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How to Plan for a Successful Brand Refresh

"Design is the silent ambassador of your brand."
Paul Rand, American Art Director and Graphic Designer

When a business or non-profit fails to stay modern and up-to-date, they run the risk of losing touch with their customer base and stakeholders and experiencing stagnant sales and buy-in. Fortunately, a brand refresh is often all it takes to regain relevancy within their market and rebuild connections with consumers. However, updating a brand is more than just changing a logo; it requires careful and strategic planning on leadership’s part to ensure any updates will support the company’s goals. We’re looking at the exact steps necessary to plan for a successful brand refresh that will take you into a new age for your organization.

What Is a Brand Refresh?

First, it’s important to look at exactly what a brand refresh is and how it’s different than rebranding as many business leaders get the two terms confused or use them interchangeably.


Rebranding is the process of transforming the image of a company or organization, creating a completely updated and new identity. Typically, this is done when the organization’s existing branding must be discontinued or has changed significantly, such as due to negative publicity or legal concerns, when your core audience has changed, or when your current industry is evolving.

A rebranding includes updating the mission statement, logo, product or service line, and, in some cases, changing the name of the organization. As you can see, this is a significant overhaul for an organization.

Brand Refresh

A brand refresh is a much less extreme way to update your branding. The goal is to maintain the central theme of your brand while updating aspects of the design elements to align with innovations and progress within your industry. Companies will often undertake this process in the following circumstances:

  • New market entry,
  • Expanding reach to new customers,
  • Establishing new leadership within the organization,
  • When branding is outdated or out of touch,
  • Discovering Inconsistent messaging, and
  • Realizing the company or the industry has changed significantly.

A Successful Brand Refresh: Dunkin’

In 2019, Dunkin’ Donuts shed the Donuts and refreshed their brand as simply “Dunkin’ to great success. But how can a company who was once known by their tagline “Time to make the donuts,” remove the donuts from their branding and still succeed? Let’s look at their refresh a bit more closely:

  • The company spent several years building up their beverage selection as they worked to cut into Starbucks’ market share.
  • Their refresh tied into an established advertising campaign and slogan, “America Runs on Dunkin’.”
  • They maintained their recognizable sans-serif font and recognizable pink-and-orange color scheme.
  • They had enjoyed long term connections with customers through their “first name basis” as much of their client base already refers to them as Dunkin’.

While their new branding was unveiled at a Global Franchisee Convention in which they stated that they would be updating their company name to simply Dunkin’, and updating all their branding to match, this wasn’t an overnight update, nor was it “change for change’s sake.” There was a foundation for this refresh already in place, ensuring it aligned with their values and mission, and connects with existing customers while attracting new customers seeking more than just a donut shop.

Understanding the Elements of a Successful Brand Refresh

Before planning fonts and working with graphic designers to update your logo, it’s important to recognize the four established elements that are necessary to a successful brand refresh (Andjelic, 2021).

Start with the Product or Service

Whether you’re refreshing your brand to make room for a new product or innovations, it’s important to look at your core offerings and make sure your brand aesthetic reflects the, specifically.

Refine Your Brand Story

Your brand story gives context to your products which allows consumers to better connect with your organization. Understand what you want your narrative to be, whether it’s creating a story based on sustainability and planet-consciousness like Patagonia, or innovation and excitement, like Apple.

Connect with Pop Culture

Using popular culture as a marketing tool is one of the most effective opportunities to a brand refresh (Radomskaya, 2018). By connecting with pop culture, your brand seem more approachable, shows you understand your consumer better, and is able to create more relevant and relatable content. While global, established brands like KFC can leverage characters and ad campaigns from the past to tap into pop culture nostalgia and sentimentality, small or new brands need to connect with the zeitgeist in a different way. This can include launching your refresh through a social media trend or crafting advertising campaigns around lifestyle trends that align with your brand story.

Know Your Customer and Stakeholder

The most important factor when planning a brand refresh is knowing your customer. Not only is it important to have insight into your existing customer base, but you need to understand your “ideal consumer.” Who are you trying to attract to your product or brand? By knowing what your existing and ideal customers want, you can structure your refresh to appeal to them more effectively, allowing you to stand out in your industry.

Schedule a Strategic Planning Consultation

If you are considering a brand refresh, our strategic planning firm in Minneapolis can help ensure it’s effective and successful. Schedule a consultation today by filling out our contact form below to get started.

Andjelic, Ana. 4 Elements of a Successful Brand Refresh. Harvard Business Review. December 23, 2021. Accessed online 1/17/2022 Radomskaya, Valeriya. Popular Culture as a Powerful Destination Marketing Tool: An Australian Study. ResearchGate. December 2018. Accessed online 1/17/2022.

This article or any other promotional material(s) from Woodland Strategies, Inc. is in no way intended to be a comprehensive plan.

Please note all markets, circumstances, and results vary. Any strategic plan or marketing initiatives must follow all State and Federal laws and regulations, accordingly.

Please contact us directly for a complete assessment and plan for your individual organizational needs.

Establish a Risk Management Framework as You Advance Your Mission

Project risks, strategic risks, operational risks…All organizations face risk – no matter the sector or the size. Well-managed organizations should have a complete risk management framework established to identify and manage this inherent facet of doing business in today’s ambitious environment.

Ten Steps to a Successful Strategic Plan

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Choosing the Right Consultant

Consultants can provide valuable service and offer an objective perspective to assist organizations and team members in a variety of areas. Woodland Strategies, a business consulting firm in Minneapolis, MN, offers an assortment of consultancy services including Strategic Planning, Marketing Strategy, Development and Fundraising Strategy, and also Leadership Coaching.

How long does a typical strategic planning process take?

This is a question we are regularly asked at Woodland Strategies. Typically, a full strategic planning process can take up to six to eight months, depending on how in-depth the organizational planning team wants to take things.Your messaging – your values, mission and vision statements – can, and should, last between eight and twelve weeks. This is really the most fundamental part of your plan. It should never be rushed.