Brand Identity: When should you refresh?

A light bulb. Clothes. The TV channel. Some things are easy to change, and it’s obvious when they need changing (at least we hope so). Brands, on the other hand, do not fall into this category. When do you change your brand identity, and how much do you change it? Should it be subtly refreshed or totally redesigned? Although there is no scientific formula, there are several indicators that can let you know it’s time for fresh eyes on your brand.

An easy place to start is age. How many years have you had the same logo design? In a world where the career of a popstar is measured in weeks, it’s a good idea to reassess your brand identity and its freshness at regular intervals.

Hold on, you might be saying. What about brands that have been around forever, like Ford or Xerox? Even the biggies refresh their brands and logos over the years. The change might be as subtle as the width of a font or the shade of a corporate color, or it may be an extreme makeover.

Of course, age isn’t the only criteria for reexamining your brand. Other triggers could be the introduction of a new product or service, a merger with another company, or a change in leadership. These are all appropriate times to see if your brand is keeping pace with your company’s changes and current design trends.

Let’s look at how and why two companies redesigned their brand identities.

A refreshed brand identity for an evolving firm

For over 25 years, the logo for the architectural firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle (MS&R) revolved around the initials of the three founders. With new partners in place and a leadership transition plan underway, the firm wanted to shift the focus from the founders to the up-and-coming generation.

Larsen created a brand identity to depict the firm’s energy and commitment to new leadership: three overlapping ampersands drawn to resemble architectural sketches. The ampersand was enlarged and layered to symbolize the contribution of all members of the firm. Solid but subtle initials anchor the mark and evoke the firm’s extraordinary history.

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New brand for a brand new company

When Piper Jaffray became an independent, publicly held company following its spin-off from U.S. Bancorp, it turned to Larsen for a new brand identity. Larsen created a classic, serif mark and fused the two names, Piper and Jaffray, reflecting the idea that the “sum is greater than the parts.” Today, Piper Jaffray is a leading international investment bank and institutional securities firm with a memorable brand identity that underscores the firm’s legacy and expertise.

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Brand redesign to reach a broader audience

Black River, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cargill, is a global asset management company that provides institutional investors with alternative investment opportunities. Among the 40 largest hedge fund companies in America, Black River felt the time was right to enhance its brand visibility.

Larsen redesigned the brand identity beginning with a logo that spoke to the company’s heritage and beginnings on the Black River in west-central Wisconsin. Larsen also created a high-impact website to convey relevant information to prospective investors, potential employees, business partners, and other audiences. The new brand clearly reflected the company’s breadth of experience, investment philosophy, and global reach.

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Don’t change just for change’s sake

Along with the dos there are some don’ts related to redesigning your brand identity. Don’t refresh or redesign your brand simply because you’re tired of it. It should be a clear-headed business decision that has a purpose. Also, if your organization has been around for any time at all, you undoubtedly have built equity in your brand and your logo design. Be sure to incorporate elements of your current identity into the new identity to keep from looking like an entirely different company.

Keep your brand fresh. Your business depends on it.