Changing a company’s brand can positively transform its relationship with customers and employees, helping grow the business. Creative thinking can unearth and unleash a powerful narrative with the power to engage everyone in the brand story. But a full rebrand costs time, money and materials, and can risk relationships with existing audiences. Sometimes considered brand evolution is preferable to a radical reset. But with today’s fast-moving technology and culture, change is inevitable, and companies need to stay ahead of the curve in order to thrive.

Forces for and against

In any brand initiative, there’s always a debate about how much to change. Different voices within client organisations have different agendas. In highly regulated sectors like finance and healthcare, there are limits to what can be done and risk-averse voices can be strong. Up to the Light's What Clients Think report 2023 found that 82 per cent of clients surveyed across sectors considered themselves 'risk averse'. Part of a creative agency’s job is to empower clients with confidence to be bolder with their brand and marketing. The best agencies drill down into the reasons for change, enthusiastic about the potential to transform the business, while being mindful of its implications.

The reasons for change

There are different reasons why companies might seek to do something bolder with their branding. Perhaps they’re a market leader that now needs to differentiate from increasing competition that looks a lot like them. Perhaps their goals or focus as a company have changed. Or perhaps they want to widen their audience by connecting with more current design modes and buyer sensibilities. Or digitisation in their sector means that there are new opportunities they need to move on.

The risks of change

Despite all the above drivers, change is hard,  and there are reasons to resist it. Brands that lean on their heritage have a lot to lose if they move too far away from the look and feel their customers know. Trust and recognisability are hard-won. Who can forget Royal Mail’s disastrous £2bn corporate makeover as Consignia, which had to be scrapped after 16 months?

And when changing your brand, there are costs to consider that go beyond those of consultancy and creative. There’s implementation, people hours, new branded materials, and packaging (if a physical product is being sold) and potential advertising and marketing. Any new branding initiative need to be justified in terms of sustainability.

Considered evolution

The Design Council recently set out the principles for its updated visual branding using a limited colour palette and reduced image sizes for more climate conscious activations going forward. Leaning on its heritage, the update kept the Design Council’s iconic red, setting a new core palette of red, white and a deep claret (rather than black) to keep things minimal but with a sense of character. This is an example of smart evolution, with considered, iterative change that brings newness without waste.

Another great example of masterfully applied iterative change is Nike’s swoosh. The shape of its logo was inspired by the wings of the Greek goddess of victory. Instantly recognisable, it has become a global symbol that plays out in a range of formats across the whole Nike universe, from sock embroidery to metaverse avatars. It’s so finely honed and flexible, that to change it fundamentally would be madness. So new branding initiatives bring fresh energy with clever uses and renditions.

Towards an end goal

In brand development, considered, iterative change may well be preferable to a complete rebrand. At Embrace we get closer to clients to understand their strengths, the problems they face and worlds they inhabit. With an innate sense of the risks and rewards, we work on rebranding and brand development to help businesses achieve their goals. And with long experience as a healthcare and financial services creative agency, we are uniquely placed to create flexible assets and inventive campaigns that deliver substance, not just surface appeal.

If you’d like to speak to us about rebranding or brand development, do get in touch.