A brand is the most important part of your business. All a graphic designer does must uphold The BrandTM. Ironically, a designer doesn’t make the brand at all! Brands are built by a business’ users.
A brand is the perception a user has about their experience interacting with a business. A readable logo makes the brand legitimate. Likewise, a responsive website makes the brand accessible. An authentic tone makes the brand familiar. Like these examples, the experience can happen before a user even speaks with a person. Contact means the user trusts your brand enough to build a relationship—goals!
Brands are more than just the sum of their parts. More than just a logo, website, or tone, brands encompass whole user experience. Those experiences can be good, or bad, or maybe somewhere in between.
And sometimes good experiences could be better.
“Outdating” is a common problem brands encounter. Times change, technologies change, users change. Brands need to change too. Fortunately, a big overhaul of a brand—called a rebrand—is rarely necessary when a brand refresh suffices.
How do you know when it’s time? Problems leave clues that they’re there. Likewise, brands leave signs you need a brand refresh.
What are signs it’s time for a brand refresh?
- Users miss the best part(s) of your brand
- Most users don’t align with your ideal audience
- Presenting your brand feels unnatural to you
How users might perceive your brand:
|What You See||What Your Users See|
|Users are missing the best part(s) of your brand||Your brand focuses a lot on X—so X must be the most important part|
|Most users aren’t aligning with your ideal audience||Your brand answers some questions really well but misses others|
|Presenting your brand feels unnatural to you||Your brand feels less authentic and more confusing|
The Best Part(s) of Your Brand Seem Ignored
One sign it’s time for a brand refresh is when users are missing the best part(s) of your brand.
Significant changes in your vision may not make it to the brand. That is, users may have a hard time seeing the new vision in the brand they see.
Vision changes may trigger a brand refresh. For example, you might offer a few new business services or swap the primary focus between your existing ones. An outdated brand presents a lot of lost opportunity. If these vision updates aren’t clear to your users, your brand needs a refresh.
Ensure the primary focus does indeed get a lot of focus. Consider a landing page, dedicated copy, and more frequent mentions of that focus. Also consider downsizing secondary areas of focus. Then, seek out and remove distractions.
Your Ideal Audience Is Missing
This sign a brand refresh is necessary is an even bigger one—most users simply aren’t aligning with your ideal audience.
For example, the clientele a freelancer attracts have smaller budgets than what the freelancer works with. Or another example, a business frequently gets requests for native mobile app development when it specializes in WordPress websites—a service requiring a different skill set that business doesn’t have.
Of course, a good experience with a brand is still good news. It may not be very helpful for your business goals if users don’t represent your ideal audience nonetheless.
Misalignment causes business problems. Providing frequent explanations that you work with different budgets, specialize in different services, or have more experience with certain industries ultimately take away your time and attention from the more productive areas of your business.
Use a brand refresh to relearn about your ideal audience, then provide the brand experience that solves their current problems.
Envision your ideal audience: What are their demographics? Which platforms do they most commonly use to engage your brand? Are the services they’re seeking available and easy to access? Does your ideal audience have prior experience with the problem, or are they beginners in need of more instruction and guidance through it?
Once you have a clear vision, refresh your brand to better meet the needs of your ideal audience.
Your Brand Feels Unnatural to You
The third sign a brand refresh may be necessary is when presenting your brand no longer feels natural to you. Presenting a different image of what you want to be is hard work. If you notice yourself working harder than normal, it may be because your brand is misaligned with yourself.
Some areas in which a brand might feel forced is:
- tone in your copywriting,
- topics you do or don’t discuss,
- feeling uninspired,
- emulating other brands, and
A brand feeling “unnatural” might come before or after the other warning signs of a brand refresh. On one hand, you promote brand that feels not quite like you, then the users feel that the brand is inauthentic and not engage as much. On the other hand, your brand attracts non-ideal users, so then you pivot your brand to engage them on their front, losing sight of your original vision.
For example, a business might struggle with sounding stiff and formal when it’s really warm and humorous. Another example is a freelancer toning down their naturally super-femme aesthetic to better appeal to corporate users but determining they’re un happy with that kind of work.
If your brand misaligns with your sense of self, it’s easy to dilute the vision you’re presenting to users. This is way it’s one sign you need a brand refresh. A brand refresh can pivot the brand back to better align with your business vision and in turn, your brand’s users.
Responding to the Signs You Need a Brand Refresh
Once you see the signs that a brand refresh would be helpful, take some time to think out the particular pain points before redesigning a new look and feel.
- What services to promote
- Which clients to attract
- How your actions fulfill your vision
Big signs you need a brand refresh don’t always mean big actions are required. Often simple changes and consistency are key.
Check out my own brand refresh example at “New Year, New Lara Lee: Announcing My New Brand!”