My friend Tara is a successful small business owner, but explaining her business takes a little … well, explanation. If nothing else, her professional journey over the last 25 years is a lesson on how to rebrand a company.

When we first met in the late 1990s, she designed local newspaper advertisements. Her lighthearted, spunky work got attention (and awards), and soon she opened her graphic design firm called Tara Biek Creative, or TBC for short. 

But after 20 years, she bought a 3D printer — and that’s when the brand she built needed a shift. No longer was she just focused on printed and digital design. Now, she was taking orders from clients who wanted coasters, cutting boards, wine glass charms, and jewelry with customized designs. She had so much fun that she decided to open an independent retail store.

This was when Tara knew it was time to rebrand. She changed her company name to Crafted By TBC and created a new logo. Now, prospective clients who know her previous brand can connect that she’s behind the shop but also recognize that it’s an entirely new venture. 

Knowing when to rebrand is important for businesses. This is an image of Crafted by TBC's rebranded website showing a message to customers about the rebrand.
After changing direction with a new business model, graphic designer Tara Biek changed her company name and logo to Crafted by TBC. Image source: Tara Biek Creative.

Tara’s example — pivoting her business strategy and needing to alert the public to the shift — is just one example of when to rebrand a company. If you’ve been in business for a few years, you may wonder if it’s time for you to rebrand as well.

Rebranding is a term used to describe a significant change in a company’s public image, including a new name and usually a new logo, color scheme, website, and message. This is a straightforward marketing strategy to let potential customers know that what they expected previously won’t be what they get in the future. The goal of this effort — and make no mistake, it takes a lot of work! — is to make a big, positive impression on your target audience.

Before launching into 10 scenarios that suggest it’s time to undergo this level of strategic change, let’s answer a common question: Why would a business want to rebrand in the first place? 

Why rebranding is important

Rebranding can help signal to a specific target audience that something has changed. And, rebranding is a way to stay relevant in a changing marketplace. You can share your company’s values and ethics quickly and effectively, especially when they’ve changed dramatically, like when my friend Tara started experimenting with the 3D printer.

You should always want to keep your brand current, which is the simplest answer to why rebranding is important. If your public brand identity has an outdated look and feel, you risk potential customers thinking your work will be out-of-date, too. If this is the case, it’s time for a complete brand overhaul.

You may be wondering, “What is a brand, anyway?” A brand is your company’s identity and how you set yourself apart from the competition. You show your brand through a consistent look in your marketing materials, packaging, website design, and even the tone you use in advertising. 

Brands offer a sense of familiarity in how you can likely imagine the logo for Nike or Coca-Cola without much thought. That familiarity takes time to build, so you need to think carefully before deciding when to rebrand.

10 signs to know it’s time to rebrand your business

Rebranding your business takes a lot of effort, so ensure it makes sense to do so before taking any major steps. If one of these situations applies to your company, you’ll want to take steps to recreate your public brand persona so that your current and future customers know you’re moving forward in a fresh direction — and you want to invite them to come along.

1. Your business undergoes a significant shift in strategic direction

The first indication it’s time to rebrand is the scenario my friend Tara faced: Her company made a major shift from being a design firm that published a local magazine to opening a retail shop. That’s a new market, product line, and business strategy.

If your business model has shifted just as dramatically, the fastest way to alert the public to the change is by rebranding. If you know how to rebrand a company correctly, which we’ll discuss shortly, you’ll get noticed, too.

2. Your brand identity no longer resonates with your target audience

Everything you do with your marketing materials and strategy should speak directly to a clear and narrow target market. And if you’re not hitting your target, you need to change. 

One way to determine if this is the case is to email a survey to your existing customers. This is known as a brand identity survey, and you can ask people whether they think your work and values are reflected successfully in your marketing materials. Be ready for honest feedback because it may be eye-opening about your need to rebrand your business.

3. Your brand has experienced negative associations

Many people think about prunes as something that can help with constipation. Well, in 2001, savvy marketing professionals decided to have this sweet snack undergo a rebranding process. They were called “dried plums” for years but have since returned to their original name.

This is an image showing California Prune Board's rebrand.
The California Prune Board rebranded prunes twice, once to call the snack “dried plums,” then back again. Image source: California Prune Board.

If your business is in the toilet (sorry) due to a negative association — maybe you recently underwent a major crisis, had a glaring error, or was the subject of bad news in the local newspaper — you may want to help people forget about your past. Rebranding can be a great way to facilitate a move forward away from a negative reputation.

4. Your business is struggling to gain a competitive advantage over competitors

If you’re determining when to rebrand your company, ask yourself one simple question: What makes you first, different, or better than your competitors? You should be able to articulate your competitive advantage. If you aren’t sure, your customers won’t be either.

One way to clearly express what makes you the best choice is through a rebrand focused on sharing your differences. A new marketing look and feel can signal the answer to this critical question and help you stand out.

5. You are expanding into a new international competitive market

What works in one country culturally may not translate smoothly into another. If you plan to expand your company beyond its original geographic limits, it may be time to rebrand your business

For example, product packaging in Europe is often much more environmentally conscious. Nearly two-thirds of surveyed customers said they’d switch brands if they were concerned with the packaging. If you need to redesign packaging, you may want to take the opportunity to update your company’s international look, too.

6. Your brand is merging or acquiring companies

Another obvious time when to rebrand is when your business merges with or acquires another company. You’ll have to decide whether to continue as two separate brands or undergo a rebrand that communicates the change to your customers.

7. Your business industry is rapidly evolving and adopting new technologies

You could say that Tara’s situation applies here, as she created a new name to demonstrate her business’s rapid evolution with the new technology of 3D printing. If your company now relies on the latest technology that your competitors do not have, you can make that clear through a rebranding process. 

An excellent example of this is how Facebook changed its name to Meta. It’s evident to everyone that the company is embarking on new technologies and concepts that many of us may not even understand yet.

8. Your brand is facing legal or trademark challenges

Many small businesses use cute puns to play off much more famous companies. For example, I just walked by a “Spex in the City” eyeglasses store in London. While these winks often fall below the radar, maybe your brand has to change due to such a challenge. 

A great example is the World Wildlife Federation’s landmark legal battle in the early 2000s when a wrestling company named itself the World Wrestling Federation. The two WWFs went to court, and eventually, the wrestlers had to rebrand to World Wrestling Entertainment. The font of their logo stayed the same, so it might be considered a partial rebrand. 

9. Your brand has been struggling to communicate your company values

If you struggle to connect with your target audience, one reason may be that you’re not doing a good enough job communicating your company values. The values behind the products or services often motivate customers to choose one brand over another. 

Think about the outdoor brand Patagonia, which is rooted in environmental consciousness. Are those parkas really much different than those of other brands? That doesn’t matter to their loyal customers because the brand clearly defines its values. Make sure your company does the same — and if you’re not sure, it may be time to rebrand. 

10. Your business is lacking consistency in visual identity

It’s also possible that you never fully defined your company brand and now recognize this is reason enough to rebrand. You need to ensure you have a consistent visual identity, including:

  • Logo
  • Font choices in marketing materials
  • Color palette 
  • Voice and tone in all content
  • Imagery style
  • Packaging, if applicable
  • Tagline
  • Messaging, such as a brand promise
  • Values and guiding principles

Keep this list handy as we shift our focus from when to rebrand to how to make it happen.

How to rebrand your business

If you’ve determined a rebrand would benefit your company, prepare to make big decisions. Before you launch your new brand identity, you’ll need to do a lot of work to ensure you’re on the best path to success. In the history of your business, you’ll only want to go through this process once or twice — so make sure everything is correct!

Conduct a brand audit and analysis

You must create a baseline from which to determine your efforts’ success; in this case, it means gathering data regarding your current brand. Create a report on everything you’ve done to market your company and the current state of your market share.

Then, be critical of the work. It often helps to work with a marketing consultant or another third party less emotionally attached to the current branding. It can be challenging to make big changes when you’ve worked hard to grow a business, but big changes can result in big rewards. When you’re introspective and able to identify the needed areas of improvement, you’ll be a step ahead.

Define your new brand identity and positioning

Next, determine what values and messages you want to share with your new branding. This brainstorming is often accomplished with the help of templates called branding boards, which are visual references for the look and feel you want for your company.

Gather the colors, fonts, imagery, and logos you’ll use in the rebranding process. For example, what kind of photographs do you want to use for your marketing materials? How would you describe the tone of the copy? This is known as a brand persona and can be dramatically different from anything you previously offered to the public.

Develop a comprehensive rebranding strategy

Once you’re confident with your new brand identity, it’s time to create a strategy for launching it to the world. There are a few things to consider when drafting this dynamic document. 

What are your objectives for the rebranding effort? 

Set measurable goals with metrics you can track to determine if the work is successful. For example, my friend Tara could have a metric for tracking the number of customers who walked into her store or ordered custom gifts. Or, she may be less interested in the number of walk-in customers and more focused on getting big orders. This goal setting, which is necessary for corporate and personal branding, will help shape future outreach methods.

Who is your new target audience, and are there different segments you wish to reach? 

The more precise you are about your ideal customers, the easier it will be to reach them. Before you launch your new look, make sure it’s explicitly designed to connect with the people who most want to work with you. If your business has different segments, clearly define these in writing. That way, creating segmented email lists and other marketing strategy refinements will be easier.

What is your timeline for the rebranding launch? 

You can’t do it all immediately and run a business simultaneously. Recognize that this process won’t happen overnight by planning the launch. Create a spreadsheet with all the tasks associated with the rebranding effort. Set a deadline for each task and delegate which team member is responsible. This helps keep the project realistic and more likely to succeed.

Determine your budget for the rebranding campaign. 

Personal resources are essential, but this work also has a financial component. You’ll need to order all new business cards, for example, and redesign your website and social media page banners. If you need to work in phases, determine a budget for each so you can prioritize the work.

Communicate your rebranding to internal stakeholders and customers

Once you’ve created your strategy, compiled all new designs, and are ready to launch, there’s still one more step: communicating your plan to your stakeholders and current customers. It’s vital to let them know what is important to them about your business remains the same, even as external changes occur. 

The best way to do this is by sending a direct email. Tell them you will soon launch your new rebranding effort and explain your reasoning for doing so while keeping the message positive. Focus on how you’ll be better able to provide excellent service and remain dedicated to the highest quality work. 

Ensure the email comes from the company’s owner and include an image of their signature at the bottom, along with contact information in case anyone has any questions. Then, in a week or two, you can announce the new look and feel publicly without surprising anyone.

Navigate the rebranding journey: Embrace change and flourish

Once you’ve started rebranding a business, there’s no going back. It’s vital that everyone within your organization fully embrace the changes, and the best way to do that is to ensure your employees, stakeholders, and customers are on board well before you launch. 

When you spend the time it takes to think about why you’re rebranding and the steps to do the work, it can be a positive experience that will help your business grow for years to come.

As a first step in this process, review the 10 reasons when to rebrand. Think honestly about the state of your business and where you see yourself in five or 10 years. When you take the time to deeply analyze your current situation, you can establish a clear vision that will help you succeed not only in rebranding but in all of your business goals.