Dec 07 2018

How Far Should You Go? Partial vs. Full Rebranding

A full rebrand is – as it should be – very rare. Partial rebrands are more common and less disruptive. It’s basically the difference between getting your feet wet or going all in. Let’s begin with a breakdown of the partial rebrand.


Partial Rebrand

Less terrifying than a full rebrand, a partial rebrand typically includes minor changes to a brand’s look and feel that don’t eliminate or replace the brand’s signature elements.


In 2010, Gap changed its logo after using the same logo for 20 years. The new logo featured the company name in a different font, with a small blue box tucked behind the letter “p” The intention was to modernize the logo, incorporating a nod to the classic blue box from the previous logo.




The feedback was swift and extremely negative. After the public’s response, Gap reached out to its Facebook and Twitter followers, requesting they submit their own ideas as a “crowdsourcing project”, which encouraged a second wave of backlash against the company. The design community viewed this as Gap fishing for ideas without paying artists for their work. Gap returned to the previous logo less than a week after releasing it.



Partial rebrands are not always about the logo. Before 2010, Old Spice was the deodorant your grandfather used, the body wash your great uncle bought… basically an old man brand. Facing heavy competition from Axe and Dove, Old Spice needed to expand its target audience. “The Old Spice Swagger” campaign was successful in doing just that.

Old Spice

To reach the desired audience, Old Spice positioned its brand to appeal to younger men by using humor, confidence, and you guessed it – swagger. Old Spice changed the name of one of its unsuccessful scents to “Swagger” and marketed it as “the scent that makes a difference”. Swagger went from being the brand’s most unpopular scent to the best selling, pretty much just because of the name change. The “Man Your Man Can Smell Like”, “Smell Like A Man, Man.” and other campaigns were viral successes for the company, solidifying Old Spice as a brand for men of any age.


Smell like a man, man


Full Rebrand

A full rebrand is more in-depth than a partial rebrand. Companies choose to completely rebrand when an entirely new identity is needed. The process can include a name change, new logo, mission, target market, and/or product service/lines.


Full rebrands are not done on a whim, but are sometimes the only way to salvage an underperforming brand. For example: a brand’s reputation could be ruined after a crisis, especially in the era of social media.


However, a company does not need a PR disaster for a rebrand to be in order. Mergers and acquisitions often result in a rebrand. Rebranding could also be a solution for companies struggling to reach target audiences, or keep up with a changing marketplace.


In September, BBC Two announced plans for a full rebrand for the first time in 20 years. The television network is rebranding to better compete with streaming powerhouses like Netflix. BBC Two focused the rebrand around 16 new animated idents to be used on both digital and broadcast platforms. The new idents were created by 16 different animators and emphasize the curve of the number two. The previous idents included the number 2 made up of various materials.


BBC2 - 1 BBC2 - 2 BBC2 - 3 BBC2 - 4


The creative, fresh look is meant to showcase the channel’s endless potential for diverse, stimulating content and creative expression. Included in the rebrand is a refocused budget: BBC Two is working on developing new content and investing more in primetime output.


Turning to a different industry, does “high fructose corn syrup” ring a bell? It was that stuff your mom probably had nightmares about. After an onslaught of condemning studies against HFCS,  the (cheaper) natural sugar replacement became widely associated with a significant increase in diseases including obesity and diabetes. This association, for good reason, is not ideal.


How did they shed the reputation? They threw it away, kinda. High fructose corn syrup won’t be found on the back of your cereal box anymore. Instead, you’ll find the seemingly innocent “fructose” or “corn syrup”. If you didn’t know any better, you would have no idea. The name change is not as honest as consumers would like a company to be, but the rebrand was successful.


Is a rebrand right for you? Let’s talk about it.



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