Refresh, new logo or rebranding? What to choose?

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Jarosław Morawski

There comes a time when a business owner feels that his company’s logo, printed materials and website no longer reflect brand values. The company continues to grow and get new clients but its image stands still The owner doesn’t feel comfortable with it and feel an urge to make change. Questions start to pop in his or her head: should I get a new logo or complete rebranding?

Sooner or later every entrepreneur faces this problem. Market expectations are growing, fuelled by both competition and customers who are more aware of their needs, likes, and trends. But the companies and their values, goals, and ambitions changes as well. A brand image is a bit like a car – for many long years it works like a charm but at some point it begins to wear and requires more and more costly visits in a nearby workshop.

Refreshing the image helps a brand adjust to changing situation and gain energy to take action. Business owners surveyed by Endurance give the following reasons why they decided to get a new logo:

  • I wanted a fresh look (77%)
  • it did not convey my brand well (14%)
  • it wasn’t what I envisioned (6%)
  • I changed it to see if I can increase sales (3%)

65% brands have never changed their logo

According to Endurance, 65% of brands have never changed their logo and 75% don’t plan to do so. It’s surprising, especially when you look at IKEA, Shell or plenty of other brands that continue to change and evolve their image.

IKEA’s iconic logo – rectangle with thick solid letters – hasn’t changed much since 1967. At that time the company established values that it tries to stick to up to this day. Shell, a global petroleum company, since the day it was founded uses almost the same logo inspired by its name. In 1948 designers added colors that are perfectly recognizable both in the company’s printed materials and real-world has stations. Over the years the logo has gone through minor changes. The shape of the shell was gradually simplified to present well across everchanging digital mediums.

There are more examples like Shell: IBM, Kodak, and even Coca-Cola that changed its logo multiple times over the years to best suit their clients’ expectations.

When to change and what to watch out for?

Brands decide to get a new logo, color palette, and sometimes even name and redesigned identity. The possibilities are endless because the logo alone can be either a completely new project created from a scratch, or a refreshed signet heavily inspired by previous iterations. Websites are no different – a complete redesign is unnecessary when client reviews are positive and key statistics continue to grow.

All change should be treated seriously, though. Guiding one’s personal preferences or intuition can impact the brand’s image in a negative way. The stakes are high because the company’s position on the market, popularity, and even sales often depend on its image. Refreshing the logo alone will not help a brand that boasts an unappealing website and doesn’t try to reach out (least convince) to new clients.

Big brands refresh their logos at least once in a few years but smaller businesses should be more careful. Sticking with one look carries the same risks as changing it too much and too often. On the other hand, a brand that often changes its logo faces additional implementation costs (strategy and design work, website coding, printing services) and simply doesn’t leave enough space for its previous image to „encode” their clients’ memory.

Universal solutions do not exist. Choosing the right method requires knowledge and experiences which is why successful brands often hire branding studios. Professional designers can analyze the brand’s current position and choose the most suitable set of tools.

Refreshing the logo alone will not help a brand that boasts an unappealing website and doesn’t try to reach out (least convince) to new clients.

Refresh, new logo or rebranding?

Business owners should be careful when deciding about changing the image of their brand. They should be aware that a new or refreshed identity will stay with the company for a long time. Designer, on the other hand, should remember that what the company needs something that will stay fresh and adequate for years.

Depending on a brand’s needs and situation, there are three ways to proceed:

  1. Refresh
    Logo update (see: Shell), adjustment for new surfaces and mediums, designing accompanying company materials. All changes refer to existing communication and visual themes as well as current brand values. If a company doesn’t face serious communication issues (e.g. mismatch between a product and its image and customer expectations), a visual refresh should suffice. It’s a recommended solution for rapidly growing, well-functioning companies that were born before the digital revolution and do not have any major communication issues to solve.
  2. New logo
    This translates into a completely new, redesigned mark for a brand that want to be perceived differently by its clients and partners. Usually designers create the new logo based on existing brand values and seek themes that continue its past communication. New logo should always be accompanied by refreshed collaterals and printed materials that keeps the brand’s refreshed image consistent and strengthen its remembrance among clients.
  3. Rebranding
    Only brands with serious issues undergo a rebranding process. Weakening position on the market, sudden outflow of clients, negative reviews or dropping sales results are among the most common grounds for making profound changes to a brand’s image and identity. Rebranding is also a common choice for companies that have reached a point where their needs changed and new business directions require a new, more voluminous and flexible image. Usually rebranding includes a new logo and visual identity as well as communication strategy and brand value proposition. In other words, it’s a brand reset that helps companies start fresh from a better, more deliberate and current position.

All branding actions must be carried out holistically in order to be successful. Designing a new logo when printed materials, communication or website are completely out of date involves a huge risk. Effective branding is a fairly delicate construction – one mistake may ruin a great first impression. Customers can easily notice inconsistency in how a logo is printed on product packaging or different colors between a business card and website. Such errors are often associated with reckless, unprofessional businesses. Facing a choice between two competitive brands, a client will undoubtedly choose the one that pays more attention to its image.

The real price of change

Entrepreneurs should be aware of great effort that goes into making any changes to a brand’s image. It may seem like only a new logo and rebranding force designers to work twice as hard. But the truth is, refreshing a logo involves an amount of work similar to creating a new one from a scratch. It requires detailed analysis of its advantages and disadvantages as well as current client perception. Even small changes like redesigning the icon or choosing new typography for the logotype are always the matter of creativity and experience of specialists who are able to identity the actual source of problems.

Designers take into account business goals, customer expectations, current trends, and budget limitations. They define the scope of changes – icon, typography, colors? Or maybe all of them? The first design rarely turns out to be a winner and is usually reworked (iterated) many, many times before it is presented to a client. Based on selected proposition designers put together a brand book that contains basic usage instructions as well as a set of printed materials.

As you can see, refreshing and redesigning a logo have much in common. They require plenty of work and effort both on design both on the studio’s and company’s side. Logo refresh is so much more than just new colors and typeface. Every design decision, even if it seems insignificant at first, may have serious consequences for how the mark and the whole brand are perceived. Picking a new color is always the result of many hours of work and endless experiments. Different options are tested against adequacy of company requirements, logo construction, readability, and usability.

Rebranding pushes such efforts even further – building a strong and durable brand requires cooperation on many different levels, detailed brand situation analysis, and coming up with effective solutions. Therefore, every business owner who considers making changes to his or hers company’s image, should be aware of the consequences.

Full rebranding is the most time-consuming solution of all and involves a great risks. Many businesses – especially those that simply want to improve their image – should be happy with a refreshed logo. However, an entrepreneur is rarely able to objectively assess the situation. With so many unfinished matters and issues that require their attention, some key questions and red flags can be missed.

This is why it is well worth to put trust in specialists from a branding studio. A few hours of consultation and brand audit may help choose the right course of action, avoid potential mistake and save money on rash decisions.

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Piotr Synowiec

Peter Synowiec
co-owner

meee@holysheep.co