You may have heard of the terms rebrand or brand refresh but are unsure of the difference.

Think of it like this. If a brand were a house, it’s the difference between a rebuild and a makeover. Nevertheless, opinions regarding the definition and scale of each are varied, as is the price tag. Houses and brands have much in common, so let’s explore this further.

How do you decide? Well, it depends.

Design Freedom

Whether it’s a new build or involves tearing down an old house to start again from scratch, you can design whatever you want to suit your needs. In brand terms, this means a full rework to the brand strategy and the verbal and visual identity of the brand.

If your house has historical merit, you would need to consider whether erasing it would be detrimental. With branding, it’s no different. In short, if certain core values still work well to support the brand, consider holding onto them.

Structural Quality

Should the core foundations of a house be rotten, you need to build new ones. In terms of a brand, this translates into reviewing your brand positioning and articulating clearly why you do what you do, how you do it, and what you’re providing.

If the foundations are strong – the brand values – then a brand refresh would be a better choice.

Financial Cost

Rebuilding a house considers many cost factors such as the land, materials, labor, project timelines, and architects to name a few. Renovating a house is more focused, less expensive while still having a positive impact.

In the branding world, the same is true. A full re-brand includes the whole gamut that involves in-depth strategic thinking and research to identify what you want to build that will resonate and endure.  

Conversely, a brand refresh would be less costly as it would tend to focus on a brand’s visual identity, namely logo, font, colors, and imagery.


In the construction world, materials and approaches to energy efficiency are continually improving as we try to respect the environment. Building a new house incorporates such developments – although razing to the ground an existing house is not greener: think of all the rubble and landfills. Depending on the scale of a house refresh, improved energy efficiency should be adopted to make sure the upkeep of the property costs less over time.

Brand sustainability is not too dissimilar. A full re-brand is anchored in long-term objectives that seek to strengthen a brand’s position in its existing market or indeed to create a presence in a new market. This involves brand messaging and visual identity.

On the other hand, a brand refresh is generally less dramatic. This is because its focus is to refresh the brand, make it feel vital and more relevant in the market. Brand refreshes are less costly, more agile to implement while still having a positive effect on your brand.

Planning Permission…

Any new construction has to meet building standards and regulatory requirements (upheld by public authorities). The historic legacy of a property, the land, or its surrounding area may also be factors to consider. Instead, a house refresh will require no planning permission per se but will be required to adopt minimum standards in terms of wiring and energy efficiency.

Seeking permission in the world of branding is also a smart consideration, as it relates to engaging internal stakeholders (employment, ownership, investment) and external stakeholders

…And beyond

‘The brand starts from within’ is a saying I always have in the back of my mind. Brands may sell functional benefits of a product or service but people purchase with emotion. 

We’ve all done it, we’ve all convinced ourselves at some point in time that we needed that special ‘something’. We rationalize why we need it when what we’re rationalizing is our emotional response to the item in question. 

Now, take that to its next level in which the individual becomes the many. In a company, employees want to be part of something that matters, and they want to be valued. This relates to the ‘why’ we talked about earlier.
Good brands tick all the right boxes. Great brands tick all the right boxes but have a brand presence, an internal culture, and a customer experience that make them stand out. The message they communicate is the same to everyone – customers and employees alike.

Rebrand or brand refresh?

The above should help to outline the differences between a rebrand and a refresh. If you’re still unsure, are you doing any of the following:

  • Entering a brand new market?
  • Targetting a new type of consumer or customer?
  • Steering clear of possible reputational risk?
  • Considering repositioning your brand in the market?
  • Brand Refresh Considerations

So what’s it to be?

Penny for your thoughts?