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  • Writer's pictureKat Mai

Rebrand or Refine?

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Do You Need a Full Rebrand or Just a Refinement

Rebrand vs. Refine? To be fair, these sound pretty similar. Depending on your goals, how much you redesign your business could vary from minimal changes to a full on brand make over. Not every business needs a rebrand, and if you change your look too much or for the wrong reasons, you could actually hurt your brand and alienate your current audience.

So how do you know whether to rebrand or not?


Quick Summary if you're in a rush.

  1. Definitions > Think of it like Rebrand = Full on Overhaul, and Refine = Small Clean Up. This is not 100% accurate, but for the sake of simplifying as we move forward.

  2. Pros & Cons > Not all companies need a full-on Rebrand, and not knowing the differences can actually hurt you and your sales.

  3. Examples > To understand exactly what the differences are, and then evaluate and decide what to do for yourself.

  4. KRD/Brand Spin > Think long term.



re·brand / rēˈbrand / verb

Change the corporate image of (a company or organization)

ex. "the radio station has since been rebranded as 98FM"

  • Caveat: This is very vague, and in common use, "rebrand" could be applicable to various amounts of change within a company. It doesn't necessarily mean a name change, a complete identity change, an audience or strategy change, etc., although this is typically the implication. It could be any amount of redesign. (See Disneyland reference below.)

  • For Us: Basically, when we're talking about Rebranding in this article, we're talking about a new all over look, style, direction, logo, fonts, colors, even possibly messaging and voice, the whole shebang.


re·fine / rəˈfīn / verb

1. Remove impurities or unwanted elements from (a substance), typically as part of an industrial process. ex. "sugar was refined by boiling it in huge iron vats"

2. Improve (something) by making small changes, in particular, make (an idea, theory, or method) more subtle and accurate. ex. "ease of access to computers has refined analysis and presentation of data"

  • FYI: This is not a commonly used design term. This is a term I'm creating in order to explain a more minimal form of redesigning a brand.

  • For Us: In this blog when I refer to "Refinement" I mean keeping the same overall look, style, audience, message, just tidying up or updating a few elements.


Pros & Cons of Rebranding


  1. If your brand no longer equates to the value you're worth.

  2. If you are trying to access new audiences.

  3. If your brand no longer represents the current values of your company.

  4. If your look no longer represents the essence of what it was meant to.


  1. Your new look might confuse your customers, and you may end up getting lost in the fray.

  2. You might alienate your current audience.

  3. You may lose brand equity you've been building over time.



Although the changes are minimal, they're effective for what they needed to accomplish.

REBRAND: Tropicana

Tropicana rebranded when they should have refined and they lost sales. They changed their whole look, layout, logo, fonts, and it crashed and burned. They didn't realize that their old school layout had become a key identifier for them on the shelves, and when they rebranded, their loyal customers couldn't recognize or find them! Oof. Oops. So they switched it right back. Don't fix what isn't broken.


REFINE: Aquafina

Did you notice Aquafina redesigned their look? Probably not. I definitely didn't. As it turns out, they've had this new logo for four years! The quiet redesign helps refresh their look, without completely losing their audience. It's not until you see the Before and After next to each other, that you realize their logo looks like a clip art graphic with template Word Art text made in your 90s version of Microsoft Office.

The benefit of refining their logo is now their product can sit side by side with newer brands like SmartWater, Figi, Voss, Life Wtr, and all the many other sleek designed water bottle companies. One of the most important messages to get across when designing for a water bottle brand is that it should look and feel fresh, clean, and hydrating. With such limited retail space, this can be a difficult image to get across when your look feels out of date. So although the changes are minimal, they're effective for what they needed to accomplish.


REBRAND: Apple back in the dizay! (day 🤣)

Omgwad. Do you remember? A million products, rainbow-bright everywhere. They started cleaning up their design, the rainbow-clear-could-see-the-product style was actually pretty cool for the time. But then they innovated. This was both an external visual brand change, as well as internal product offerings change. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple (after having been fired) he cut more than 70% of Apple's hardware and software products from the shelves. Drastic change! But ultimately proved to save them. The move forced them to make sure the few products they did offer were of the highest quality, it made it easier for consumers to evaluate and decide to buy, and it set them apart from other competitors who were throwing too many options at consumers. Visually, their brand progressed in the same way, to reflect their sleek, minimal, but quality designs and offerings.

REFINE: Old Spice

Old Spice has been around for me 70 YEARS! That is a long time for a brand so of course, they have gone through their fair share of refinement. In the beginning, it was all about grooming products for MEN, but their branding eventually became stale with younger generations. To keep up with the times, they refocused their branding to target millennials. This worked well for all ages since men both young and old want to feel the excitement of their 20s. They were able to keep their original clientele, as well as bring on a fresh audience with their brand refine.


When a brand goes for a "stair-step" rebrand approach, they slowly refine their brand over time. IF you remember, the VERY first Starbucks logo had a double-tailed mermaid. It felt hand-drawn and vintage (almost like a stamp), and their colors were darker with brown shades.

At the start of their brand, they had a rule in their office that everything they turned out, couldn't look like it was made on the computer. It had to have texture, and layers, hand-drawn elements, faux coffee stains, paint drips, etc. At the time their colors were browns and earth tones, from which they started pulling in more of the green.

Their look and feel, as well as their logo, has obviously come a LONG way since the beginning. They moved from brown to green and white, which has become ICONIC. You no longer need to see the whole mermaid, or even see their name, to recognize their brand!

In a lot of their merchandise, they play with not having anything at all, but because of the circle, the specific color value of the green they use, and the placement of it, you understand what brand you're looking at.

Stair-step rebranding is effective when you are able to slowly make changes without losing your customer base.


In N' Out is what we call a NO FRILLS brand. They have had the same logo, color combo, and menu for years, and they probably won't ever change it!

This is a visual metaphor for what their brand represents: Quality, no fuss, no change, dependable.

As far as brand elements and design goes, there's nothin spectacular about what they've done. Their graphics really only go as far as having a single line of palm trees line their cups or interior decor. However, they've still become an iconic brand in the California fast-food scene. They've even reached millennials to the point where now they have pretty cool looking merch!

How they did it: They had their logo, they had their colors, a few graphic elements (palm

tree line), and their key message ("Quality you can taste"), and they repeated and stayed consistent with that for years. It's the long-term, slow game, but in this case it was effective and it caught on. Now when people see the In N' Out brand, they perceive a tasty meal with quality ingredients they can depend on.


KRD SPIN: In It to Win It in the Long Run

As tempting as it is to redesign with the times, and try to keep pace with the latest trends, the best brands find their key components and stay consistent with it over time. It's a long game strategy. You build brand equity and recognition, not by constantly changing and rebranding, but by committing to a few core elements and repeating them consistently everywhere.

The way you figure out which core elements to commit to, is by aligning with the essence of you, your business, what makes you unique, and then communicating that to your audience. When you're being true to you, you'll always be brand consistent.



Distillin' It by Brand New

Steve Jobs's seven key decisions by Benj Edwards

Old Spice Rebrand by Matt Cannon,a%20broader%2C%20younger%20customer%20base.

#rebrand #rebrandyourworld #designyourlife #graphicdesignblog #smallbusiness #brandingdesign #businessowners #businessgrowth #designtips #graphicdesigns #graphicdesignblog #freetips #freecontent #levelupyourbrand #brandingstrategy #businesstopics #businessfoundations #diydesign #diybranding #diybrandingboost


About the Author

Hi I'm Kat! I've been a graphic designer for over ten years, five of which I've specialized in Brand Identity Design. I AM ON A MISSION to help business owners deliver their gifts, services, or products to the audience that needs them through cohesive, effective Branding that helps them stand out in the market place.

I live in sunny San Diego, California with my daughter and two pups. We enjoy traveling, camping, hanging out at the beach, eating all the foods, reading, writing stories, doing puzzles, and watching history documentaries! To learn more about me, my branding process, or my design background, check out my site,

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