Your brand may not be resonating with consumers the way it used to. Maybe they’re turning to newer competitors and starting to forget you even exist.

The situation is not good. But it’s also not hopeless. One step you may want to consider is a brand refresh.

This involves taking a big-picture look at your brand – including your logo, colors, messaging, and more – and updating it to better reflect your current business goals and target audience. This can be a helpful exercise for businesses that have been around for a while and are starting to feel stale.

Group of co-workers working on brand refresh for their company

What’s the Difference Between a Brand Refresh and a Rebrand?

Rebranding and brand refreshing are both important strategies for keeping a brand relevant, but they are very different processes.

A rebrand is a complete overhaul of your brand identity, including the logo, colors, messaging, and maybe even the name. It’s typically done when an organization has gone through major changes or needs to make a fresh start. While a total rebrand is often beneficial and necessary, it’s also a lengthy, expensive process that shouldn’t be considered lightly.

A brand refresh, on the other hand, is less drastic than a complete rebrand. It involves updating existing elements of your brand in order to better reflect current business goals and target audience. While the rebranding process can be expensive and time-consuming, brand refreshes can help you stay competitive without having to invest an exorbitant amount of money or resources into the process.

Businesspeople working at a round table
Picking a color palette for a brand refresh

A refresh could be as simple as making your existing color palette a bit more vibrant or having a designer tweak your logo to simplify or modernize it without completely redesigning your look. The goal is to remain recognizable to consumers while signaling a new approach in brand strategy.

The brand refresh process could also involve tweaks to brand messaging. Maybe the words you’ve been using to tell your brand story worked great for a different generation but are now preventing you from connecting with younger customers. Evaluating your external communication is something you should do regularly, and sometimes those evaluations necessitate a brand refresh.

Why Consider a Brand Refresh?

Times change, and so do companies. Your branding needs to keep up with those changes.

A brand refresh can provide an excellent opportunity to reassess your goals and ensure your brand stays current. Changes in trends or shifts in markets may lead to new opportunities that you can pursue more successfully with a refreshed company image.

This doesn’t mean you should be trend-hopping. That diminishes your brand, positioning it as unconfident and unreliable. But keep on top of market trends and consider whether they’ll bring long-term opportunities for your business.

A big plus for brand refreshes is that they aren’t as drastic as a full-scale rebrand. If you have a long-running business, you’ve built up a lot of brand equity. It makes no sense to throw that all away every decade just to keep up with trends.

Instead, making small but significant changes can keep your brand current without having to completely reintroduce your brand to the market. In fact, if the changes are subtle enough, you don’t even have to make a big deal out of it. You just roll out the new look gradually and let the refresh do its job without calling a ton of attention to it.

McDonald's has undergone the brand refresh process without abandoning its core image

The Basic Brand Refresh Process

Revamping your brand identity can seem like a daunting task, so break it down into digestible parts. And don’t be afraid to bring in outside help as part of your brand refresh strategy.

Handwritten brand refresh checklist

Research Competition and Target Audience

Before getting started, take stock of what needs to be addressed, from outdated visuals to inconsistencies in messaging. As you begin to tweak and refine elements of your brand identity, research the competition so you can get a better understanding of how others in the industry are representing themselves.

Make sure you’re paying attention to your target audience as well. Are your current customers not engaging with your brand the way you want them to? Pay attention to their feedback for clues on what would resonate with them even more. What segments of the population is your business not reaching? What problems do they have that your business could solve better than your competitors?

Get Outside Assistance

Once you’ve nailed down the basics, consulting with experts is essential for strategically positioning your brand for success. With the help of branding specialists, you’ll have access to valuable insights that pinpoint opportunities for growth, reach new target audiences, and help set your brand apart from the competition.

Business presentation

When you’re constantly immersed in your own brand, it’s easy to miss aspects of your brand positioning. An outside perspective can evaluate aspects of your current brand elements in a more objective way than people who live and breathe that brand every day.

Go Beyond Visual Identity

Keep in mind that branding is about more than looks. While updating your logo or other visual elements may be necessary parts of the brand refresh strategy, don’t ignore the language you’re using in brand messaging. Does your tagline resonate with modern consumers at the same level it resonated with previous generations?

Are you delivering your marketing copy in a brand voice that appeals to your target audience? It’s essential to consider more than only your visual identity as part of the brand refresh process.

Two coworkers collaborating on copywriting

Successful Brand Refresh Examples

Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Starbucks, Dunkin

Hand holding can of Coca Cola

The world’s most iconic brands have learned the value of staying fresh, and strategically revamping their image through careful re-branding. Coca-Cola occasionally updates its logo while maintaining its classic scripted font. They never veer too far from their original logo, though. This is in stark contrast to their main competitor Pepsi, which has reinvented its look several times. This difference has helped Coke maintain its competitive edge with its image as the “classic” cola brand.

Mastercard and Starbucks are prime examples of brands that have refreshed their visual identity over the years with an increasing focus on simplicity and modernity. In both cases, these companies benefited from a long history and plenty of brand equity. This allowed both brands to lean toward more contemporary minimalism while remaining completely recognizable to consumers. As with Coca-Cola, changes were never too drastic. These logos evolved to where they are now, avoiding unnecessary confusion with their existing customers.

Cup of Starbucks coffee
Dunkin' storefront following brand refresh

We wrote a whole Rebrand Roundup case study on Dunkin’s success in dropping the “Donuts” from their name. Yes, this one straddled the line between refresh and rebrand, as they changed the company name yet maintained a good deal of the existing visual identity and other brand elements. Dunkin’ also leaned into enhancing its brand personality in a way that didn’t alienate long-term customers. Either way, Dunkin’ recognized shifts in the current marketplace and made targeted changes to reach a new market without sacrificing existing brand equity.

These brand refresh examples demonstrate that need a completely new logo may not be necessary to reach new audiences. Sometimes all it takes is minor changes to breathe new life into a well-known brand.

Beware of Trend-Hopping with Your Brand Identity

Sometimes a once-great brand is feeling stale. Younger consumers stay away, thinking “This is my grandfather’s (fill in the blank).” Taking into account changing consumer values is important. But avoid the temptation of hopping on the latest branding bandwagon (brandwagon?).

Rebranding and even refreshing an existing brand can be an expensive process. Is it worth updating your look every few years to keep up with fads that come and go? Not only is there a monetary cost, but constantly reinventing your brand hurts brand equity.

For one, customers will have to be reintroduced to your brand frequently, diminishing loyalty. Further, you’ll be seen as a company that lacks focus, always running toward the shiny new object rather than delivering the reliability customers expect.

Aiming for a fresh new look doesn’t mean riding trends at the expense of building a lasting brand identity.

Starbucks coffee cup holder


Refreshing your current brand identity can be an effective way to stay competitive in the marketplace and connect with new customers. However, it’s important to remember that brand refreshes should focus on maintaining brand equity rather than hopping on fads or trends.

With careful research, strategic changes, and expert consultation you can create a refreshed brand identity that is both modern and recognizable. Most importantly, it will stay true to your existing brand’s core elements.