Cut through the clutter: when should your brand rebrand?

It’s not news to anyone that the world is over-saturated with brands – they are ever-present in today’s society; invading our space on tv, plastered over the sides of buildings, handed out as flyers, or rudely popping up on our phones. Every space taken. Every opportunity utilised.

And that’s smart, because it’s the branded designs we see that help persuade us to buy certain products, join certain gyms or support certain charities. With all that aggressive visual competition it’s not surprising that companies feel pressure to cut through the clutter. They can either stand-out in a unique and meaningful way or disappear into the abyss of mediocre brands – in the basest sense, it’s do or die.

So, the question is, when should a brand rebrand? And when should it refresh, extend, or perhaps, leave well alone?

Whether a company wants a brand overhaul, extension, or refresh, depends largely on their reason for doing it. A whole new identity is a great way of representing a shift in business offering. Take Arenko, for example, after 3 years trading, they wanted to create a more consistent and professional visual identity that better aligned with their market position; essentially a complete overhaul of their brand. We undertook a full review of their company values, taking the time to get under their skin and really understand the image they wanted to project. The new concept we developed was ‘dynamic, flexible and exciting’; three qualities we brought to life across their logo, brandmark, stationary, templates and website… even in their sportswear. We delivered a full set of new brand guidelines that aligned with their brand evolution – from infancy to adulthood.

However, as tempting as a brand overhaul may be, change for change sake can be counterproductive. Simply extending some aspects of your brand with a blast of fresh creative thinking can retain your existing audience, whilst attracting a new one. For example, Ocean Network Express undertook a merger and rebranded as ‘ONE’ to celebrate the union. Our challenge was to redefine their new group values whilst adhering to the new ‘ONE’ branding. We extended the existing brand into fresh creative territory, issued usage guidelines, and engaged staff by producing posters for their global offices. Same identity, new values.

Sometimes a brand wants to retain elements of its current identity, but this identity has become muddled, perhaps through global misuse, business development or changing fashions. But there’s not necessarily the need for a total overhaul, a bit of refinement could do the trick. As with our work on United Nations Global Compact who were struggling with the merging of the UN parent brand and the SDG colour palette. This marriage threw 27 colours and conflicting fonts together, and with little in the way of rules, their teams were producing a veritable rainbow of marketing assets that diluted the brand globally. The challenge was to refresh the UNGC branding to be simpler, while retaining the ability to partner with all initiatives. Following a brand realignment, we then created a new visual concept to describe the Global Goals’ across conference presentations, brochures and their annual impact report – alongside a new set of templates and guidelines which then could be distributed globally. A refinement of the brand identity to suit changing needs.

The best brands are those that are not carved out of stone. Versatility and the ability to adapt to new trends should be ingrained within a brand identity. Over the years we’ve worked with several companies who have reconsidered their brand in some way; but we feel it’s important to provide counsel on whether it is really a rebrand that’s required or whether the problem can be remedied with an extension or refresh.

If you are considering a brand refresh or redesign to reflect a new direction and would like to find out more about the branding projects our design team has done, then please get in touch at hellolondon@mullenlowesalt.com.