Change is good. The question is—how much change do you make to your brand and when?
What do Cadbury, Burberry and Levi’s all have in common? Each of these iconic brands are over 160 years old. If these brands didn’t adapt over the last few centuries, we wouldn’t be chomping on a Dairy Milk in our new Levi’s jeans under a Burberry umbrella today. No sir-ee.
All good branding is built on strategy. All strategies are built on business objectives. And in business, these objectives naturally evolve as the world changes around you. When that happens, what do you do? For some brands, this means out with the old and in with the rebrand. For others, it’s a series of subtle changes over time—in other words, a brand evolution. So, what’s the difference?
What is a rebrand?
A rebrand is a significant shift in how your brand looks, acts and presents itself.
This might include a logo change, a name change, a redesign, a messaging shift, a new brand or product position—the list goes on.
Often, a rebrand comes with a relaunch campaign and a big reveal of some kind. It typically marks a new era for a business and sends a clear message to their audience that a lot has changed or that their actions going forward will create change. A business can rebrand multiple times (if they like).
What is brand evolution?
Brand evolution is a baby-step in response to customer feedback, design trends, the marketplace and internal changes too. For example, a few changes to your website copy or a slight tweak in the visual style of your online marketing assets.
Brand evolution helps your business to stay current in the minds of your audience, without having to do a full rebrand.
What a rebrand and brand evolution are not
A rebrand and brand evolution are not just about visuals or messaging. They can also have an impact on your brand values.
For example, the black lives matter movement has inspired some businesses to completely rebrand (such as changing their name) and to evolve their brand values to prioritise diversity and racial justice.
A rebrand and brand evolution are also not about choosing one or the other. You can rebrand and still evolve through prototyping, testing, and adjusting over time.
Last, but not least, they are not redesign, for redesign’s sake. They are a direct response to your commercial objectives and brand strategy.
What are the pros of a rebrand?
- A rebrand is a clear signal that your business and/or product has changed
- With a rebrand, you can set yourself apart from your competitors, if the industry is starting to look same-y
- A rebrand can make your business feel more current if it hasn’t been updated in a while
- You can re-engage your current audience or connect with a completely new one
What are the pros of brand evolution?
- With brand evolution, you can stay current on an ongoing basis
- Your brand can be reactive to design trends and the wants of your customers
- Brand evolution helps to keep your current audience and communities engaged
- With a company-wide focus on brand evolution, it builds a culture around continuous improvement
- Your brand is still recognisable through evolution, and you can keep the value of your brand equity—it’s easy to lose some of this during a rebrand if you’re not careful!
When to rebrand vs evolve your brand
There are a number of reasons why might want to make changes to your brand. Such as…
- Your business objectives change
- You’ve met all of your business objectives (yep, it happens)
- You’re trying to change the perception of your brand
- You’ve changed the brand architecture of your business (Example: your business acquires or merges with another)
- You’re assessing your product architecture (Example: You have too many different products, which might mean you need different sub-brands)
- Your target audience has changed
- You’re changing your business or product to meet the needs of your target audience
- You’re repositioning your brand in the marketplace
- You want to stand out from your competitors
- The world is changing and you want your brand values to reflect that
- You’ve tested your brand and gathered feedback that suggests your brand should change
- Your brand looks and feels dated (ask your customers about this before rebranding on personal taste!)
- You want to build (or rebuild) a team culture and employer brand
In short, a rebrand should reflect big changes within the company, not just because a visual style is looking tired, or the messaging is outdated (that’s where brand evolution comes in).
This is why it’s so important to lead with strategy with any rebrand or brand evolution. Business owners and marketing teams see their brand every day and so, can get tired of it. Without a strategy in place, there’s a risk of rebranding for the sake of personal taste. If a business rebranded every time a new design trend popped up or a new CMO came on board, we wouldn’t recognise most of the brands we know today for more than a few years.
This year, Cadbury got a rebrand for the first time in over 50 years. The signature logo-type was redrawn to reflect a more handwritten style and the new packaging included a pattern that was originally embossed on the first Dairy Milk bars in 1905.
So, why now? With interest and demand for sustainably sourced products on the rise, Cadbury wanted to share more about its long-standing commitment to cocoa farmers and the environment with their rebrand.
Cadbury Dairy Milk is a true icon both in the UK and worldwide – it’s the nation’s favourite chocolate brand, with a rich heritage and feeling of nostalgia for many consumers. Over the last three years we have been re-connecting with our roots, which is why the new identity is grounded in the original intent behind the brand and celebrates our unique product credentials and iconic distinctive assets in a modern way.Ben Wicks, Global Brand Director at Cadbury
First Bus brand evolution
In 2019, we helped First Bus to develop a new brand position and evolve their existing brand. This came to life through a series of different campaigns and a visual refresh across their marketing materials and their new and improved bus fleet too.
First Bus has been going since 1995 and their name and brand is recognisable all over the UK (which is no surprise, when you see them hurtling up the motorway every day). This brand recognition is incredibly valuable, so a rebrand wasn’t the right solution.
Instead, we evolved the well-loved First Bus brand with experiential marketing, animation, micro-copy, a visual style refresh and more. Each campaign injected a new lease of life into the First Bus brand, without moving away from its roots.
Check out our full First Bus case study.
A Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Rebrand for innocent’s Super Smoothies
If there’s a presentation on tone of voice, brand personality or social content, you could bet your last smoothie that innocent will pop up on one (or more) of the slides. They’ve become a best-in-class example for brands and so, have captured an audience of designers and brand builders over the years. Their recent Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Rebrand campaign is made for those people (us people).
So, what is it?
In the process of rebranding their Super Smoothies product range, they invited the public to feed back on their multiple fake rebrands, including a number of design faux-pas. It was a really clever way to generate engagement and affinity for the brand. The final rebrand was revealed in a video and posted on their social channels to the same audience who were involved in the design process.
innocent super smoothies: The Final Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Re-Rebrand— innocent drinks (@innocent) June 29, 2020
More vitamins than you can shake a stick at.
More label redesigns than we know what to do with.
And just three months later than we originally planned.
Please don’t tell our boss. pic.twitter.com/V5ZJ0Twuxs
Even though there are differences between a rebrand and brand evolution—the idea is the same. Brands need to adjust. If your brand isn’t constantly evolving, you’re not only standing still…you’re likely moving backwards.
Before any new names or revised values are put out there, brand evolution and rebranding starts with taking stock of where your brand currently sits. With a solid understanding and the right strategy, your brand can make the right move.
Want to take an even deeper look at brand evolution and rebranding and which is the better choice for your business? We thought so! That’s why we ran a Linkedin Live with some of our strategy team. Have a listen:
How we can help you
We’re a global strategic brand agency with a dedicated team of business and brand strategists. Whether you’re looking to go big with a rebrand or simply refresh a few aspects of your brand through brand evolution, we can help you build the right strategy for your business.