When is the right time to rebrand?

close-up of chameleon cold brew being poured into a glass
By: Becky Dahl & Hilary COCaLIS

This is one of the most common questions we get at BexBrands. We wish we could provide a textbook response to clients, like “refresh every 5 to 7 years,” but the true answer isn’t that easy.

So how do you know it’s time? Usually it’s when there’s a noticeable shift with consumers, competition, culture, or your company itself — a shift that’s significant enough to spark the need for a brand update.

Cultural Changes

Lily's Chocolate packaging
Lily’s Sweets chocolate bar after rebranding

It’s undeniable that the tumultuous year of 2020 brought on a lot of cultural shifts that could not be ignored. People were shopping differently, people were agitated, stressed and emotional and everyone was home. A lot. Most of the brands we work with needed to pivot in order to have honest and authentic communications with their consumer. While things have certainly settled down more, it’s important to be continually aware of cultural changes and consider if/how your brand needs to evolve.

Case Study of Cultural Change Rebrand:
Lily’s Sweets

We started working with Lily’s Sweets in 2017. At the time, their sales were primarily within the natural channel and online. Sales were at $18MM. Since the goal of lowering sugar intake was a common goal for virtually all Americans, we rebranded with the intention of growing our consumer base to include those who shop in conventional grocery stores as well as mass retailers.

We created a stronger brand block, evolved the illustrations to be more inclusive, inviting and friendly, and emphasized the low sugar benefit with a prominent “No Sugar Added” callout and the tagline “Less Sugar. Sweet Life.”


Within four years, sales exploded to $130MM and in 2021, Lily’s sold to Hershey’s for $425MM.

Cultural change questions:

  • Are there news events that have altered the overall personality of the consumer and/or within the company?
  • Are there cultural trends that have changed the values of the consumer and/or within the company?
  • Are there cultural trends that influence product usage occasions?
  • Are there cultural trends that have changed nutritional wants/needs of consumers?
  • Are there cultural trends that have changed how a consumer shops for your brand?
  • Are there cultural trends that influence the way consumers first engage with your brand?
  • Are there economic turns that influence everyone to think differently about your brand?
  • Are there cultural trends that alter your consumers’ values or personality?
  • Are there cultural trends that are change how your consumer interacts with your brand?

Competitive Landscape Changes

bumblebee tuna packaging
Bumble Bee tuna after rebranding

Now more than ever, competition on shelf and online is fierce. There are new brands launching daily, existing brands are innovating more quickly and brand communications through social media and online presence are able to shift almost immediately to become or remain connected to their consumers. Are you keeping up?

Case Study of Competitive Change Rebrand:
Bumble Bee Seafoods

We started working with Bumble Bee Seafoods in 2019. Sales were slipping and they were losing shelf space to competition. Research told us that younger consumers felt Bumble Bee was a brand for older people and it didn’t appear to be high quality.

Through our rebrand process, we realized that while Bumble Bee as a company couldn’t authentically be the cool new kid on the block, we could lean into our heritage and turn it into a positive attribute for consumers. 

We anchored all our communications with a logo that was deeply rooted in the heritage. We employed classic fonts that were bold and strong, simple coloring. Packaging for more innovative pouches leaned slightly more modern using contemporary photography or illustration to enhance taste appeal, while traditional cans were only refined to enhance a sense of traditionally and responsibly caught seafood.

Competitive landscape questions:

  • Has your competitor set changed drastically?
  • Has there been an influx of competitors with similar benefits?
  • Has there been an influx of competitor that behave similarly to your brand?
  • Has your competition innovated with new products that are successful?
  • Has your competition innovated with new sizes, or formats or more sustainable packaging?
  • Has your competition rebranded to be more engaging or relatable to today’s consumer?

Consumer Changes

seaweed product packaging
Seaweed Bath Co shampoo and conditioner after rebranding

Consumers’ needs and wants evolve over time. A brand needs to evolve alongside its consumer to remain relevant in the consumer’s mind.

Case Study of Consumer Change Rebrand:
Seaweed Bath Co.

We just launched a full rebrand for Seaweed Bath Co. The company was founded in 2010 at a time when natural bath and body care was something fairly new to consumers, so the main communication needed to be “this is the most natural”. The brand focused strongly on the sourcing of the seaweed from Maine and visually embodied a fresh-from-the-sea vibe.

Fast forward to 2021 when we started working with SBC and natural bath & body care has become table stakes. The new question became how we differentiate in the minds of consumers in a crowded shelf set?

We leaned in on shifting the primary benefit of Maine Harvested Seaweed (which felt cold and stinky) to “Unlocking the Magic of the Sea,” to amplify the benefits of seaweed and other sea-harvested ingredients. We used light-toned spectrums of color and holographic foils to help amplify the sunny and hypnotic personality.

Consumer change questions:

  • Are you being introduced to a new consumer through new retailer or online outlets?
  • Is your sales data showing a different consumer than who you originally thought?
  • Is your consumer changing buying habits?
  • Is your consumer base broadening?
  • Is your consumer aging/growing up?
  • Has your consumer found a new/different usage occasion for your product?
  • Have you launched a product that appeals to a different or broader consumer?

Internal Changes through Ethos, Pathos or Logos

back to roots packaging
Back to the Roots Mushroom Grow Kit after rebranding

Changes happen within every company. Whether it’s from leadership changes, a pandemic, or changes in product offerings, each of these can lead to a shift in a brand’s ethos (mission), pathos (personality) or logos (attributes).

Case Study of Internal Change Rebrand:
Back to the Roots

We started working with Back to the Roots in 2016. They had a line of Ready-to-Grow products which included their Mushroom Kits, Water Garden and Garden-in-a-Can Kits. Alongside their Ready-to-Grow products, they had cereal, which they coined Ready-to-Eat. It was a really tough job to get them all under one brand roof, but we managed to tie them together with a visual identity and the tagline “Food you know. Food you grow.” The 2016 look pulled inspiration from stereotypical cereal companies with warped and wild type. We even used a farmer character as a mascot.

Two years later, Back to the Roots sold off the cereal portion of their company and went all in on organic growing and gardening. That was a massive signal to rethink the brand identity — how it needed to show up with visuals and copy tone was a completely new challenge.

We elevated the overall look, with less dramatic typography that was far more legible and could speak efficiently in a crowded and somewhat confusing gardening section. After some discussion, we decided to leave the logo and colors as they were — while Back to the Roots was still really passionate about including the entire family in the magic of gardening, the focus moved from the children to the adults and family as a whole.

Internal change questions:

  • Have the values of your brand changed (i.e. are you more transparent than perhaps a few years ago)?
  • What is the relationship of your brand’s ethos to your product?
  • Is the ethos of your brand clear to the consumer at a level that feels authentic?
  • Has your product offering changed considerably?
  • Has your brand become more (or less) socially focused?
  • Has your brand become more (or less) environmentally focused?
  • Have the personality traits of your brand changed?
  • Even if your personality traits haven’t changed, have they dialed up or down significantly
  • Have your formulas/recipes changed in significant ways?
  • Has your packaging changed in a way that’s more sustainable?
  • Has your packaging changed in a way that’s more convenient?

Summary

It’s important to remember that if you’ve answered “yes” to a few of these questions, your brand may only need a small revision — perhaps a refreshed tone of voice or new nutritional callouts. Brands can and should constantly be asking themselves if changes need to be made. You will generally not lose consumers by making these small changes. Once it becomes obvious that more significant changes need to take place, keep in mind how to bring current consumers along for the ride. Change isn’t easy, but it’s inevitable, so embrace it and use it as a way to grow your brand moving forward.

If you think you’re ready for a rebrand, or just need some help making that decision, we’re here to help.

SD/CA