7 questions to ask before you rebrand

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Ready to rebrand?

Here’s a checklist to confirm.

1. Is this worth it?

I’m talking about time as well as money. It takes a lot of both to do a rebrand right.

Yoga teacher Melanie Hayes demonstrates a handstand and says: “Not everyone can or should be doing this.”

Start where you are.

Yoga pantsBeginning yoga: breathe. And wear something comfy.

Be honest about your starting intention.

2. Can I start thinking from my customers’ point of view?

You’ll get way more out of the process of rebranding if you’ve talked to the people who hire you.

Have you talked to people about why they chose you? Have you asked your customers what they like about your work? About you, personally?

3. Am I too new?

Have you found that spot where your customers are saying, “Wow, you’re really good at X?”

If not, maybe just for now your rebrand could be a baby step. Update with a nice typeface.

Here’s where I like to shop:

bestselling typefaces.

For those who are thinking of just simply branding, not even going into a rebrand, there are these questions:

  • Have you talked about your work to people for at least a year?
  • Does your idea “have legs“?
  • Have you made some sales? Every idea about your value is theoretical until a real client pays real cash.

Not ready for a rebrand? That’s okay. See 5 reasons you don’t need a fancy business card.

Design Kompany's cards
Our old business cards. When we left Seattle, we never printed new ones.

4. Am I hoping for a miracle?

The other day we saw the “space pen” at a store downtown. Akira said, “Remember the space pen? Trying so hard to engineer it so ink doesn’t spill? And the solution: use pencil.”

Are you sure design is going to fix your marketing problem?

Don’t delude yourself. A fancy rebrand won’t fool people. You have to create something of value. If you don’t know what that something is, simply repackaging is NOT going to help.

As an architect client of ours put it, “That’s just applique.”

It’s true.

Applied cosmetics, when you don’t know what the soul of a thing is, doesn’t change the problem.

Strategic operations people, systems engineers, and yours truly at DK always like to geek out about making sure you’re trying to solve the right problem.

Just be warned, there is no magic bullet.

5. Am I aware of the power of well-considered brand design?

The design process, done well, can be truly engaging. Even life transforming, I’ll go so far as to say. In a lot of ways, it’s deep self-reflection. People we’ve worked for have told us they get way more than they thought for the price tag of a brand design. For a rebrand to really work, you have to think it through completely. You don’t want to get frustrated with someone thinking small.

A lot of times, people say they want to think about marketing but what they really just want is a quick fix. Sales are down. People are leaving. Something isn’t right. “Let’s rename. Let’s rebrand.”

Fair enough—sometimes a new energy to galvanize creative thinking is helpful, and a third party like a design studio could be helpful to spark it. But really, be honest. Do you want to answer the hard questions: “What do I do really well? Why does this matter?”

This is a good overview of how design can drive your marketing strategy:

The Brand Gap
The Brand Gap on Slideshare.

6. Am I ready to get personal?

It takes a lot of time to think about the right questions. It’s introspective. Personal. Hard. Are you ready to think with people who can help you find clarity? Do you want a rebrand that’s genuine and compelling? Are you ready to invest in a relationship with that team that goes beyond, “Voila! Here’s your new logo!”

If all you need is a new logo, and it doesn’t matter if it stands for anything significant, a Craigslist freelancer or one of the sites I mentioned above might just be the way to go. It’ll look fine. If “fine” is enough for you, that’s cool.

More on crowdsourced logos in the side note below.

7. Do I care?

Why would this even be a question?

But it’s the number one thing to ask yourself. Because if you don’t care, no one will. If you’re not passionate, it will totally show. If you try to sell something, and you yourself haven’t bought into it, forget it.

An idea, a way of looking at things, a recommendation, a product, and a service: all these convince others if and only if you personally have woven them into your life.

There’s only one thing that separates the winners from the rest: in addition to being good, they care.

DK is big into deep back-end query, which is essential to inform any authentic design built to last.

It’s like those 800 year-old temples in Japan built of wood. Those carpenters really wanted to think through their craft so they made something strong, beautiful, and lasting.

Side note about crowdsourced logos

You might think, “Hey, I’m not investing that much, anyway. Why not?”

Here’s why not.

If the logo design you got off 99designs.com or ELance.com isn’t working for you, it isn’t all the designers’ fault. The quality you’ll get is only going to be as good as the brief you give them. In other words, how much thinking you do before you outsource design will directly influence what quality you’ll get back.

Some years ago I heard a startup’s founder talk about ELance. She had invested a LOT of time into thinking about her competitive edge. In hindsight, she was new and starting so plonking down a lot of cash for a brand design up front probably wouldn’t have been smart. But here’s my knee-jerk reaction about ELance based on that encounter.

Most designers just want a freelance gig that allows them to “be creative.” They won’t tell you your idea is vague. Getting into a dialogue about marketing, to them, isn’t “creative” work. But of course, it totally, one-thousand percent is.

It’s not their fault. Some people want so badly to be “creative” they moonlight for crowdsourcing sites like the ones I mentioned above. Others will design a logo for you for $50.

Be choosy about your designer. How do you know they can think in depth about your rebrand? In your interview, ask what their design process is. Make sure you see lots of iterations for thinking about ideas.

We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.


  1. Michael DiFrisco

    A logo change–or even a complete rebranding–is a fact of business life. Businesses need to remain relevant, authentic, and differentiated in the minds of their target audiences. Sometimes that means building a new foundation on which to base your strategy. Here’s a simple test to see if you’re business is ripe for rebranding:

  2. Martin

    i think if you are successful in a business you need re branding, but you can try new things, but totally change your view is not the good idea i think so

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