HOW TO WRITE A REBRANDING BRIEF (TEMPLATE INCLUDED!)

BRANDING

Woman pointing at sticky notes on whiteboard in an office

CONTENTS

27 min read

Say hello to the latest addition in our “how to write a brief” series, where we’re looking at how to write a rebranding brief.

So far, we’ve covered:

But today, we’re talking about rebranding projects, and the brief that should accompany them.

Again, we’ve included a free rebranding brief template (we don’t half spoil you lucky lot!)

Let’s take a look at some of the rebranding projects you could have in mind:

  • Competitor differentiation
  • Company merger
  • Realignment of values
  • Target new markets
  • Brand refresh

There are plenty of different reasons to rebrand and types of rebranding projects out there. And a solid rebranding brief underpins them all.

Ready? Let’s get cracking!

What Makes a Rebranding Brief Different to a Plain Old Design Brief or Branding Brief?

As we’ve mentioned in our previous posts on writing web design, design and branding briefs, your rebranding brief is a vital tool for communicating your ideas to your chosen agency. In this case, your brand agency.

However, compared with a branding brief or RFP (request for proposal), the beauty of a rebranding brief is that you should hopefully have a much clearer idea of what you’re hoping to achieve this time round.

Unlike the fledgling days of your brand where you had a concept but no clear picture of how to bring it into being – if you’re considering a rebrand, you’ll not only have a brand in place, but you’ll also have a much better understanding of what is and isn’t working.

But just because you’ll likely have a website or marketing collateral in place for your brand agency to refer to doesn’t mean that they’ll instantly have all the answers they need to start solving the problems you’re facing. Which leads us nicely onto our next section…

Why Write a Rebranding Brief?

If you’re considering a rebrand for your company, the likelihood is that your existing website or marketing efforts aren’t doing your brand justice or achieving the business outcomes you’d expected. In which case, it won’t be enough to point your chosen brand agency in the direction of the aforementioned failing website that generates groans and disapproving head-shakes in the boardroom.

We need details.

At the very least, we need enough to get the ball rolling.

Writing a rebranding brief will not only help you to take a step back and take a better look at what currently is and isn’t working for your brand, but it’ll also help to drive a better understanding of your project from all parties involved.

When contacting a branding agency or choosing a rebranding agency, you’re hoping for several things:

  • They know about your industry
  • They know about your company
  • They’re excited about your project

But none of these things are a given.

Your rebranding brief helps to make these things a reality.

No agency on earth can know the ins-and-outs of every single industry on earth. Enter your rebranding brief.

The chances are, unless you’re the Marketing Director of a colossal conglomerate or household name, they won’t have come across you. Enter your rebranding brief.

And how are they going to get excited about your project if they don’t know anything about it? Enter your rebranding brief.

Close-up of sticky notes over customer personas exercise

Who Should Write a Rebranding Brief?

At Canny, we’re no strangers to helping people with their rebranding brief.

Afterall:

They’re not easy to write, and if you’ve never written a branding or rebranding brief before, you’re bound to need help.

But, the majority of the input should be from you. The business owner, Marketing Director, Marketing Manager, or Marketing Team of the company in question.

After all, you’re the one with the genuine insight and information about your business. You know the problems you’re facing.

You’re the Hermione Granger of your brand in a room full of Ron’s (sorry, non Harry Potter fans).

So, even if you have some loose ideas around your brief, a good branding agency will help you tighten it up and get your rebrand on track.

Your agency should be engaged enough to dissect your brief and ask you thoughtful questions.

Remember, a rebranding brief isn’t the finished article. It’s the crucial first step.

What Should Be Included in Your Rebranding Brief?

Writing a well-considered rebranding brief is no easy task. And there’s a good chance that – if your brand isn’t performing as you’d hoped – you might not have written a branding brief the first time round. So, you can expect a fair amount of deleting, reworking and the occasional internal scream but don’t worry, this template will help.

Ultimately, you need to make your brief easy to understand, compact enough to retain interest, but comprehensive enough to give a solid overview of your situation.

Before we get cracking, it’s important to note that depending on your specific project, your rebranding brief might need some other things:

For example, alongside your rebrand project, you could have:

  • A website project which needs a website design brief
  • A marketing project, which would require a dedicated marketing brief

But for now, we’ll try to keep things general.

So, what should be included in your rebranding brief?

As a top level overview, a written rebranding brief should include these lucky 13 things:

  1. An Overview of Your Business
  2. The Objectives of Your Rebranding Project
  3. Your Target Audience and Market
  4. The Problem You’re Facing
  5. Project Specific Information
  6. More About Your Business
  7. Competitor Information
  8. Brand Strategy
  9. Project Timescales
  10. Project Budget
  11. Contact Information
  12. How the Project will Be Awarded
  13. Required Response

And again, depending on whether you’re writing a branding brief, design brief, or web design brief, you might add several sections to the structure of this.

For now, let’s take a look at writing a rebranding brief based on the outline above.

An Overview of Your Business and Brand

If you’re considering a rebrand you’ll already have answers to the following questions:

  • What do you do and how do you make your money?
  • How do customers currently buy from your business?
  • What makes your business different from its competitors?

The context behind your business and the sector you work in is extremely beneficial for any branding brief. But when it comes to a rebranding brief, your agency will also ideally need to know the following:

  • What’s wrong with the current business branding?
  • What’s changed since the current branding was launched?

Every rebranding project relies on all parties having a clear understanding of the business they’re working with and the sector they’re working in.

So, it stands to reason that the more you can divulge about your brand, the better.

People sat around table looking at computer screen with findings from a rebranding workshop

The Objectives of Your Rebrand

If you’re rebranding, what drove you to make the decision to take action?

Perhaps your business has moved in a new direction and you need to change your brand identity to reflect that.

Make sure to check out the 7 things your boss wants to know about rebranding. It’ll help if you have to explain (or even beg a little) your reason for pushing a rebrand through.

Afterall, we know marketing budget can be hard to come by!

Once you’ve taken the decision to rebrand your business, you have to let your agency know why.

The route your agency decides to take will look very different depending on the set of challenges your business is facing.

For instance, you may be considering a rebrand for of any of the following reasons:

  • Your company has gone through a merger or take-over of another organisation
  • You’ve grown into other markets and as a result, have outgrown your current brand
  • Your target audience has changed
  • Your product offering has changed or expanded into sub-brands
  • Your brand is blending in with your competitors
  • Your brand or website is struggling to keep up with technological advancements or customer expectations
  • Your brand no longer reflects your values
  • Your brand is suffering after a PR backlash

As you can see, each of these motivations for rebranding are significantly different and will require significantly different action to meet your objectives.

For example:

If your main rebranding driver is around trying to target a new audience, your agency will need to take a more strategic approach that might include re-evaluating your tone of voice or key messages you’re communicating.

If, however, you’re sick of seeing website clones cropping up in your industry and are ready to disrupt the marketplace, then you may need to go back to basics and rethink your entire brand strategy.

Having a clear picture of your rebranding goals will also give everyone involved a clear idea of what success looks like for you.

i.e. If you’re hoping that by rebranding, you’ll see a surge in B2C website sales, you need to include this in your brief.

Having a set of “branding success factors” can really help everyone know what their responsibilities are and will help to avoid any further branding blues down the line.

We suggest including 3 Success Factors in your rebranding brief that your agency can use to measure against. Any more than this could end up diluting your rebranding efforts.

Your Target Audience and Market

Here at Canny, we live and breathe a customer-first mentality. That means, always starting with who our clients are trying to reach. Although it’s imperative that your brand resonates with your key stakeholders, ultimately it doesn’t exist to please Ang from the Accounting Department. Sorry, Ang.

If your brand hasn’t been created with your end-user in mind, then it’s no wonder you might be struggling with those B2C website sales.

Think of it this way:

Your brand is struggling to make its mark in the marketplace. Sure, that’s a problem for your business but, realistically, it’s because your messaging and identity isn’t winning over your customers.

When it comes to branding or rebranding, your agency is responsible for designing for your customers. Not for you. (Even if midnight blue is your boss’s favourite colour.)

Therefore, it’s important that they know what your target audience looks like.

In an ideal world, running a focus session or sharing a survey with your customers will help to glean those real gems of information about how your target audience perceives your brand. But we know that can be tricky and time-consuming.

So instead, give our post about pinpointing your target audience a read.

Essentially, you want to outline their demographic traits and psychographic characteristics.

You can do this by asking insightful questions about your existing customers.

Or, taking your ideal customer and building your persona around them.

If you’re really struggling, we’ve got a Customer Persona Worksheet that you can download to help!

Of course, if you’re considering a rebrand, the latter may be more relevant. If your business is undergoing a change in direction or expansion into new markets, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your target customer.

On top of thinking about demographics and psychographics, we love asking the following simple questions:

  • What does their family structure look like?
  • What type of car do they drive?
  • Which brands do they already buy into?
  • What newspaper/magazines do they read?
  • Which websites do they visit? And for what purpose?

Answers to these types of questions can help to determine which design styles catch your customer’s eye, what type of content they get excited about and even what type of language they resonate with (not everyone wants to see ‘YOLO it’s #Friyay, peep our new deals RN ?” on their email subject line).

The section about your target audience is perhaps the most important when it comes to your rebranding brief. As such, your customer personas should take up a considerable chunk of your document. We recommend including at least 3 detailed examples.

Also worth noting: Think of your ideal customers, not your current customers.

This is where you’re going, not where you’ve been.

Woman inputting findings from a rebranding workshop into her laptop

The Problem You’re Facing

OK, so we’ve talked about some of the potential objectives of your rebrand, but this is the part where you’ll need to provide some specifics.

While your objectives focus on where you want to be in the future, the problem(s) you’re facing with your current brand focuses on the here and now.

For example:

  • What works with your current brand vs what doesn’t
  • What you like vs what you don’t
  • Things you would like to keep and things that can go

People are often against changing company names and existing logo designs. So make sure to include that if that’s the case for you.

Project Specific Information

Specific rebranding project information can be tricky to outline in a brief.

Just because you know something isn’t working with your current brand, doesn’t mean you know how to rectify it. Plus, your branding agency is best placed to make recommendations and being too specific at this stage can cause unnecessary restrictions.

Your project specification doesn’t need to be super technical.

But if you have specific requirements, it’s best to get them listed out now.

For example:

  • What does your marketing strategy look like?
  • Are there specific verticals you’re looking to target?
  • Do you need a new website? (If you’re rebranding, then the answer is yes!)
  • When do you want your website to launch? E.g. is there a specific event you’re trying to coordinate your rebrand launch with?
  • Do you have a digital or content marketing strategy in place?

Remember:

You’re going to your branding agency for their knowledge and insight. So don’t be completely closed off to changing things!

Two women sat writing on sticky notes with coloured markers on white table

Scope or Size of the Project

A general misconception is that a rebrand is simply updating your logo or website.

But, if there’s one word that sums up an effective brand it’s consistency.

So, you’ll need to be aware that a total brand overhaul will mean updating everything from brochures to business cards to social media banners, email signatures, company vehicles and even those branded pens you give out at networking events.

A complete brand transformation will mean revisiting your brand strategy, your tone of voice and every visual element that makes up your brand identity. It may even require a renaming.

If, however, your brand has just gone a little stale over time and you’re looking to freshen it up a little, your design agency will still need to understand the impact the rebrand will have on your company assets.

So, at this stage, it’s worth making them aware of what channels and collateral you’re currently using.

For example:

  • Do you have an annual company brochure that you send out to customers?
  • Do you have a fleet of branded vehicles?
  • Do you provide company uniforms?
  • Do you advertise on TV channels?

Regardless of the scope or size of your project, your rebrand will need to be rolled-out consistently across all channels if it’s going to achieve your long-term objectives.

What Things Already Exist Already (and Do They Work?)

Following on from this, try and think bigger:

  • Are there things that your brand currently have that other brands don’t typically have?
  • What sort of cost implication does this have?
  • And is it important to tackle them all immediately?

Try and evaluate as you go. Is there anything you can ditch or anything you know goes down a treat with your customers?

Remember that communicating your rebrand with your existing customers will also be a crucial part of the process. It’s not unheard of for companies to see a plummet in sales and supporters in the aftermath of a rebrand. This is most often because their rebranding strategy wasn’t clearly communicated.

So, having a good understanding of why you’re deciding to rebrand, what you’re trying to solve or improve and what that will mean for the people who interact with your brand will go a long way with maintaining current customer loyalty.

Recall Ang from our earlier section about target audiences?

Try explaining to your band of loyal brand advocates that you’ve decided to redesign your website to include more illustrations because good old Ang thought they were cute. You’re probably going to lose a few supporters in the process.

If, on the other hand, you’ve updated your website to create a more seamless user experience because you knew you were losing customers due to the lagging checkout process and (in line with your brand mission) you wanted to make it simpler and easier for people to buy sustainable household cleaning products, well – you’re onto a winner.

Your rebrand launch will be a key consideration in this process.

More About Your Business

By now your rebranding brief will contain a solid overview of your business, the sector you work in and the brand you’re looking to build.

But now, you have a chance to share even more about your business.

  • What have you done to arrive at this point?
  • Who makes up the business?
  • What are you most proud of to date?
  • Why did you get started?
  • How do people benefit from your business?
  • What is the current perception and reputation of your business?
  • What is the most important part of your customer journey?
  • What kind of qualities do you want people to associate with your business?
  • What is your brand strategy? (More on that later)

Give us the longer version of the elevator pitch.

The more your branding agency knows, the more they can help!

Someone's brand purpose shown written out on an iPhone screen in someone's hand

Competitor Information

If you’re looking to rebrand, there’s a good chance you’ve got your eye on the competitors who always seem to be that one step ahead. Or, that one you know for sure you’re better than (even if they call themselves the ‘gold standard X provider’).

So, it’s always really useful to include some competitor information. Try listing out:

  • Competitor name
  • Website link
  • What you like about them
  • What you don’t like about them
  • How you see yourself in relation to them

Brand Strategy

If you have a fair idea of your existing brand strategy, then it’s a good idea to include it in your rebranding brief.

Your brand strategy is made up of:

  • Audience personas
  • Competitor research
  • Brand positioning
  • Brand story
  • Brand values
  • Brand mission
  • Brand touchpoints
  • Brand messaging
  • Tone of voice
  • Brand identity

With your project being a rebrand, try to give a view of what’s working now vs what isn’t. Even if you have some ideas around this, get it noted down.

We’re almost certain there’ll be elements of your strategy that either no longer resonate, are embarrassingly outdated or make the people in your boardroom wince every time they’re mentioned.

If there’s any element of your brand strategy that isn’t hitting home for you anymore, it’s absolutely vital that’s dealt with before tackling any of the visual elements of your brand or website.

You wouldn’t go to the trouble and expense of rebuilding your house without stopping to consider the sinkhole that’s formed underneath it. The same applies here.

If you need help getting your brand strategy in line, check out The Ultimate Brand Strategy Development Guide.

Expected Rebranding Deliverables

One of the biggest influences of the cost of a branding project is the level or amount of expected branding deliverables.

At a minimum, we find most of our clients typically need:

  • Brand strategy development
  • Brand identity creation
  • Brand guidelines
  • Business cards
  • Letterheads
  • One or two promotional items (flyers etc)

But this is just the start! Most brands have a lot more than this to get through.

Sample Rebrand Campaigns

If you’re rebranding, and have run brand awareness or advertising campaigns in the past, include some links to the assets in your brief.

This gives your agency an idea of how your brand will be used going forward.

It also helps build out the list of deliverables we talked about above.

A man and a woman sat behind a laptop during a rebranding workshop

Project Timescales

This question often helps agencies decide whether they can be involved with your project or not. Particularly if you have a deadline in place for brief submissions and proposals.

If you’re looking for a rapid turnaround time and the agencies you reach out to have a lot of work on, they might decline the offer to work together.

“ASAP” is not an acceptable answer when talking about timescales either. There needs to be a reasonable level of understanding here.

Things don’t just happen overnight.

As a rough guide, rebranding projects can take anywhere between 8 and 16 weeks. It really depends on their scope and complexity. If you’re looking to completely overhaul your business, create new visual assets, brand guidelines, perhaps even a new brand name and roll it out into a large organisation, you’ll be looking towards the top end of that timescale.

If you’re looking at a brand refresh, with limited visual assets to be created, you’ll be down nearer the 8 week mark.

Timescales should really be put in place by your design agency when you decide to move forward.

One thing we always ask our new clients is:

“Is there an event/product launch/something else we can work towards with the project?”

And that always immediately helps get some initial plans in place.

Try to avoid reaching out to branding agencies at the last minute. The earlier you can bring them in on your plans, the better!

Project Budget

Ah, that four-letter word: CASH.

Let’s talk project budgets.

Everyone loves to talk about money, but nobody ever wants to show their hand first.

Thankfully, we have an article about project budgets, and why it’s important to share your budget with your design agency.

Think about this:

You have a call with a design agency. You introduce yourself and briefly discuss what you’re after. And then you send over the rebranding brief you’ve toiled over.

It contains every inch about your rebrand requirements, your current brand strategy, your in-depth customer personas and maybe even your dog’s name.

But alas. No budget information.

Your branding agency reads through it and comes back with a rebrand proposal.

It’s 5 times over what you thought you’d be paying. You’ve lost a few hours of your time, the agency has also lost a significant chunk of time by writing out the proposal.

By being clear with your budget early on, you can make sure everyone is on the same page right from the get go.

You don’t need to list the budget to the penny. But simply providing some indication of what you’re working with goes a long way!

Include a suggested budget if possible, if not, a budget range.

We have a range of posts about design project budgets if you’re really not sure:

Each of these should help you get clearer on what your rebranding project might cost.

Close-up of a woman's hand sketching out a process using a pen on a pad

Contact Information

There’s nothing more frustrating than “design by committee.” Erin from IT thinks your current logo needs more pink in it. Karen’s daughter preferred the 2nd approach from the initial brand identity. And Darren from the PR department loves the word ‘demystify’ (he heard it on an advert once).

It does happen. But it can be managed.

There always needs to be a lead point of contact in any rebranding project.

You need one voice of reason that can be used to add balance to the discussions and go between both the agency and the company.

It’s also useful for this person to have gone through your initial branding project, so they have a good knowledge of the existing brand. (Or maybe if it was a shambles, they’re already gone and there’s a new Marketing Director in place.)

Either way, you need a project lead and a good point of contact for the project.

Clearly listing out the contact details of the project contact, as well as the best time and way to get hold of them will help things run a lot smoother.

The branding agency should also do their part here and once the project kicks off, they’ll assign a member of staff (usually an Account Manager or Account Lead) to handle their side of the communication.

How the Project will Be Awarded

If you’re considering working with a number of branding agencies, or firing out your branding brief to several choices, then you need to make sure they know how the project will be awarded.

For the record:

We don’t believe in distributing your brief to a huge number of agencies. It’s not respectful of their time.

That said, we appreciate you’ll want to collect several proposals and opinions. 3 to 5 agencies is a fair number to approach.

Not sure how to choose a branding agency to work with?

Check out this post about choosing a graphic design agency.

Now, how will your project be awarded?

Typically, there are several elements at play:

  • Cost/value for money
  • Quality of work
  • Previous experience
  • Alignment to the rebranding brief
  • Suitability of the agency

There are any number of factors you could use to judge the responses.

It’s normal to write into your design brief, the percentage and weighting of each of the awarding criteria.

This helps to show your design agency what’s most important in your decision making process.

Required Response

The required response section of a design brief is pretty straightforward to write.

You need your agency to know what you’re expecting back, by when, and how to submit it.

It’s simply a case of listing out what you expect to receive back.

Perhaps this is as simple as:

  • A written response to the brief
  • Examples of relevant work
  • Testimonials from happy clients

Tell them how to submit their proposal, what to include, by when, and you’re off to the races. Let them get creative with the rest!

Successful Rebranding Examples

We know what you’re wondering.

After all this effort, what are the chances your rebrand will succeed compared to what your brand achieved the first time round?

Well, the beauty of a rebrand is that you get to learn from your mistakes.

You get to turn those dodgy branding mistakes into something beautiful. Something that will truly get to the heart of what your customer is looking for. And hopefully smash your sales targets.

But, don’t just take our word for it.

Here are some examples of successful rebrands:

Burberry

My mum used to wear Burberry. I considered it a brash statement of wealth and superiority, until it became synonymous with gold chains, caps and the C-word (“chavs”, not the other one!) Neither of which were appealing.

In its 165+ years, Burberry has been through the ringer. Going from a luxury style statement to being banned in pubs after becoming a favourite amongst footy hooligans, it would’ve been fair to assume that it’d die out along with its Latin slogan and equestrian logo.

But then came Burberry’s rebrand.

Creative Director, Christopher Bailey overhauled the brand to include a sexier trench coat and feature high-profile, modern-day style icons like Kate Moss and actress Emma Watson.

Sales rose 27% to $747 million in 2012 according to The Market Oracle and the luxury fashion house expanded into China and built 50 stores in 2010. As of March 2020, Burberry had a total of 465 stores in operation around the world.

Emma Watson starring in a Burberry campaign wearing a purple mac
Image from Campaign

“Just because you’re proud of your company’s history, doesn’t mean you should be scared of bringing your brand up-to-date. You lose nothing by re-aligning and re-communicating your values. But you’ll likely gain a whole new segment of customers.”

McDonalds

Grilled chicken salads. Vegan hash browns. Extensive nutritional information. Allergen booklets. Eco-friendly initiatives. Free range eggs, sustainably-sourced fish and RSPCA Quality Assured pork.

Are these the things you’d associate with McDonald’s?

Well, you should.

Maccy D’s is no longer the greasy, low-brow fast food provider that was dubbed a leading cause of obesity in the ‘Super Size Me’ documentary.

Since its barrage of criticism back in 2004, McDonald’s has undergone several rebrands to reposition itself as a conscientious choice for parents, workers, students and – let’s face it – those hangover cures.

In fact, the McCafe chain that serves up everything from a Mocha Frappé to a French Vanilla Cappuccino (without the patronising hipster connoisseurs or artisan price tag) has since become the largest coffeehouse in Australia and New Zealand. McCafe addicts in the UK can even snap up their 100% Arabica, Premium Roast ground coffee on Amazon!

In 2019, there were a total of 38,695 company-operated and franchised McDonald’s restaurants around the world, roughly 5,000 more than there were in 2010. McDonald’s is also in the top 10 most valuable U.S. brands of 2020 with its brand value of $143.8 billion placing it 7th on the list.

Not too shabby for a fast food chain criticised for giving the American population a ‘McTummy’.

Person holding a paper McCafe bag

“Take your negative customer feedback and turn it into positive action. Any insights you gather from your audience (good or bad) can help you to tap into what they really want and give you the insight you need to make valuable changes.”

Old Spice

Say hello to the new Old Spice.

It’s cheeky, it’s sexy and it’s a far cry from its wholesome, early American roots. Thanks to powerhouse Procter & Gamble, the fragrance associated with grandparents and bonnet-wearing women received viral acclaim and a whole new look.

Poking fun at its old-fashioned 1930s values and antiquated gender stereotypes, P&G became a social media sensation with campaigns such as ‘It worked for your grandad’ and ‘Smell like a man, man’.

Even without changing its visual identity, Old Spice created an entirely new customer experience that opened the company up to a whole new audience.

Old Spice is a cracking example of a heritage brand with the balls to rebrand.

Man sat on a white horse with a bottle of Old Spice for advertising campaign

Image from Strategis Consulting

“Well-considered and cleverly-executed digital marketing campaigns can transform the way customers think about your brand. By creating a storm on social media and not being afraid to poke fun at their original advertising, Old Spice won the hearts of a whole new audience.”

Conclusion: How to Write a Rebranding Brief

Now that you’ve seen some examples and learned how to write a rebranding brief, it’s time to start reaching out to branding agencies.

If you’re still not sure on how to find a branding agency to work on your rebrand, you could get in touch with us to have a chat about your project.

Remember, a rebranding brief is a useful tool that should be used when trying to source a branding agency for your project, but it’s not set in stone. It should be a flexible document that can be added to and modified as your chosen agency submerges themselves into your world!

It’s not unusual for goals and objectives to change, especially when outside influences come into play, and throws the cat among the pigeons.

But that’s fine. Just be prepared to go back and forwards to hammer out the details.

Your rebranding brief is a great initial document to have, but it should grow with your project.

Remember, download our free rebranding brief template to help you get started!

What do you think? How did you write your rebranding brief? Let us know in the comments below.