaign.

Table of Contents

Rebranding vs Brand Refresh

Rebranding a business can be the complete overhaul of the brand identity, with updated logos, taglines, typography, color palettes, icons, imagery, and all visual assets, or a brand refresh, with a lighter update of the brand logo, typography, voice, tone, and overall style. The goal of a rebrand can be used as a marketing strategy to appeal to a new target audience, to merge multiple products or brands, to streamline or expand services, to address a problem and improve brand sentiment, to modernize the brand, or boost brand awareness.

Why do companies rebrand?

01. To streamline their services under one cohesive identity

When companies merge, acquire new businesses, or streamline their services, it can be helpful to rebrand so that all of the involved audiences know what’s changing. When Chargify and SaaSOptics merged, they rebranded to become Maxio, using clear messaging to convey their new, combined mission.

The Maxio homepage with a notification banner announcing their rebrand.

Image source: Brandfreak.com

02. To address a problem with their current brand

Your brand identity is closely tied to the public image of your company, or your brand reputation, which can be positive or negative for business growth.

When there’s a PR crisis or unfortunate incident, like when Chipotle was linked to widespread E. coli outbreaks, the marketing team has to work hard to regain the public’s trust through strategic brand campaigns.

Chipotle took their negative brand recognition as an opportunity to thoroughly review their food handling protocols, and became champions of food safety in the industry as a result of rebranding efforts. Whether your current brand isn’t working due to a negative public perception, or because it’s not aligning with the target audience, a rebrand is a chance to start fresh and rebuild.

03. To cater to a new target demographic

A rebrand can be used to speak to a new target audience — whether you’re adding a new demographic to your existing audience, or replacing your audience with a brand new one.

Here’s a fun example. Pedialyte, a hydration supplement traditionally geared towards kids, has a new marketing strategy — targeting dehydrated adults. In a new ad from the beverage brand, we see a dad drinking Pedialyte when he’s interrupted by his young daughter. “Hey, that’s mine!” she says. In this rebrand, their new tagline is “Pedialyte’s advanced rehydration isn’t just for kids, but to feel better fast, find us in the baby aisle.”

Clearly guide your new audience and treat them like they are meeting your brand for the first time.

04. To add or refresh service offerings

Are you offering a new service or product? Updating how you work? A rebrand is the perfect time for a launch.

05. To update brand colors, fonts, or graphics

The visual elements of your brand can change every few years, and innovative companies like to keep up with graphic design and marketing trends. Maintaining cloud-based brand guidelines can help make a visual rebrand more seamless.

06. To clarify brand messaging

When companies scale, more and more individuals and teams begin publishing their own content, which can lead to disjointed brand messaging. Rebranding can declutter an organization’s existing brand assets and provide a chance to establish (or clean up) brand management tools that encourage consistency.

07. To create a more memorable impression

Invest in brand management as a growth strategy. When Duolingo leaned into their new, younger, quirkier brand on TikTok, they saw incredible success, with a 38% click through rate and 90M+ new video views. App installs and new followers far surpassed Duolingo’s goals.

When should you consider rebranding?

During a quarterly or bi-annual marketing review, analyze brand sentiment and awareness. Use active social listening, PR input, and customer feedback to find any areas for improvement, and make rebranding an ongoing part of your marketing strategy.

Outside of a regular brand update, a rebrand is warranted if your brand image is negatively impacting business growth.

What to consider before rebranding your business

What’s your brand story? Is it still relevant?

Before rebranding your business, assess whether your brand tells a story that will resonate with your audience, and whether that story is meaningful.

Patagonia is notoriously a mission-driven brand. Everything that they associate with is rooted in protecting the environment and learning about the Earth. Their brand story is integrated in every post, media campaign, and business decision they make. For each new initiative, the Patagonia brand team needs to consider how it will fit in with their brand story – like the “Working Knowledge” documentary series featured here.

To add to your brand story, use Canva to add your logo, product photo, or slogan to a photograph that represents your values, or create new media series that align with your brand mission.

How will your rebrand affect your brand equity?

Brand equity refers to the value of having a well-known brand name and reputation. Companies with higher brand equity inevitably enjoy greater success because people know and trust them.

Another important question to ask yourself when rebranding your business is whether it will confuse customers, or devalue your brand equity.

Your goal when rebranding should be to give your brand a new twist that customers identify with and support, rather than going in a completely different direction.

Can you build on your existing brand with a partial rebrand, or do you need to start from scratch and do a complete rebrand?

As the saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Ask yourself what problems there are with your current logo, or brand identity. Determine your goals for the rebrand — do you hope to attract a new audience? Re-engage your existing customer base? Modernize your look and feel? As you build or refresh your brand as a team, use a collaborative approach so that you end up with a consistent image and messaging.

Learn how to grow your brand as a team with Canva brand kits and more collaborative design features.

Do you have a group of trusted audience members or customers you can include in the rebranding process?

Before you get too deep into updating your brand, incorporate feedback from your audience. Curate an engaged group of followers or customers and work with them to understand what’s working, and what needs improvement.

Rebranding strategies

Updating your visual brand

Your visual brand is your brand color palette, logo, imagery, iconography, typography, and overall look and feel. One of the primary rebranding strategies is to update your brand aesthetic while maintaining the essence of your brand identity. Apple has only made one major update to their logo, from Isaac Newton sitting below a tree to a version of the iconic apple we know today.

The Apple logo has evolved over the years to today’s sleek, understated apple icon.

When you refresh your brand, create a visual brand style guide that you can easily distribute with internal and external stakeholders, and establish brand guidelines for everyone to follow so every asset is on-brand and consistent. Use brand controls in Canva to create locked elements, branded templates, and other resources to scale and maintain quality.

Learn how to use brand controls in Canva to grow and maintain a consistent brand.

Merging multiple brands or services into a single brand

If you offer an array of services, are they all easily identified as being part of your brand? Or perhaps you have recently merged with or acquired another company and need to create a new logo and cohesive company identity.

If this is the case, a rebrand can help focus your company’s vision and portray to new and old customers who you are now as a unit.

One example of a successful rebrand after a merger was the union of United and Continental Airlines. They kept the United name and uppercase formatting and used the globe symbol from Continental Airlines to create an identity that made sense and was recognizable by customers.

The United airlines logo and the Continental Airlines logo, along with the new, merged United logo.

When United and Continental Airlines merged and rebranded, they combined elements of both brand identities.

Pivoting your product or service offerings

Perhaps you started off offering one service but over time have expanded your services. Or maybe the reverse is true; you started out offering a variety of services but now you’ve specialized in one thing.

Launching a new side of your business

Got a product that’s selling especially well? Or a vertical that has grown to warrant its own resources and dedicated teams? It might be time to launch a new entity.

After American Eagle Outfitters had seen success with their apparel line for several years, and particularly a pair of boybriefs that took off, they piloted a line of intimates in 1998 that ultimately became an entirely new brand of their business, Aerie.

Before a rebrand to “Aerie,” AEO tested the market, incorporated customers in every step of the process, and saw massive success, developing an independent brand identity for Aerie that was separate from American Eagle. Now, Aerie has done over $1B in business for the company and helped to develop the overall brand’s natural, untouched identity that resonated with their audience.

American Eagle’s initial visual identity for Aerie, their separate line of intimates. Alt: A mood board and inspiration for American Eagle’s “Aerie” brand when it launched, showing happy women in intimates and loungewear.

The rebranding process: How to do a rebrand from start to finish

01. Identify your new target audience and buyer personas

Could a rebrand help you reconnect with your target audience, or help you reach a new demographic?

As we know, trends are ever-changing, especially with young people. As your core audience grows older, brands either have to change with them, or change to target the next generation.

Map out exactly who you want to reach with the rebrand — and how that will overlap with, or replace, your current audience. Where does your target audience engage online? What are their challenges or pain points? What types of content do they consume? What language do they use? Conduct thorough market research to understand your ideal buyer persona.

02. Explore your brand’s updated story and vision

What will your rebranding say about your brand story, vision, and mission? Are you ramping up your commitment to sustainability?

Lush cosmetics quit social media several years ago and invested in its print magazine, Lush Times — a move that was on-brand for them. This rebranding strategy paid homage to Lush’s roots as a politically-driven, activist brand, while making a brand new statement to their audience.

Build your new brand story as a team, and think about how taking a big swing or step forward can help your business build brand awareness, gain a new audience segment, and improve its reputation.

03. Establish new brand colors, logos, fonts, and graphics

As a business, you want customers to remember you, and recommend you. If your brand doesn’t stand out among competitors, you might get passed over for a brand that has a more memorable reputation—or a more eye-catching logo.

Build your new brand using Canva’s brand kit feature so you can automatically update new colors, logos, fonts, and more and see the changes reflected across the entire organization in real time.

A Canva brand kit featuring a brand called “Urban HR” and their logo, brand colors, and fonts.

An example of a brand kit in Canva with brand colors, logos, fonts, and templates.

04. Rethink your brand name and tagline

Is it time for a clearer, snappier, or simpler brand name and tagline? Go through the process of analyzing which brand campaigns have performed the best, and poll your audience on new name ideas and concepts. Consider uniqueness, how the name works in different languages and regions, name availability, and social media handles.

A brand identity in Canva featuring a proposal template, a website page, and a social media story for a home development company.

An example of a new brand built in Canva with updated taglines and messaging.

A brand identity in Canva featuring a proposal template, a website page, and a social media story for a home development company.

Managing a brand depends on having clear guidelines and the right brand management tools. Develop a cohesive rebranding story, with new brand messaging, guidelines, templates, assets, and instructions. Brand templates help teams scale faster while ensuring consistency.

Here’s how to use branded templates with locked elements to guide new marketing designs that use your new brand the right way.

06. Launch your new brand

Every rebrand should have a content plan for promotion that includes marketing the rebrand to your existing customers and the general public. Use a combination of organic media like email, blog, and social media, along with paid ad campaigns, like on TikTok or Instagram to reach new audiences.

Hear from Canva and TikTok on how to create successful TikTok ads that convert your audience using Canva design tools.

As part of their ongoing commitment to sustainability, Patagonia launched Worn Wear, an initiative to help their customers repair, resell, and reuse Patagonia gear. Worn Wear builds on Patagonia’s brand mission, so this rebrand added to the original story of protecting the planet. To launch, Patagonia took out an ad in the New York Times during Fashion Week, highlighting the importance of items that last in the context of an event geared towards the production of new clothing.

Tip: Try launching your rebrand with an ad campaign using an unconventional medium, or to target a brand new target audience.

Patagonia’s launch ad in the New York Times for Worn Wear featuring an image of a pair of Patagonia shorts from 1994 and the tagline “Better Than New”.

Patagonia’s launch ad in the New York Times (during Fashion Week) for Worn Wear featuring a pair of Patagonia shorts from 1994.

07. Track and measure brand awareness, sentiment, and reach

Using your brand management tools along with social listening and analysis, measure brand awareness, sentiment, and reach following the rebrand. Watch how influenced revenue is impacted, whether the rebrand leads to upsells or cross-sells, and see if there’s an increase in quality followers and leads.

08. Take an ongoing effort to strengthen and scale your new brand

A rebranding is just the start of what will be an ongoing brand awareness project. The more your employees are empowered to design branded materials, the more content you’ll create, and the wider audience you’ll reach.

As you scale your brand, your content needs will grow – here’s how to use branded templates and brand kits as a creative team.

Examples of successful rebrands

Semrush launched a new visual identity and settled the pronunciation debate

Semrush, a popular search engine optimization and keyword research tool, was previously known as SEMrush, or S.E.M rush. Their rebrand in 2020 settled the pronunciation debate through new branded videos, and a bold new visual identity boosted awareness.

A social image that reads “The new look of Semrush” with the Semrush logo and graphic elements.

A promotional image from Semrush’s rebranding campaign.

DoorDash expanded to DoorDash for Merchants, DoorDash for Work, and DoorDash Capital

DoorDash started out as a food delivery platform, but now, they’ve expanded and created sub-brands including DoorDash for Merchants, DoorDash for Work, and DoorDash Capital. Each of these branches has different branding, a different target audience, and completely different content marketing needs.

Design Tip: Use colors and patterns consistently throughout your marketing materials to create a cohesive look that will become instantly recognizable.

Zoom unveiled a full communications platform with a new logo + visual rebrand

Zoom grew exponentially during the pandemic, and took advantage of organic growth by expanding their platform to a full suite of visual communication tools. Zoom’s rebranding sought to reframe the brand as “more than a messaging app”, and announced tools like Zoom Whiteboard, Zoom Contact Center, and more.

Using Canva, Zoom created and scaled its global brand, culminating with a centralized, self-service system to help teams around the world leverage branded assets.

Zoom video platform’s animated logo showing the full suite of tools, including team chat, phone, meetings, rooms, events, contact center.

Zoom’s rebrand incorporated an animated logo showing how they evolved from a chat app to a full suite of communication tools.

Examples of companies that missed the mark on their rebrand

Gap’s logo update strayed too far from their brand identity

If you can’t identify a real, quantifiable reason to rebrand, it’s probably not a great idea just yet. Take Gap as an example of what not to do.

In late 2010, Gap silently swapped their 20-year-old logo out for one you see on the right-hand side above.

Helvetica replaced the tall elegant font of their old logo and an awkwardly floating blue box drew the wrong kind of attention. The negative feedback forced Gap to revert back to the old logo within days.

What can we learn from Gap? Branding is delicate and needs to be treated as such. Rebranding should not be undertaken “just because.” Lots of time and research needs to go into successfully executing a rebrand to avoid a setback like Gap.

Google Business Suite’s “Google Workspace” logos negatively impacted the user experience

One of the first rules of branding is to solve for the customer, or target audience. When Google updated the G Suite into Google Workspace, they created a new branded set of icons for the launch. The new icons weren’t well received though — the app icons looked too similar, creating a confusing experience that wasn’t accessible. They received criticism for these icons, and had to do damage control to regain their users’ trust.

Google’s icons for Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Documents, and Chat pre, and post-rebrand.

Google’s rebranded icons from G Suite to Google Workspace.

Applebee’s Millennial marketing campaign alienated their primary audience

Applebee’s wanted to attract a younger, Millennial audience, despite being well-known as a family-oriented, neighborhood restaurant. By rebranding as a more modern, sophisticated establishment, and adding items to their traditional menu like sriracha-lime shrimp and chicken wonton tacos, the chain ended up alienating their core audience, and sales dropped over 6%.

Try testing ideas like this with a small, pilot market, like American Eagle did, before rolling out costly, large-scale efforts, or risk a rebrand having the opposite effect on the bottom line.

Is it time for a rebrand?

The most important considerations for a rebrand are the goal, the audience, and your existing brand performance. Use a strategic rebrand to grow brand awareness, reshape the public perception of your company, and to re-engage your audience, strengthening your relationship. Ready to get started? Try Canva for Teams to collaborate on your rebrand together.

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