Clients often ask me what they can do to make sure their brand refresh pays dividends (and doesn’t go sideways). Before you get sketch-happy or put new names on the dartboard, allow me to save you some trouble.

After nearly a hundred rebrands, we’ve noticed four common pitfalls. Here they are, along with ways to reliably avoid each one as you update your brand.

Pitfall #1: Skipping self-reflection

It can be tempting to treat a rebrand like a costume change. After all, appearance can affect performance, so what’s wrong with starting there? The danger of focusing on the outside only is that your rebrand will be superficial and short-lived. Real and lasting change for a brand can only happen when you work on the inside first. 

Try this instead: Revisit your vision, mission, and values — update them if needed. Create your brand manifesto. Define your three-year goals and a strategic plan for achieving them. Share that plan with whomever you engage for your brand update.

Pitfall #2: Guessing how others see you

People know what you stand for, what your unique position is in the market, and how your services create value for them. Don’t they? Your reputation is solid, favorable even, and customer sentiment is positive. Isn’t it? Before you can change what people think, you need to know what they are already thinking.

Try this instead: Conduct a brand reputation audit. A good branding firm will start here or with strategic planning (see above). They will interview your best customers, facilitate focus groups, and survey your team.

Pitfall #3: Assuming everything about your brand needs to change

Rebranding is a chance for a redo, but what if some elements of your brand are actually working well? Identifying what’s working and what’s not helps you decide what to keep, what to eliminate, and what to update. For example, your name may be well known and have strongly favorable connotations; meaning it’s worth keeping.

Try this instead: Based on your strategic plan and brand reputation audit, a professional branding firm can provide objective, expert recommendations on what to change and what to keep from your current brand.

Pitfall #4: Ignoring the competition

Your brand sends signals about what league you’re in. If you’ve ever said to a consultant, “we’re too busy growing to worry about what our competitors are doing.” You’re not alone. You may even be wise to stay focused on your own path.

However, if you rebrand without looking at your competitor set, you risk two things. You may look too much like one or more of your competitors — leading to confusion or even legal trouble. Or you may not look enough like your competitor or peer set, which could lead your prospective customers to believe you’re too small, too risky, or too regional.

Try this instead: Define your competitor set based on your three-year goals. Who will you compete with to achieve your vision? Then, ask your branding firm to place you within the visual context of your competitive set. In other words, if you want to play with the majors, don’t look like a AA ball club.

Your brand defines you. With thoughtful self-reflection, clarity around your reputation, selective editing, and awareness of your competition, it is possible to update your brand responsibly.


Ready for a rebrand that sticks? Let's discuss.