The Complete Guide to Rebranding in 2021

Want to know how to carry out a successful rebranding? Find out how we overhauled our brand identity in this step-by-step guide.

You might have noticed we’ve made a few changes around here? Attest has rebranded!

Having been through the rebranding process and come out the other side, we thought it would be good to share our rebranding experience with you.

Read on to find out why and when a company should consider rebranding, how to approach the process, and how to use consumer insight to make sure your rebranding strategy is successful…

When should you rebrand?

Can you think of a company that’s made changes to its branding for apparently no good reason? Or maybe one that’s hung on to an outdated brand image for far too long?

Companies often fall into the trap of thinking they should ‘refresh’ their image just because they’ve been using it for a number of years. Or, at the other end of the scale, they become afraid of making changes because their brand is longstanding.

Knowing when your business needs to rebrand can certainly be difficult. According to a consumer survey we ran, there are three main reasons companies should think about rebranding:

1. The brand is old-fashioned, boring or confusing

If your branding fails to get people excited it’s a good sign it’s not working hard enough for your firm. Whatever the nature of your business, you should aim for a distinctive look that communicates your brand personality. Great branding isn’t just for trendy startups; even ‘serious’ products or services can benefit from a dynamic and inspired brand identity (just look at the likes of Acorns, Oscar Health and Turbotax).

It’s a fact that your branding can completely change the way people perceive your company. It should also help them to understand your product offerings. One company that’s suffered from confusing branding is Coca Cola. When they tried to bring all their Coke subbrands together in ‘One Brand’ packaging, it became all too easy for customers to pick the wrong variant from the fridge. Coke have recently had to amend their rebranding strategy to make navigation more intuitive.

Speaking to customers is the best way to find out what your branding says about your business. And if it gives the impression that your company is out-of-date, complex or dull and dreary, then it’s time for rebranding.

Coke’s first attempt at ‘One Brand’ packaging was confusing for consumers

2. The company has changed direction

Sometimes, the branding your company started out with simply no longer fits later down the line. That’s because companies, grow, change and develop – they add new products and services and venture into new markets and industries (it’s why Dunkin Donuts changed their name to Dunkin – these days, they do much more than just donuts).

Another reason for rebranding could be because the world itself has changed, with old technology superseded by newer tech. This is what happened to Radio Shack and why they rebranded to Shack, to get the old-fashioned term ‘radio’ out of their name (although this superficial rebranding wasn’t enough to save the business, which later filed for bankruptcy).

A change of direction can also come from inside the business. Maybe your company has undergone a shift in philosophy or wants to reposition itself in the marketplace? Whatever the reason, if your brand name no longer reflects what you offer, this makes the case for rebranding.

Dunkin dropped the ‘Donuts’. to better represent their offering

3. You’ve got an image problem

There’s no denying it, some brands are crying out for a rebrand. Sometimes they’re suffering from an identity crisis; putting out mixed messages, confused about what they are and who they’re for.

Other times, firms have fallen from their pedestal, perhaps having suffered a scandal, which they now need to distance themselves from (Facebook was accused of doing exactly this after launching a new logo following a year of controversy surrounding the platform’s data collection and privacy policies).

Or perhaps the need for rebranding is just down to changing ideas of what’s acceptable. We’ve seen a huge shift in recent times, and if anything about your brand could be deemed racist, sexist, ageist, unethical or otherwise offensive, it’s definitely worth considering a rebrand (heritage brands like Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima are already doing it).

Of course, it’s not just about how your company appears on the outside – it’s important to tackle any issues at a deeper, institutional level or else your rebrand is likely to fall flat on its face.

Uncle Ben’s rebranded to Ben’s Original to rid the brand of racial stereotypes

When shouldn’t you rebrand?

Rebranding is a significant corporate investment and not something to be entered into lightly. It’s also not something you should do in a hurry. It’s vital to do all the prep work behind the rebrand before sitting down with designers to work on the new brand logo and colors.

This means really understanding what you’re trying to achieve through rebranding; what you want to change, the image you’re trying to create and how this feeds into your wider business plans and practices. For example, if you want to reposition your brand as environmentally friendly and sustainable, what concrete initiatives are you building this brand identity around?

Branding needs to be more than skin deep so don’t do it when you’re not ready. Here are three other bad reasons to rebrand:

1.Because competitors have recently rebranded

Keep an eye on your competition, by all means, but just because a competitor rebrands it doesn’t mean you should. Rebranding isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses, there should be solid reasons behind the move.

You probably won’t be privy to the motivations behind your competitor’s rebrand – perhaps they have a new brand strategy or have received insight that their existing branding isn’t connecting with target consumers?

But whatever it is that’s motivated their rebrand, it won’t necessarily apply to your brand. Don’t respond with a knee-jerk rebranding or you could end up wasting time and money, not to mention losing valuable brand equity.

Don’t rebrand just because a competitor has

2. Because you’re a new CMO and you want to make your mark

It’s natural to want to put your stamp on things when coming into a new business but it’s a huge risk to start making changes by rebranding before you’ve properly got under the skin of a brand. You might think being an outsider puts you in the perfect position to see what’s ‘wrong’ but it also leaves you unable to understand the company on a deeper level.

Successfully shaping a brand for the future requires a proper appreciation for its past – where has it come from? How has it evolved? Where does it need to go? Making rash changes risks alienating both customers and staff, which is why a rebrand should be carried out with a consultative approach, and not dominated by any one individual.

Customers hated this Tropicana rebrand

3. You think it’s a good time to ‘freshen up’

If you feel like your branding is a bit stale, it’s not necessarily a bad time to think about a rebrand, but companies mustn’t make the decision to rebrand off a hunch alone.

It’s very important to know what consumers think about your branding before you tinker with it – not just because might upset loyal customers, but because it could end up being a complete waste of time and money. Royal Mail learned this lesson the hard way when they spent £1.5m rebranding as Consignia and £1m to go back to their old name.

And if rebranding is not going to have a positive impact on your bottom line, what’s the point? Unless there’s an actual reason behind your rebrand, it’s unlikely to be worthwhile.

Royal Mail’s rebranding fail cost £2.5 million

Types of rebranding

Partial rebrand

Rebranding doesn’t always mean a complete overhaul of everything your company stands for; sometimes you just need to update to reflect changes to your business.

A partial rebrand (or ‘brand refresh’) might only involve changing specific brand elements, for example making a name change, updating your logo, changing your color scheme or improving your website.

An example of partial rebranding is when car rental firm Hertz updated their logo – it’s still clearly recognisable (you might not even notice the difference) but it’s much more modern in its appearance.

Hertz partially rebranded by updating their logo

Merger rebrand

Uber and Postmates merged their branding

When two companies join together, you need to find a way to present the new offering to the world. Perhaps the two brands fit seamlessly together and you can combine the logos into one design (like Uber and Postmates), or maybe the acquisition will require a full rebrand with a name change.

An example of this type of rebranding is when Sandoz merged with Ciba Geigy; the company was renamed Novartis to stake out its place as a life brand rather than a pharmaceutical and chemical company. 

Full rebrand

A full rebrand means a total re-think of your marketing strategy. To begin, you’ll spend time laying out what your company represents; your brand proposition, mission and values and who your target customer is. Once you’re clear on those, you’ll devise a new brand identity that translates what you stand for into verbal and visual branding.

A full rebrand can help change the way people perceive your brand. A good example of this is Old Spice, which was regarded as a brand for older men until a massive rebranding in 2010, which repositioned it for younger people (although the company name was retained).

By rebranding, Old Spice has successfully attracted a younger audience

How to carry out a rebrand in 10 steps

We started considering a rebrand in 2020, after securing $15 million in new investment, expanding in the US and taking our headcount to more than 100 employees. So much had changed since our launch in 2015 and we suspected our branding might need updating to reflect that change.

Here are the 10 steps we followed, from kicking off the rebranding process through to actually implementing our new look. Although there aren’t that many steps, rebranding is by no means a short process. We were working on our rebranding for around a year, taking the time to do lots of research so we were totally clear on what we were trying to achieve and why.

As we know, those who act in haste can repent at leisure, so don’t rush or skip any of the steps!

Attest have grown and developed massively since we first launched

Step one – carry out a brand identity assessment

Before you decide to rebrand you’ll need to carry out a proper assessment of your brand and existing brand equity. It’s vital to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your branding to maximise your chances of success and to minimise the chances of negatively impacting your firm’s market share.

It’s best to get a wide range of views; speak to your company’s employees, stakeholders and customers, as well as those you would like to be your customers but maybe aren’t at the moment. How do they perceive your brand and do they think your company would benefit from rebranding? There are various ways to ask them including one-to-one interviews, focus groups and consumer surveys (get started with a brand perception survey).

Questions to ask include:

  • How would you describe our brand to a friend?
  • Who do you think is our target audience?
  • On a scale of 1-10 how much do you like our branding?
  • What words would you use to describe our branding?
  • What words would you use to describe our tone of voice?
  • How does our branding make you feel?
  • Does our branding reflect the experience you have with our brand?
  • How would you improve our branding?

The insight you get from this research will highlight where there are issues and help you to devise effective rebranding strategies.

When we sought feedback from our customers, we found that our branding was letting us down. People thought it was too corporate, functional and blue. They suggested we needed to ‘humanise’; add people, emotion and color. They told us we should be bolder because our company is helping brands to do incredible things. We realised there was a disconnect between how we appeared and who we are as a company and therefore, it would benefit our business to rebrand.

How do people perceive your brand? Find out before rebranding

Step two – define what your business stands for

Now you know what your customers actually think about your brand identity, it’s time to set out what you wish they would think. This requires a lot of self-reflection and discussion internally with your team. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What’s our value proposition?
  • What makes us different to competitors?
  • What’s our mission?
  • What are our core values or beliefs?
  • Who are our target audiences and customers?
  • How do we help with their key pain points?
  • What’s our personality?
  • What’s our brand story/where do we come from?
  • Where are we headed?

If you’re not clear on who your customers are and what problems you help them solve, it makes sense to carry out consumer profiling. This exercise is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about your customers and move towards more customer-centric messaging (ultimately strengthening your connection with them).

When we did this, we discovered that Attest customers are most likely to be marketeers at high growth companies, working across multiple channels and tactical executions. A key motivation for using us is understanding the ‘why’ (i.e. why do consumers behave like that? Why does this category act like this? Was our campaign impactful?).

With this insight, they don’t have to make decisions on gut feeling alone and can have more confidence in their marketing strategy. But getting the data they need isn’t always easy – it can be slow, expensive, poor quality or it can be hard to work with if you don’t come from a market research background.

Knowing this about our customers gave us a better understanding of what they want from us and the messaging we should be communicating in our branding. Ultimately, we decided that, through rebranding, we wanted to come across as a fresh, innovative tech brand that is also a trusted, well-established market leader.

To differentiate ourselves, we wanted to go to market as the research solution for non-specialists who wants an always-on connection to their customers, in a simple and fast manner. And we wanted a brand identity that challenged the norm that all research needs to be done by trained experts.

Consumer profiling helps you understand what matters to your customers

Step 3 – write a brief

Whether you’re working with an external branding agency or doing it in-house, you should still write a brief setting out what you want to achieve through your rebranding and what work this will encompass. This should include:

  • an overview of the current issues with the branding
  • your newly defined brand positioning
  • a customer profile
  • rebranding strategies
  • key product messages
  • the scope of the rebrand and the activities it will entail

Our brief asked for a distinctive set of brand codes that make Attest instantly recognisable amongst our users and target audiences. We knew we wanted to inject some emotion and wanted our brand look and feel brought to life via the development of a new visual identity (this job would include defining colors, illustration style, iconography, photography, and art direction). As part of the rebranding process, we also wanted to create a style guide and tone of voice guidelines.

The new visual identity would need to be translated across our website, survey platform, content marketing, advertising, events, social channels, marketing materials, merchandise and into a new introductory video. We don’t have a physical product, but companies that do will also need to think about rebranding things like packaging, point of sales materials and shop fittings.

Write a comprehensive brief for your rebranding agency

Step 4 – create a mood board

You can enhance your brief with a mood board that captures any initial thoughts or ideas you have in mind for your new brand identity. Perhaps you really like the idea of incorporating illustrations in your design, as we did, maybe you want a specific style of photography or there’s another brand you want to emulate? Spend time doing some research and finding examples that will help guide the design team tasked with the rebranding.

For a few weeks, we looked at our color palette, logo concepts, illustration and art direction to explore how these elements could come together to form our new brand – deciding what we liked, didn’t like and getting future brand inspiration. We used the online whiteboard tool Miro to collate pictures and notes into mood boards.

We held a color workshop to explore what scheme to implement in our rebranding

Step 5 – appoint a branding agency

If you’re going for a complete brand overhaul, you’ll probably want to bring in some outside expertise. Branding agencies are not cheap but the value they can add to your business makes them a worthwhile investment.

At Attest, we have an in-house design team but it’s small and they have lots of day-to-day work to keep up with, which is a big ask alongside conceptualizing and deploying a company-wide rebrand. For that reason, we decided to appoint a branding agency to assist with the rebranding.

Finding the right agency to collaborate with to bring the brand narrative and visual identity work to life was an extensive task. We contacted eight agencies and sent out a request for proposal (RFP) to four of them. When we received the proposals, we compared them side-by-side and circulated them among the wider team for feedback.

After careful consideration, we decided to work with Zag for our rebrand. Zag just so happened to be Attest “super users” so they understood the value of the product without us having to explain.

Zag understood the value of our Attest platform

Step 6 – schedule a kick-off and sprint sessions

Working with a branding agency should be a collaborative process so you should be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get involved. During your kick-off meeting, you’ll be discussing the rebranding brief, brainstorming and exploring the ideas you’ve already had from both sides.

Based on our initial kick-off session with Zag, we were able to pull out things we should keep, push further and abandon all together in our future design system. From there, we were able to narrow to three potential ‘brand world territories’ (aka themes) that we wanted to explore: access, discovery and differentiator, which each had a different theory behind them.

In our next sprint session, Zag presented concepts around these themes and we decided we wanted to progress with two of them:

Access: open access to invaluable research

  • Bringing a new role and emphasis on our Attest triangulation marque (logo).
  • Visual language supported by a graphic toolkit that represents our reliable testing tools, helping users access accurate results from our consumer research platform.

Discovery: explore and unpack potential growth

  • Focuses on how Attest helps users discover a new space to explore consumer insight and gain quality results in an ordered and effective way.
  • The visual language unlocks new approaches to access data, providing different layers of consumer behaviour knowledge.

Eventually, we settled on ‘discovery’. Overall, we thought this territory was the strongest and had the most potential for success. We found it exciting because it challenges the status quo of our current positioning and would set us apart in our competitor landscape. It also aligned with our ambition to be different – projecting a strong, clever and unique brand personality. What’s the point of rebranding if we don’t plan on standing out!

We finally decided to go with the theme of ‘discovery’

With our chosen route decided, we began WIP visual development rounds. Further sprints on voice and tone sprints covered:

  • Tone of voice principles – we wanted to inject warmth, energy and excitement
  • Brand persona development – we went from ‘Pioneering Enabler’ to ‘Pioneering Architect’ to, finally, ‘The Supportive Pioneers’
  • Persona principles – our initial traits were Conversational/Authoritative/Rousing but changed to become Friendly/ Confident/Enthusiastic
  • Tagline – “Less Guesswork. More Confidence” was changed to“Growth without Guesswork” to adhere to the ‘rule of 3’, making it snappier
We simplified our messaging

Step 7 – test your concepts

Once you have some mock-up designs for potential new logos, web pages, packaging or store designs, it’s wise to seek feedback before making final decisions. As well as allowing people within your company to have their say, you can see what consumers at large think by carrying out some creative testing.

A creative testing survey lets you show respondents different design elements and ask questions about them. Keeping it simple, you can ask people to select their favorite out of a series of designs, or you can be more scientific about it and do ‘mondaic testing’. The definition of this is showing each design to a different group of respondents, letting you see objectively which design scores the best.

For example, perhaps you want a logo that people describe as ‘romantic’ and you find that 40% of respondents select this word to describe logo A, but 65% choose it for logo B. Through creative testing, you can iterate and improve your brand assets until they are perfectly aligned with your business strategy.

Top tips for creative testing on Attest include making use of the ‘randomise question/answer order’ and ‘piping’ features to reduce bias and drill deeper into respondents’ sentiments.

Creative testing allowed us to zone-in on the most effective assets

Step 8 – create a brand toolkit

Once your visual identity and brand assets have been agreed upon, it’s time to compile everything into one handy toolkit. This will become a brand bible for anyone involved in marketing and communications for your company. What should your brand toolkit contain?

  • An overview of your brand identity
  • Your logo and variations of it
  • Your color palette
  • Your typography
  • Rules for layout and alignment
  • Brand illustrations and iconography
  • Art direction principles
  • Examples of your branding used across different applications i.e. landing page, social ad, products.

Your brand toolkit will be invaluable for communicating your rebranding strategy to business stakeholders and helping to make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s also very useful when you work with outside contractors, helping to quickly on-board them in your house style.

Our brand tool kit details everything from typefaces to logo positioning

Step 9 – implement your new brand

The next step requires intense team hustle; implementing your rebrand will touch every part of your business. You’ll need to set out all the rebranding activities to be undertaken, assign each one to an individual and agree a time frame to work to. It’s advisable to use a project management tool so you can keep on top of progress (we use Notion).

You should also plan weekly meetings where each person can update the team on what they’ve been doing. It’s likely that some things will take longer than expected and you’ll run into a few blockers along the way, so try to be realistic with your schedule and leave time for ironing out any creases. If you have a tighter deadline, or you’re short on resources, it could be worth bringing in external development support.

Our development team was tasked with rolling out the rebrand across the Attest website

Step 10 – relaunch your brand

This is the fun bit. Step 10 sees all your hard work come to fruition when you launch your new look to the company – and to the world! You should plan two relaunch dates; one internal and one external.

The internal relaunch should be a company-wide presentation explaining why the rebrand has been undertaken, showing off the new branding and detailing how it meets your marketing strategy.

This is important because not everyone will have been involved in the project and you want to get buy-in before going public. Before our relaunch event, we helped get staff hyped by giving them a sneak peek of our new signature colour – firecracker orange – and asking them how it made them feel.

We gave our new signature color a distinctive name

The internal relaunch is also your chance to share your brand toolkit and set out any tasks you need staff to carry out, such as:

  • updating email signatures
  • updating personal social banners
  • deleting and replacing company letterheads
  • deleting and replacing presentation templates

Your external relaunch date will be when your new website goes live, your new packaging hits the shops and your new ads are published. Make some noise about this by sending out press releases in advance, giving out merch and inviting movers and shakers to a relaunch party (either in real life or online). If you’ve done your rebrand right, people should be as excited about it as you are!

Hold a launch event to get everyone on board with your rebranding

After your rebrand

One more step to take after your rebrand has gone live is to find out what impact it’s had. Take a brand tracker ‘dip’ to see how metrics like brand awareness, purchase intent and brand loyalty have changed. It’s great to be able to take these figures to the board and show the true value of your rebranding project – yes, sometimes changing the colors or logo really is important!

And if you’re not brand tracking already, find out how it can help you measure the ROI of your brand building activities.

What do you think of our rebrand? Watch our brand video and see our new identity brought to life!

Bel Booker

Senior Content Writer 

Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 100m global consumers. She also likes cake.

See all articles by Bel