Approaches to Rebranding: Key Things To Consider Before Getting Started

Some insight on rebranding.

Our economy is ever-changing. Businesses sometimes find themselves at a crossroads with their brand. Target audiences can become uninterested, reputations are fragile and sometimes our competitors force us to adapt to evolving markets and trends. If this is the case, companies have two options; go down with the ship, or rebuild. Rebranding is the clear path to survival, however it’s not for the faint of heart and there are a number of different approaches to rebranding that your business might consider. Here’s some insight to help navigate these potentially choppy waters:

Approaches to Rebranding: Getting the Best Results

Set Goals, Not Deadlines

Go into this endeavor with the expectation that it will take time. Set short and long term goals to keep everything moving, but be flexible. Cutting corners, pushing hard deadlines and sacrificing quality will cost you in the long run. Rebranding isn’t a simple task, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

rebranding schedule timeline project management

Approaches to Rebranding: Find the Right Method

Identify what’s working, and what’s not. Conduct an honest evaluation of your brand, and don’t sugarcoat the results. Review analytics, conduct focus groups and collect any data that can provide valuable insights. Once you’ve resurfaced from that deep dive, you’ll be able to determine where to focus your efforts. Not all rebrands include the typical hallmarks of a rebrand (aka, a total design overhaul). Instead, you might be better off restructuring your customer service model, social media strategy or simply refreshing an existing aesthetic without disturbing the core of your brand. Determine which approach best suits the challenges you’re facing.

Method #1 – The Meaningful Refresh

A brand refresh simply shakes the dust off an existing brand, making it relevant again. The name and product remain the same, but the visuals and messaging are updated. This is an ideal option for a brand who’s target audience is shifting, or needs to keep up with modern trends.

Old Spice was stagnating and being overlooked by contemporary audiences. In 2010, they took a new demographic by storm with  a new ad campaign and refreshed branding. The video series featured random, nonsensical humor that went viral. The refresh gave Old Spice’s products a modern and hilariously sexy personality, making them relevant to a youthful audience.

When it comes to rebranding, companies have two options: Go down with the ship, or REBUILD. Click To Tweet

Method #2 – The Total Brand Overhaul

A traditional rebranding includes a 360 degree approach. The name, identity, services and even company structure is changed. This approach benefits companies responding to pressure from competitors, market trends and audience demands. The Hudson’s Bay Company is well-versed in this type of brand reincarnation. 

This brand dates back to 1670, when it was incorporated by an English royal charter known as “The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay” (phew). What began as an English fur trading network (and de facto government before the United States and other European nations laid claim to the area) now owns and operates several high-end retail stores throughout Canada, Belgium, Germany and The United States.

hudson bay company brand history evolution coat of arms HBC retail
Evolution of HBC’s retail branding and coat of arms.

I’ll spare you the historical intricacies, but suffice it to say that HBC has been forced to evolve with the area’s changing market demands, political landscape and cultural trends — which means lots of rebranding.

HBC struggled from the mid-1990’s to early 2000’s amid the boom of emerging American retailers, like Wal-Mart. They struggled to respond to new trends and their aesthetic was outdated and paled in comparison to their competitors. HBC, more commonly known as The Bay to it’s audience, was forced to reinvent itself. They allocated resources towards a 360 degree rebrand and acquired the hip UK retailer Topshop followed by Saks Fifth Avenue. The Bay also became Hudson’s Bay and they modernized their iconic coat of arms.

By rebranding and positioning themselves as a top contender within the high-end retail market, they were able to quadruple their net income within a year.

Method #3 – The “Pivot” Approach

Rebranding campaigns address issues with a brand’s reputation, or a need to re-align with consumer trends and audience expectations. These campaigns don’t include changing a brand’s graphic identity, but how they operate and are perceived by consumers — AKA the “pivot” approach. Essentially, it’s the natural result of a brand doing some true soul searching.


We saw this on a global scale when McDonalds started to reposition themselves as a health-conscious fast-food option. Gone are the golden days of fast-food. As a culture, we’re starting to eat healthier across the board. People want cleaner, fresher options and are willing to pay for it. This trend was painting McDonalds into an un-healthy, undesirable corner (remember Super Size Me?) —so they launched a campaign and new products to counteract this image.

McDonald’s rebranding campaign endeavored to position the fast-food chain not only as an affordable option, but a healthier one. They updated their menu to include more fruits, vegetables and sustainable beef. They promoted healthier choices for Happy Meals. They maintained their hallmark items, but gave consumers what they wanted; the option to be more health conscious. The ultimate goal was to regain the trust of their audience, and overall reputation.

The lesson here is for companies to pay attention to what your customers are saying,  and respond with solutions that counteract any negative accusations.

Approaches to Rebranding: Hire Your Dream Team

Rebranding without agency support is like hiking through the jungle without a guide. This process requires lots of organization, team check-ins, production schedules and general brainstorming. Do yourself a favor and assemble a team. Large company with an in-house team should consider bringing in outside consultants to step in and provide another perspective once they’ve conducted their internal research. Smaller companies, or those without marketing departments, are best served by hiring outside agencies to handle projects from start to finish. Agencies are equipped with the skills and expertise to conduct research, manage project goal and execute everything required during the rebranding process.

Rebranding without agency support is like hiking through the jungle without a guide. Click To Tweet

Road Warrior Creative Offers Rebranding Services

Our team is experienced in rebranding efforts from small business to corporate-wide refreshes.  Visit our logo & branding services page to learn more about our different packages and offerings.

our team


Approaches to Rebranding: Give us your bold predictions!

As a designer, I’m always excited by the challenges that a rebrand presents. As a consumer, it’s refreshing to get excited about old products all over again. Are there any potentially exciting rebrands on our horizon? Perhaps. I’ll leave you with this:

Zima could be poised for a renaissance. Will they? Or won’t they? Only time will tell.

Thoughts or Questions?

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