July 18, 2023

Big Human’s Guide to a Successful Rebrand

Big Human eye logo on a muted background

In this blog:

  • What is rebranding?

  • What is the purpose of rebranding?

  • How to rebrand a company

  • Things to keep in mind during a rebrand

If your search history includes “how to rebrand a company” or “when is it time to rebrand,” you’ve come to the right place. Rebranding can seem daunting at first, but it isn’t something you have to do alone. We’ve guided so many clients across a spectrum of industries, from deep video learning to pet tech and erotic audio, through the rebranding process. We’ve even gone through it ourselves.

Big Human was founded in 2010 as a small New York City design studio. In the 10-plus years since, we’ve matured into something larger: a technology, design, and branding company. As we entered our teens, we knew the Big Human brand needed a big change, especially on our website (it just didn’t feel like us anymore). Earlier this year, we launched the new bighuman.com, debuting a revamped look and feel that gives past, current, and future clients a better idea of who we are and what we do. There are multiple reasons companies go through a rebrand — more on that later — but for Big Human, ours was steered by the growth we’ve seen in our team, audience, and services.

If you’re considering a rebrand for your company, we’ve got you covered. Here, we break down what rebranding really is, why some companies need a rebrand, and how to approach a rebranding strategy — with input from our director of design, Maria Surawska.

What is rebranding? How is it different from branding?

"It’s not just visuals; it’s also how you position yourself as a company."

- Maria Surawska, Big Human Director of Design

“Rebranding” has a simple dictionary definition: “[changing] the corporate image of a company or organization.” This one-liner doesn’t encapsulate what rebranding truly is, though. As Maria points out, “It’s not just visuals; it’s also how you position yourself as a company.” A brand encompasses everything about your business’s identity, from the visuals to the marketing strategy, so a rebrand can give an established organization an entirely new means of influencing how it’s perceived.

Sometimes, companies, both big and small, only do a partial rebrand; they keep their overarching brand identity but make slight modifications to other elements to stay relevant or highlight a specific focal point. Similarly to how a fresh haircut can boost your self-esteem, these small adjustments have the potential to make a big difference. Other times, major business decisions warrant a total rebrand where the whole brand identity is overhauled and reimagined — occasionally, with a new name and logo.

The difference between branding and rebranding comes down to the starting point. If you’re a new business, you need a branding strategy that defines who you are and how you stand out. If you’ve been in the game for a while, then your rebranding strategy will concentrate on repackaging your identity to represent growth or transformation. There’s a historical aspect to this; you’ll need to take a look at your brand’s past to evaluate where it should go in the future.

What is the purpose of rebranding?

“When you update products or add new ones, whether physical or digital, you’ll want to be intentional about branding and visual design.”

Fundamentally, a company’s brand is its personality — and it evolves over time. Businesses and organizations of every size and industry usually reshape their identities once every seven to 10 years, analyzing what still works and what doesn’t. However, removing redundancies is just part of the rebranding process. Of course, you can alter whatever you don’t like at any time, but successful rebranding requires a focused lift, so your motives should align with the time and effort you’re willing to put in.

While change can be a scary thing, it’s necessary in order to move forward as a company. Before you commit to a full or even partial makeover, take a few moments to determine why you need it. Our rebranding clients come to us for a variety of reasons, but here are some of the most common:

The brand identity feels outdated.

This is probably the answer we hear the most. Since design styles come and go, your visuals from 10 or even just a couple of years ago might look a little old-fashioned now. “Sometimes, rebrands are done to reflect the times,” Maria says. “If you’ve been around for a long time and the brand is starting to look dated, a rebrand can push a company into the modern era.” An outdated brand signals outdated ways of working, which tells your audience (and your competition) you’re behind the times. A rebrand is how you stay relevant, enabling you to adapt as consumers and industries do.

There’s a disconnect between internal values and external visuals.

Maybe your brand values don’t match the image you’re projecting, giving your audience a wrong impression of who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. This could even cause confusion among your own employees and stakeholders. A brand identity’s job is to accurately and effectively tell your story, so if it doesn’t actively serve that purpose, you’ll have to consider some rebranding strategies.

The target audience is changing or unengaged.

Your brand identity facilitates relationships; every touchpoint — from your name to the language you use — is supposed to connect your business to your audience. When your brand doesn’t resonate with the people you’re trying to reach, you automatically forfeit any opportunities for growth. If you want to get the attention of a new demographic or reengage the one you already have, a thoughtful and deliberate rebrand should be your next move. LEGO famously faced bankruptcy in 2003, losing out to high-tech toys like Nintendo’s Game Boy. To transform into the “Apple of Toys,” LEGO scaled back its wide product line to develop new toys with direct input from children and their nostalgia-driven parents. Seen as one of the most impressive turnarounds in history, returning to its roots led LEGO to become the largest toy company in the world in 2014.

There’s been an update in products and services.

It’s normal for new offerings to reshape how your company presents itself; after all, releasing an updated product or service is an exciting time. To bring attention to your launch, you’ll have to adjust the way you speak about your offerings as a whole.“When you update products or add new ones, whether physical or digital, you’ll want to be intentional about branding and visual design,” Maria says. “If the new product doesn’t match the existing brand, there might need to be a rebrand to tie everything together.”

The company is growing and/or restructuring.

If your business or organization is tackling a structural transformation, like new leadership or geographical expansion, chances are you’re due for a redesign. In terms of mergers and acquisitions, you’ll have to consolidate two (or more) brands into one to commemorate the next chapter. For example, when SABMiller and Molson Coors banded together in 2007, they named their joint venture MillerCoors. When it comes to demergers, the smaller company will typically go through a rebrand to differentiate itself from the larger corporation.

There’s been a shift in the market — and the competition.

The market is fickle, so you need to be flexible enough to adapt to any shift, especially if the competition is closing in. An efficient and effective rebranding strategy sets you apart from everyone else and reinforces why your brand deserves to be on top. To get a leg up on its competitors, Apple released its “Get a Mac” campaign, a series of commercials from 2006 to 2009 that depicted the Mac as the hipper, more reliable alternative to PCs. The campaign reframed the public’s perception of Apple computers, increasing the tech giant’s Mac sales by 39% in 2006.

How to Rebrand a Company

When clients reach out, they often ask us what a rebrand looks like. Though every client is unique and has different goals, there are some essential rebranding steps we follow every time. Maria notes “There needs to be strategic thinking behind every rebrand,” so Big Human uses the Double Diamond, a design process where we go wide in our explorations in order to hone in on clear action items. It’s an interconnected approach where strategy and design are parallels, allowing us to create and iterate in an intentional, artfully balanced way. 

Here’s what the Big Human Rebranding Process entails:

1. Discovery & Strategy

The trick to a successful rebranding is a strong rebranding strategy — and that foundation is laid during the discovery phase. Here, we get to know our clients, their audience, and their competition through collaborative workshops, stakeholder interviews, brand audits, and competitive analyses. Some of the most crucial insights we gather are about a company’s audience, who it’s interacting with, and who it wants to reach. At the end of the day, the audience powers a business’s triumphs, so everything we do has to resonate with them.

This is also where we assess the varying degrees of a rebrand and ask, “Are we reinventing the wheel or just pumping more air into the tire?” When we partnered with Pavilion (formerly CoProcure), we knew a rename and total rebrand would help the government procurement platform broaden its scope. With TD Ameritrade, a company with international brand recognition, we understood a new name and logo were off the table. 

2. Positioning & Messaging

The Positioning & Messaging stage can go a few ways, with Big Human handling tasks à la carte. To determine exactly what this phase will entail, we start by asking, “Does this brand have a clear narrative that everyone in the organization can effectively communicate to the audience?” If the answer is “yes” and our clients only need a handful of refreshed visuals, then we dive right into design. If it’s “no,” then we review our clients’ business goals and their audience’s needs to make sure the brand identity aligns. For total rebrands, Big Human strategists and copywriters craft guidelines that characterize tone of voice, brand personality, value propositions, and brand statements in a practical manner. As extensions of the brand pillars we define in the Strategy stage, these are incredibly important aspects of the brand identity, leading all internal and external communications.

3. Exploration

This third rebranding step usually happens concurrently with the second, so the design team is informed throughout the entire process, giving us extra time to refine the visuals. As our strategists explore the brand identity in written form, designers work on translating it visually. They create and present three possible visual directions (we call them “territories”) that include ideas for logos, colors, typography, photography, iconography, and illustrations. In some engagements, we share compositions where clients can see how these designs will be applied to their website, app, or social media channels.

4. Design & Refine

After our clients choose a visual direction, we continue to iterate and refine the brand until it’s finalized. Our strategists, designers, and copywriters team up to build a robust brand handbook that outlines a comprehensive design system — complete with guidelines for the rebranding strategy, messaging, audience, logo, colors, typography, photography, and graphic devices like icons, illustrations, and pictograms. Depending on the project, the guidelines may also include more detailed artifacts for the audience like personas and user journey maps.

Things to Keep in Mind During a Rebrand

Throughout the Big Human rebranding process, there are a couple of things we always keep top of mind. The following helps us give our clients a brand identity that’s original and unique to who they are:

Honor your history.

You don’t need to scrap everything just because your brand needs a little makeover; part of rebranding is taking a look back at your brand and honoring how far it’s come. You can keep what’s still valuable and refurbish it in a modern way. 

Stay true to your values.

A brand is only as good as its story. Your brand pillars and values define who you are and how you present yourself to both your audience and employees. Letting your personality shine through every interaction and experience will create the most impact.

Know your audience.

If you’re speaking to the wrong audience, then your rebrand will be for naught. For your rebrand to resonate and hold power, you have to understand who your demographic is and how to connect with them — visually and verbally.

Don’t chase trends.

In such a trend-driven society, it’s natural for your company to want to index fads in order to capture your audience’s attention, but there is such a thing as being too trendy. Being consistent and having a dependable presence is better for brand recognition and credibility in the long run. 

Is your brand in need of a makeover? Send us a message, or view some of our rebranding work here

up next
3D web and neon green starburst on a black background
July 6, 2023


The History of Artificial Intelligence

Series of purple hearts on top of each other
June 26, 2023


LGBTQIA+ Organizations To Support This Pride Month (and All Year Long)