Quill feather

When to Refresh, When to Rebrand: A Guide for Businesses

The branding world is full of nuance. Strategy, visual identity, values, mission, audience, competition–it all adds up to one big brand picture. But how do you decide when just a few of these brand elements need a facelift or when it's time for a full-on reinvention? When the heartbeat of success is synchronized with the vitality of your brand, knowing when a refresh is in order versus a full rebrand is an important distinction to make.

Whether you're considering some tweaks to breathe new life into your brand or contemplating a strategic overhaul to meet the demands of a shifting landscape, working with a creative branding agency can help you find the right path forward. Keep reading to learn how to decipher the signals that indicate it's time to refresh and when the moment calls for a bold rebrand.

What is the difference between a brand refresh and a full rebrand?

The terms "refresh" and "rebrand" are often used interchangeably, causing confusion for businesses that know their branding needs a change but are unsure of where to start. Here's how to know the difference.

Brand Refresh: Evolution, Not Revolution

A brand refresh is like a spa day for your brand–it's about rejuvenation rather than complete transformation. You retain the essence of your brand, its core features and story, but the outward-facing elements of the brand get, well, refreshed!

In a brand refresh, the focus is on selective adjustments to key components of your visual identity and brand voice. Key characteristics of a brand refresh include tweaking visual elements like fonts, colors, imagery, and iconography–making subtle yet impactful updates to keep your brand current. 

A brand refresh is great for when your overall brand strategy is still well-aligned with your audience and you're keeping pace with the market but you're falling behind in maintaining a cohesive and consistent visual identity across all channels of your marketing.

Full Rebrand: A Strategic Overhaul for Growth

If a brand refresh is a spa day, a full rebrand is the ultimate makeover, inside and out–a transformative journey for businesses seeking a comprehensive change. It's not just about looking different; it involves a profound reassessment of your brand's DNA, from visual elements to the very core of your mission and values.

The rebranding process starts with laying a foundation of strategy. This is a deep dive into your brand's place in the market, differentiation from competitors, shifts in consumer behavior, and reassessing and potentially redefining your brand's mission, vision, and long-term goals.

Rebranding includes a change to visuals too, but a more comprehensive visual identity overhaul that extends beyond things like a new logo or updated color palette. It encompasses a revamped visual language across all visual elements. 

In essence, while a brand refresh is like upgrading to the latest model within the same series, a rebrand is more akin to transitioning to an entirely new line of products – a bold move signaling growth and adaptation to a changing environment.

Reasons to Consider a Refresh or Rebrand

In the fast-paced business world, change is not just inevitable; it's often a catalyst of growth and relevance. Deciding between a brand refresh and a full rebrand necessitates a keen understanding of your brand's current state and future aspirations. Here are compelling reasons to consider either path:

Reasons to Refresh

1. Outdated identity: Your brand might be a classic, but if it's starting to feel a bit retro in a not-so-cool way, a refresh can infuse a contemporary vibe without losing its brand equity.

2. New competition: Emerging competitors may have shifted the landscape, making your brand appear dated or less appealing. A refresh can help you stay in the game without reinventing the playbook.

3. Audience appeal: If your brand mission and values still align with your audience, but your visuals aren't emotionally connecting, a refresh ensures your brand remains in tune with their preferences.

4. Brand guidelines confusion: If following your current brand guidelines feels like working your way through a labyrinth without a clear map, leading to inconsistencies in messaging and visuals, a refresh can streamline and clarify the rules.

5. New offerings: Introducing new products or services? A refresh aligns your brand identity with these expansions, ensuring a cohesive brand experience.

6. Lack of cohesive look and feel: When various brand elements lack synergy, a refresh can harmonize the visual language, creating a unified and memorable brand presence.

7. Mergers and acquisitions: Changes in organizational structure often warrant a refresh to integrate visual elements and align messaging cohesively.

Reasons to Rebrand

1. Core identity evaluation: If your brand's core identity, values, or mission have evolved or no longer resonate, a rebrand provides the canvas for a fundamental reassessment and repositioning.

2. Significant audience changes: A substantial shift in your target audience requires more than a facelift. A rebrand ensures your brand narrative resonates authentically with new demographics.

3. Evolution in competition: In a landscape where competitors have undergone transformational changes, a rebrand positions your business strategically amidst the evolving competition.

4. New offerings: Yes, we doubled up with this one! That's because planning to enter new markets or offer new products or services is often a great time for a rebrand if your core brand strategy also needs re-evaluation. 

5. Comprehensive marketing & competition analysis: When your market research signals a need for a holistic approach, a rebrand involves a thorough analysis, setting the stage for strategic positioning.

6. Mergers and acquisitions: Yes, you did read this one in the refresh list as well, but, as with new offerings, a merger or acquisition is a great time to assess whether a full rebrand might be necessary. (We did say branding was nuanced, didn't we?)

In navigating all these considerations, understanding whether your situation leans more toward a refresh or a rebrand is pivotal. A nuanced evaluation of your brand's current state, paired with foresight into future objectives, will guide this decision-making process, ensuring your brand transformation aligns seamlessly with your business trajectory.

Key Elements Involved in a Refresh vs. Rebrand


1. Font: Tweaking the typeface can subtly modernize your brand without losing its recognizable character. It's about finding a balance between staying on-brand and staying current.

2. Colors: A refresh often involves updating or refining the color palette. This can be a delicate process, ensuring the new colors complement the existing ones and resonate with your target audience.

3. Imagery: Updating visual elements and imagery helps to keep your brand narrative relevant. This might involve incorporating new photography styles, graphics, or illustrations while maintaining brand consistency. It's about enhancing the visual language while preserving the core meaning.

4. Updated logo: While not a complete overhaul, a refreshed logo might involve subtle changes to ensure it reflects the contemporary essence of your brand. It could be adjustments in design elements, typography, or color.

5. Key messaging/voice: Fine-tuning the language used in front-and-center parts of your brand messaging ensures consistency and relevance. A refreshed voice aligns with current market trends and speaks directly to your target audience.


1. Brand strategy: A rebrand necessitates a deep dive into your brand's strategy. This involves reevaluating your market positioning, target audience, and overall approach to ensure relevance and competitiveness. It's a holistic process that touches every facet of your brand, ensuring alignment with your evolved business objectives.

2. Full market and competition analysis: Understanding the market landscape is crucial. A comprehensive analysis involves studying competitors, market trends, and consumer behavior to inform strategic decision-making.

3. Full visual overhaul: This includes many of the elements of a refresh but goes beyond small tweaks. This is a complete redesign of visual elements like colors, fonts, imagery, and iconography guided by a comprehensive brand strategy. 

4. Brand positioning: How your brand is perceived in the market is at the core of a rebrand. It may involve repositioning to highlight new strengths or to address evolving consumer needs.

5. Mission & vision: A rebrand often prompts a reassessment of your brand's mission and vision. It's an opportunity to redefine and communicate your purpose in a way that resonates with both internal and external stakeholders.

Real-life Examples: Quill's Refreshes and Rebrands

Brand Refresh: Fork Farms

At the crossroads of agricultural innovation and sustainable practices stood Fork Farms, a Midwest hydroponic farming technology startup seeking to redefine its brand identity. Quill faced the challenge of evolving Fork Farms' brand while preserving its defining characteristics and establishing a fresh creative foundation for ongoing initiatives.

Quill's designers approached the updated visual identity with a careful touch. The logo was tweaked to have a cleaner and more modern aesthetic while retaining core elements that defined the mark. Fonts were updated to evoke the current emotional tone of innovation and approachability and harmonize with the brand's established communication style. Photographic imagery was more heavily integrated for a deeper emotional connection with their audience. Lastly, recognizing the diverse segments Fork Farms caters to, Quill ensured the visual identity's flexibility, enabling it to be seamlessly adapted across various collateral types, creating a consistent brand experience.

Rebranding: Somaya Life

What began as a simple probiotic for dairy cattle, known as "anthrobiotic," transcended its original purpose under the keen observation of Somaya Life's founder, Richard Breunig. Realizing that those tending to livestock were experiencing profound personal benefits, Richard sought to bring this transformative supplement to a broader audience. To achieve this ambitious goal, he collaborated with the brand strategists at Quill, marking the inception of a captivating rebranding journey.

Quill's first strategic challenge was to connect the product name to a larger, more meaningful brand story. Somaya Life became more than just a supplement; it symbolized a holistic lifestyle. Through meticulous etymological research, Quill unearthed the Greek roots of the word "Somaya," derived from "soma" or "body," aligning perfectly with the product's focus on holistic health. The term "anthrobiotic" was deconstructed into "anthro" (meaning "human") and "biotic" (meaning "pertaining to the health of"), emphasizing the human-centric nature of the product.

Visually, Somaya Life's brand was outdated, lacking consistency, and presented aesthetically unappealing imagery. The existing logo failed to reflect the brand's core essence. Quill's research and creative exploration led to the design of Greek-inspired mosaics and archaic elements. These visuals, paired with calming yet lively neutrals, grounded the brand in a rich history of wellness while conveying a sense of radiant well-being and vitality.

The result was a brand that broke free from the constraints of conventional wellness branding and became a visual and conceptual embodiment of holistic health. Somaya Life's rebranding journey, guided by Quill, revitalized its identity and positioned it as a lifestyle enabler for a diverse audience, echoing the brand's commitment to well-being.

How to Decide: Brand Refresh or Rebrand?

When deciding if your business needs a brand refresh or rebrand, consider the following questions:

Will your brand's core identifying features, values, and mission stay the same?

  • If your brand's fundamental principles and values remain relevant and effective, a refresh may be sufficient. This ensures that its essence and purpose stay intact while your brand evolves.
  • If your brand has outgrown its original purpose or the market demands a significant shift, a rebrand allows for a comprehensive reassessment and realignment.

Is your audience still well-aligned with your current brand?

  • If your target audience hasn't significantly shifted and still resonates with the essence of your current brand, a refresh can be a strategic move to maintain that connection while adapting to their evolving preferences.
  • If there has been a noticeable shift in your target demographic, a rebrand can help your brand narrative resonate more authentically with the evolving audience.

Is your current brand outdated?

  • If your visual identity feels slightly outdated but still holds brand equity, a refresh can bring it up to speed without needing a complete redefinition.
  • If both your visual identity and brand strategy are floundering and you're not seeing growth, rebranding can breathe new life into a brand.

Do you need ongoing brand management to help keep your brand dynamic as it evolves?

  • If your brand is struggling to adapt to changes in the market or your business, a refresh, with a focus on brand management, can inject the necessary dynamism.
  • If your brand needs more time and resources to hone in on core features and strategy, you likely need more than just brand management. It's time to consider a rebrand.

Has your competition changed?

  • If your competition has remained relatively the same and there haven't been any major shifts in trends, a refresh is likely the way to go.
  • If you've noticed your competitors have undergone big transformative changes, a rebrand positions your business strategically amidst the evolving competition, ensuring you stand out.

Navigating the brand evolution journey

The choice between a brand refresh and a full rebrand is a strategic crossroads that demands careful consideration. Understanding that a brand refresh and a full rebrand exist on a strategic spectrum is crucial. 

Seeking the expertise of branding professionals like the expert creatives at Quill can be invaluable. Their insights, coupled with market research and stakeholder input, can illuminate the most effective path for your brand's evolution. Whether it's a subtle adjustment to keep pace with the times or a bold reinvention to lead the way, the key lies in strategic alignment and a clear vision for the future.

Ready for your brand to take the next step? Let's chat.