Optimize My Brand

Strategy, tactics, ideas and tips from Creative Company.

Rebranding checklist to guide your program

You’ve decided. It’s time to rebrand … now what?

Great work! You’re past one of the hardest parts: committing to a rebrand. You’ve recognized your current brand program isn’t working and it’s time for a change.

It’s a big change. Letting go of what has worked in the past to shift to something that promises to work for the future … that requires forward thinking. So congratulations, the truly hard part is behind you! Our rebranding checklist will help you plan an effective transition from old to new.

Before we dive into a rebranding checklist … is a refresh all you need?

Let’s briefly visit the difference between a rebrand and a brand refresh. One can be mistaken for the other, but the result is quite different.

Rebranding or brand refresh?Put simply, a brand refresh is a makeover while a rebrand is plastic surgery and then some.

A brand refresh keeps certain elements of the previous identity to evolve the look. Could be the colors, font, the logo or mark, or key messaging.

A rebrand is a complete transformation of the entire identity and communications system. When an organization renames a rebrand is essential to the process. New messaging is defined. The brand’s logo, fonts and color palette are new. The style, layout, imagery and marketing materialstransform. All brand assets are different. This blog post outlines 4 economic reasons to rebrand. Or use our rebrand guidelines to check if it’s time for a complete transformation of your brand instead of a makeover or refresh. 


If a brand refresh will meet your goals instead…

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This blog post explains the strategy we used for a brand refresh for United Way.

Ready for your rebranding checklist?


1. Are you reaching your target audiences?

Who are the people you must reach to be successful? Which audiences of potential customers are you missing? Why haven’t you connected with those people?

  • It could be a naming issue … your name no longer reflects who you are and what you offer.
  • Your brand identity could be out-of-date … it’s not relevant or appealing to your target audiences.
  • Your brand’s message isn’t clear … your audiences don’t understand the value you offer, or your language is confusing or full of jargon.

You must understand who you aren’t reaching. Who are they? What do they know or expect from you? What do they need to know? Any misperceptions? How do you stand out from other choices in your category?

If you don’t have them already, develop audience personas to define who your best target audiences are and what they expect from you. Your visual and verbal brand must align with what those people look for and what they want from what you offer. Every decision you make when rebranding will come back to this foundational question:

“Will it connect with and compel response from my audiences?”

2. Have you made it clear why you’re the best choice?

And if you say “because we provide quality service/products” you definitely must revisit this statement.

Everyone offers quality service … and your audiences expect you to. (Who is going to say they offer terrible service?) What do you really provide that your competitors don’t? How are you different? What’s your unique selling point? Is that uniqueness expressed in your brand promise? It’s a brand PROMISE (not a tagline) because it’s what you promise to your target audiences.

Does your brand promise have your audiences thinking, “Hmmm … I want to know more.”

Do your logo and brand identity system show that uniqueness? Or do you look like every other construction company, vacation destination, accounting firm, (fill in the blank) in your category?

Not sure you can be objective? Find someone who represents your target audience. Show him/her your logo and brand promise. Ask:

  • What do you think this company does/provides?
  • What do you think sets them apart?
  • Based on this identity would you consider doing business with them?

If what they say isn’t what you want to hear, explain who you are and what you provide, and ask for more insight. What’s missing? What would be more meaningful?

But also keep in mind, your logo will seldom be the ONLY element audiences will see. Your identity will most likely be seen in the context of an ad, on a website, business card, brochure or other communication tool.

3. Do your audiences, when they hear or read about you, understand who you are and what you provide?

Rebranding on Messaging posters

Cascade Employers used their new, clear messaging on posters.

This is a big one and not to be overlooked on the rebranding checklist. Messaging, beginning with your brand promise at the top.

Not every business has a brand promise (what many call a tagline). Even fewer have a messaging hierarchy to support it. Your messaging hierarchy expresses (not describes) the context of who you are and what you do … from your audiences’ point of view. 

Messaging hierarchy defines and articulates how you and your team express your brand. It’s the foundation for all copywriting–whether on the website, in brochures, or in person. Messaging offers clarity and defines why your organization and what you offer is the best choice.

It’s not a list of services or products. It’s not your history. It’s not a description of how things are made or done. It’s the essence of your purpose and what your audiences value most about what you offer. It defines what’s different and unique. As Simon Sinek says, “start with why.”

How do you know if your messaging needs help?

Ask yourself, your team, and customers what your brand does and what makes it unique. If they give you the brand promise, ask for the next level of information, a.k.a “what does that mean?” If they can’t even give you a brand promise or if everyone has a different explanation, it’s time to work on messaging.

Once your messaging is clear and in place, update your marketing assets to reflect your new-found clarity. Check out how Cascade Employers put their messaging to work!

Learn more about messaging in our guide, and try out some of the exercises with your team. Find your “wow!”


4. Does the visual brand, the logo and brand system, align with the messaging?

We are in a day and age where anyone can create a logo. Crowd sourcing. Freelancers. Online design programs.

But does that crowd sourced, low-cost logo express who you are and what you do? Does that logo visually represent your “wow” factor? I understand the temptation of free or cheap. But if your logo, name, and colors don’t stand out from the rest, you’re fighting an uphill battle to get your audiences’ attention and build recognition.

Look at your message. Look at your “wow” factor… And look at your competitors’ logos.

How can you express your wow and distinguish yourself from others? It could be as simple as sticking with your name, a new distinguishing type, and new brand colors. Look at Google for example. We all know that logo!

It could also be a bit more complex, with a few variations depending on what’s being branded. In today’s online and offline marketing world, an identity system must have flexibility to be seen and recognized large or small, horizontally or vertically, online and in print.

And a little hint? If you have next to no eye for design (like me) leave the design work to someone who does.

5. How do you make the transition easy?

A rebrand is only as good as its implementation. You could have the perfect logo, know your messaging is on point, and really understand exactly who you need to reach. But if your team isn’t on board and excited to transition to your new brand… you’ll risk losing impact and momentum. Your rebranding checklist must include those conversations with your team, because your brand lives through your people.

Get employee buy in early. Don’t rebrand without them! Make your staff a part of the process. Explain why you think it’s time to rebrand. Ask for their thoughts and opinions, especially when it comes to who your audiences are and what your “wow” factor is. They hear what’s being said, the questions asked. Your front line people connect with customers! Don’t discount their expertise and insight.

Change can be frightening or it can be exciting. When your team is excited about the transition, they’ll become the new brand’s greatest champions. When you ask them to use new letterhead, pay attention to a new font system, hand out new business cards, or use new language, you want their enthusiasm. If they question you every step of the way or grumble about relearning certain processes, your rollout will be bumpy.

With a new, high-impact brand identity and strong messaging, they’ll want to tell clients and friends all about the new brand. They’ll be happy to show off the new look. They’ll be excited to share the news of things to come.

6. What do you update? Should it be done all at once?

Ideally the entire brand and communication system is updated all at once. Identity. Website. Stationery. Signing. Brochures. More. However, that process is often complicated and costly. It’s possible to make the change in phases.

Cautionif the rebrand is for a new company name, you MUST orchestrate a fast and complete changeover to maintain credibility and to build recognition quickly.

When phasing in the rebrand, begin with your website and day-to-day brand assets, such as business cards, letterhead, logos on social media and building signs. These are the core elements with a long life that are used/seen the most–the most important touchpoints to build brand recognition. It’s important these communication tools showcase your rebrand. Be sure to add each component to your rebranding checklist.

Once you have the budget to update the rest of your marketing assets, start updating print advertisements, banner ads and short-term flyers and posters. Create new marketing assets to fit with and support your new brand messaging and identity. Enhance the rebrand with an information campaign–news releases to your community, introductory letters to clients and vendors, an event for your team where you hold a “funeral” for the old materials and hand out the new business cards.

For example, when Forest Grove Lumber rebranded to reach new audiences they launched a campaign around the rebrand. This led to design of a new portfolio-style sales packets and a set of brochures to appeal to architects.

Caution: Beware the half-ass rebrand

A rebrand is a big project. Hire professionals to help, but choose carefully. There are marketers and designers out there who will slap a new logo on everything and call it a rebrand.

A rebrand is so much more than a new logo. It’s a complete brand makeover. Your goal is a new, focused, clearer, stronger visual and verbal brand that reflects who you are, what you stand for and what your audiences expect.

It must stand out. Be memorable. Demand response. And establish a system that connects all of your marketing.

That won’t happen with a new logo by itself. When you choose a rebranding partner, make sure you’re hiring people who ask the tough questions (who are you, who are your audiences, what do you stand for) … basically the six questions outlined … and more!

Wondering about what’s involved? Review our page on the branding process to see the phases we cover, from audit to launch.

Have an example of how you’ve tackled a rebrand? Share in the comments!

You may be interested in these other blog posts and examples:

Learn more about rebranding or a brand refresh, and see examples on our website.

You can also download our 5 reasons to rebrand worksheet to help you decide if now is the right time for a rebrand.

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About the author

Alexandra Riecke-Gonzales

As a millennial who has also worked in social media marketing and management for the last 2 years, Alex really has the best of both worlds: As a millennial she knows what they want and how they communicate and as a social media marketer she is able to take that knowledge and put it to use for businesses. Of course, finishing up a Master's Degree in Communication doesn't hurt either, helping her understand the significance of context, channel, and messaging. She writes to encourage conversations that help others develop actionable branding strategies but more importantly, encourage conversations about the social media landscape today and how to best navigate it.

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