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Brand Refresh vs. Rebrand: What’s the Difference?

Naming the difference between a Rebrand and a Brand Refresh might be splitting hairs, but it will help you figure out what's best for your brand.

Do you know the difference between a Rebrand and a Brand Refresh? Is there one? And if so, which one do you need? It's easy to know when something with your brand is wrong, but knowing the degree is much more difficult. And how deep your brand issues go might help determine whether you need a rebrand or brand refresh. Let’s talk about each so you know what you’re in for and which one will set you up for success.

What is a brand refresh?

What is a Brand Refresh?

A Brand Refresh is like a wardrobe makeover—it brings your brand up to date with the latest trends, strengthens your visuals, and overall gives your brand a facelift. A refresh is most useful when your Brand Core and messaging is still relevant and you just need cosmetic updates or gradual changes.

What is a Rebrand?

A Rebrand is a deeper transformation that takes a look at every aspect of your brand from top to bottom. A rebrand usually indicates or accompanies a strategic business change, new positioning, and new corporate alignment or acquisition. The deeper look sets the stage for longterm growth and company culture alignment.

4 Key Differences Between a Brand Refresh and a Rebrand

1. A Refresh is a Facelift, a Rebrand Solves Issues

  1. A brand refresh reimagines a brand's look and feel. The visuals are updates with new or refreshed colors, a tightened logo rendering, and a facelift to your digital presence.
  2. A rebrand solves deep-seated systemic issues from the inside out. There’s often an issue in what’s being communicated and what’s being received, and a rebrand digs down deep to align those two or bring new messages, people, and products into the fold.

2. A Refresh Keeps Up, a Rebrand Sets the Pace

  1. A refresh keeps pace with market conditions. It looks at where the market currently is and creates a visual position within that environment.
  2. A rebrand transforms the whole business to support the future. Rather than running at the pace of the market, a rebrand tells the market where to go.

3. A Refresh Strengthens Image, a Rebrand Strengthens Understanding

  1. A refreshed brand will have a stronger brand image—it can share that everywhere and be comfortable in its new skin. It garners new eyes and attention and keeps the current messaging moving forward.
  2. A rebrand shapes a new understanding of the entire business—why it does what it’s doing, how it does it, what it values, what it believes in, and the direction it wants to go.

4. A Refresh Focuses on Tweaks, a Rebrand Focuses on Reconstruction and Change

  1. A refresh is focused on tweaks and improvements to the brand. There’s no major change, but a process of refinement. Think of old, but better (refurbished furniture, anyone?)
  2. A rebrand focuses on changes and reconstruction—not neglecting the past or an organization’s history, but not being held down, either. 

Know you need some kind of help but not sure what? Give us a call! Whether you know you need a brand refresh or a complete rebrand doesn't matter—what matters is that you have an issue in your business that needs solving. Book a free call and we'll see if there's something that we can do about it.

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5 Examples of the Difference Between a Rebrand and a Brand Refresh

1. Twitter Evolution to X Rebrand

Twitter, or the lack thereof, has been in the news quite a lot recently given its sudden shift to ‘’. Before that, however, Twitter underwent a number of brand refreshes. What started as a quirky bird logo developed into a few more birds before becoming a well-rendered logo backed by a beautiful UI design. Each step of the bird’s growth was just a brand refresh—how can we draw this better, cleaner, and make our user experience smoother?

Then, after a long struggle with fake accounts, issues with users and regulatory factors, the brand suddenly became the ominous ‘X’. It came without an announcement, without a press kit, and without any background. Not the best way to launch a new brand, but certainly a great way to get people’s attention. There has long been speculation about the future plans for the platform, and such a rebrand is probably just a jarring way to get people to think about the platform differently.

2. Pringles Brand Refresh

Mr. P gets a haircut in “simplified” Pringles rebrand ...
Pringles Logo before and after refresh.

The consumer goods industry is no stranger to brand refreshes. Brands are always vying for attention on valuable shelf space, and keeping up with market standards comes with the territroy. For a brand like Pringles, a refresh was due.

For their refresh, they kept a similar brand character, I would have personally voted for a rebrand that included tubes with a larger diameter, and I’m not the only one. 

3. Pfizer Rebrand

Pfizer had never been in the public eye as much as it was during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though it should be under more frequent scrutiny by the public, it hadn’t really needed a public-facing brand until then.

That change in attention signaled the perfect time for a rebrand. By admitting that they were now in the public eye, Pfizer developed a rebrand that fulfilled their corporate needs and made the pharmaceutical company approachable to a large audience. By reframing their messaging and topping it off with a beautiful visual identity designed by Team, the Pfizer rebrand is a masterclass in rebranding.

4. Bolt Brand Refresh

For those not in the design ecosystem, Bolt may have flown under the radar, but in online design communities, its refresh hit nearly every social feed. Bolt had a fine brand position, a non-complainable logo, and a product that people enjoyed. By all accounts, it didn’t seem to need a rebrand.

A refresh took this brand to the next level. From a new logo to eye-catching animations and a stunning electric green, Koto’s take on the Bolt brand helps shine new light on the brand. With such a stunning brand refresh, Bolt gained millions of views, impressions, and undoubtedly customers. All electrified by their new look.

5. AirBnB Rebrand and Brand Evolution

AirBnB has become synonymous with entrepreneurship and new-age startup building, and for good reason. What started as a Craigslist listing quickly turned into an idea that needed a brand. As a first pass, AriBnB donned a logo that looked like a mix between a hotel company and a toilet paper brand. It was a perfect analogy for the air mattress that founded the company.

Fast-forward just a few years, and the company was becoming more than just a rental space. As AirBnB exploded, it also learned that it wasn’t so much a ‘bed and breakfast’ company, but a software company that just happened to connect people to beds. With this different perspective, AirBnB took on a major rebrand, focusing on the software nature of its core offering and positioning itself as a user-friendly gateway to vacation. 

Since then AirBnB has been diligent about its brand positioning, visual identity, and growing its core messaging. From developing consistent UI guides to designing its custom font named Cereal with Dalton Maag, the AirBnB brand has evolved to lead the industry.

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