How To Tell It’s Time For A Brand Refresh
By Daniel Crask, Brand Shepherd
Orca Communications invited Brand Shepherd, one of our strategic partners in branding & marketing, to write a guest blog post sharing its expertise with our clients and followers on the topic of product branding. Companies questioning or struggling with brand identity will want to read this!
In 2014, I purchased the best pair of shoes I had ever placed on my feet.
My workouts had turned to the high-intensity variety, and my feet were hurting. So I set out to find the best shoes, and the Nikes I found were simply amazing.
Bucking all of the best available advice, I wore those shoes for every workout for 4 years. They held up to some of the most grueling activity my body had ever done, but didn’t show much wear at all.
That is, until 2018, when my feet began to ache due to wearing down the sole cushion.
I had a product I loved and benefitted from, but I did not know when it was time to set the shoes aside and make them my yard work shoes.
Instead, it took experiencing pain to know it was time to refresh my footwear.
How To Tell It’s The Right Time?
There are a lot of similarities between my shoe story and how to tell it’s time for a brand refresh.
When is it time to refresh your brand’s visual identity?
Not just the logo, but the way it speaks, visually.
And what about the website? It used to be every 5 years. Is that still the best practice?
Or how about product packaging: What is the “COVID Era” doing to customer expectations of how products present the brand on the digital and tangible shelves?
What I am getting at is how do we know when it’s time for a brand refresh?
In this post, I will give you the most common 4 factors on how to know it’s time for a brand refresh.
I will do this from firsthand experience. The product-focused brand marketing agency I co-own, Brand Shepherd, recently completed a total brand refresh.
The 4 Factors
Brand refreshes are needed due to 4 factors. A brand refresh could be triggered by experiencing all 4, just one of them, or some combination of them.
Not only did I/we experience these factors, but I have seen these 4 factors show up in the brands we refresh.
For Brand Shepherd’s refresh, we experienced all 4 and I will explain how each contributed.
At a glance, the 4 factors are:
Let’s get into each.
2020 and 2021 could not have been more extreme in their differences for Brand Shepherd.
In 2020, we hit a record sales year, having done likewise in 2018 and 2019.
We were firing on all cylinders and had a house full of thriving brands to work with. Many brands used the first part of the COVID pandemic to work on themselves and adjust to rapidly changing customer expectations. Life was good.
Yet as 2020 dragged on, the supply chain snags, the closings, and the general mess that we all experienced caught up to Brand Shepherd, and we began to lose clients.
It was rough.
We limped into 2021, and things just got worse.
The world flipped upside down and it was very hard to know where our people went.
We tried several reactive tactics to woo new business and retain existing partners, but the problems were much bigger than us. We were fighting a paradigm shift and a global economic mess.
Many months of pain from trial and error finally resolved when, during a church service, it became totally clear to me what we needed to do: Refresh the Brand Shepherd messaging and visual brand.
The fascinating thing about committing to a brand refresh is that it instantly and progressively allows you to see the brand from the perspective of where you aspire it to be.
This new perspective made it obvious to me that our messaging had become stale and out of sync with new customer wants, needs, and expectations.
Pain is what it took to kick off our brand refresh.
Pain is what sparked the refresh but that new perspective I mentioned has a flip side to it: Opportunity.
The opportunity I saw from a brand refresh was a chance to overhaul our messaging.
See, everything flows from what the brand has to say, and the pain provided the perspective to see an opportunity in a refined message that provided value and reassurance about how Brand Shepherd could help brands get products to their people during these strange times.
The COVID Era has created a paradigm shift in how everyone buys products!
We were not communicating to our people that we see it and have a plan to meet it head-on.
To be clear, our existing clients knew we were doing this. We just weren’t communicating it outside our “4 walls,” and so the refresh was an opportunity to tell the world how we are getting products to their people.
That’s a big opportunity!
It is interesting how pain was the starting point for all the rest of our brand refresh, and Growth is another fruit of pain.
The new perspective provided by pain helped my co-founder and me take a bird’s eye view of Brand Shepherd’s 15+ years of existence and see that we are at our very best when we are full of engaged brands that make tangible products.
Growth is always the outcome when brands are thriving from working with us on their products.
Our legacy told that story but we couldn’t see it until the pain made us look.
So, in this, Growth is a factor of returning to form.
Getting back to what we do best, and knowing what we do best directly informs the new messaging that drives the brand refresh.
Throughout the build-up to committing to a brand refresh, I had a gut-level instinct that something was very wrong with our brand.
In an age when data is king, instinct doesn’t get its due attention these days, but it ought to because when it is informed by experience, it is often the catalyst for making the wisest decisions.
All through 2021, my instincts were like screaming sirens of alarm in my head and my gut.
Instinct is what ultimately kept me motivated to keep searching, keep pressing in to discover what I needed to do to right our ship.
Some of the most successful business owners I know and work with operate from a blending of instinct, data, and advice from a very small group of trusted advisors. There is tremendous wisdom in that.
So when I decided Brand Shepherd needed a brand refresh, I did not fully commit until a gut-check with myself and a very small group of trusted people agreed and confirmed it was the wise move.
If you are a competent business person, do not ignore your instincts.
Honorable Mention: Time
I’d like to note that Time is not on the list.
Time, itself, is never a reason for a brand refresh.
While it’s true that the last time Brand Shepherd had refreshed ourselves was 2018, the span of 4 years was not a reason unto itself for the refresh.
The reason time, alone, is not a justifiable reason for a brand refresh is because it’s what happens during the time that makes a case for a refresh, not the time itself.
Consider eBay. It is an e-commerce website that hasn’t undergone a brand refresh in, what, a decade? Its user interface is old by today’s standards, yet eBay doesn’t change because that “old” UI is familiar and comfortable to the millions of buyers and sellers who remain faithful to the brand experience.
If time were indeed a factor in refreshing a brand, eBay should be out of business for not doing so for such a long time.
Brand history is full of these lessons.
On and on.
Brands that look at themselves through the lens of time, then make big changes to their brand, end up being rejected by their customers.
There has to be substance to the reasons why it’s time for a brand refresh.
Instead, consider the 4 factors of pain, opportunity, growth, and instinct to know if it’s time to refresh your brand.
Your brand will be stronger for doing so.
Daniel Crask is co-owner and Brand Strategist with Brand Shepherd. https://brandshepherd.com