Branding & Design

How to Know When Your Firm Needs a Brand Refresh

Tim Asimos 02.18.2021 4 Minutes

While a firm’s brand is made up of more than just a logo, the visual identity does 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 firm’s brand needs a visual update.

A dated 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.

GTA - Architecture Firm Logo Redesign and Brand Refresh

Guernsey Tingle wanted to better reflect the architecture firm’s sophistication and modern approach, while also leveraging their existing brand equity.

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.

Insurance Company Rebrand - New Logo Design

Rockingham Insurance needed to update their brand as part of a larger digital transformation initiative.

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. 

DAS logo refresh

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.

ODEC logo rebrand

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

Refresh vs. rebrand

t’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.

WTR before and after logo

Waterborne Environmental wanted to maintain the overall look of their brand, while enhancing their existing logo and updating the color palette.

Time to consider an update?

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.

About The Author

Tim is a syndicated blogger and sought-after national speaker, providing keen insights on modern marketing and an uncommon perspective gleaned from nearly 20 years of B2B and A/E/C experience.

Learn More About Tim
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