How to Know When It’s Time For a Brand Refresh

Friday March 13, 2015

By: Tim Asimos

While a firm’s brand is made up of more than just the visual identity—logo, color palette, fonts—aesthetics do play a huge role overall in the process of branding. Simply put, your brand’s visual identity should positively distinguish your firm from the competition.

The origins of branding are all about distinguishing one cattle from the next. And in marketing, it’s not just about differentiation. It’s about setting your brand apart and standing out—positively—from the crowded sea of competition. So is your brand an asset or a liability in that endeavor? Here are a few thoughts on knowing when your brand needs a visual update.

A dated or tired look and feel

Just because you can still wear clothes from high school or college doesn’t mean you should. Fashion styles are often representative of their “era” and as time passes, those styles change. Likewise, some brands just look visually dated and are in need of an update. With few exceptions, failing to convey a progressive “with the times” message visually can be a detriment to your brand.


ODEC was challenged by a dated brand and an unsophisticated logo that didn’t reflect the company’s mission.

Remember, the point of branding is to stand out from the competition, but you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. This doesn’t have to be a wholesale change, just a modernizing of the overall brand look. Obviously, you’ll want to leverage the equity that you already have in your existing brand, but bring that brand into the modern era.

Acknowledgement of the digital age

Many brands have a timeless look (think Coca-Cola) and are not subject to the previous point. However, many brands were developed before the digital age, when we lived in a predominantly print world. As you know, digital has had an enormous impact on marketing and firms have had to expand their brand identity to acknowledge the digital space. Corporate websites, social media profiles, email signatures, email marketing, video and other digital media have added complexity to the traditional brand standards guide.


AMA-Richmond wanted to expand their color palette and create a logo better suited for the web and social media.

On top of that, the traditional primary/secondary color palette can and should be expanded for the web. Some firms have not strategically addressed digital, rather adjusting and adapting on an “as needed” basis. So if your firm has not considered all the various digital applications of your brand and addressed those in a strategic manner, it might be time for an update.

Changes internally need to be reflected externally

Some firms experience fairly significant changes internally that warrants a refresh of the existing brand identity. Whether changes to the business model, addition or subtraction of key services or markets, cultural transformations, etc., these internal changes should be communicated to the external audience. This is where a communications plan comes into play. And part of the communications plan should include a brand refresh or update, because significant internal changes also need to be reflected in a brand’s visual identity and key messaging. If your firm now looks different on the inside, it also needs to look different on the outside. 

Changes in mission and offerings prompted DAS to refresh their brand identity to better reflect their firm.

Changes in mission and offerings prompted DAS to refresh their brand identity to better reflect their firm.

An underdeveloped brand identity in the first place

Some firms never fully established a solid brand identity from the beginning. And so for one reason or another, the existing identity doesn’t adequately represent the firm and needs to be refreshed. As stated earlier, you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. So if the quality of the visual brand doesn’t accurately reflect the quality and essence of the firm itself, strategic design considerations should be given to the brand.

Refresh vs. rebrand

It’s important to distinguish a brand refresh from a full-fledged rebrand. You don’t always need to start from scratch—developing an entirely new name and new logo. Think of a brand refresh as more of a facelift, leveraging existing brand equity while expanding the look, feel and messaging with fresh treatments and positioning.  While sometimes a brand update impacts the logo, other times it doesn’t; it may just involve looking for ways to explore new type treatments, color palette expansion, photography styles, messaging and other brand elements.

The visual identity of a brand is foundational to conveying the attributes, characteristics and messaging that differentiates your firm from everyone else. If any of these circumstances resonate with your firm, it might be time to consider a refresh.

Tim Asimos is Partner and Director of Digital + Growth at circle S studio. He is a syndicated blogger and regular speaker on the topics of B2B marketing, website development and content marketing strategy. He has been active on the AMA-Richmond board since 2008 and is a Past President. Follow on twitter @timasimos.