Any conversation about the cost of rebranding should begin with reminder that at the end of the day, rebranding is not a cost, but rather an investment. One that, if done properly, will yield exponential returns over the life of your business. That said, “How much does a rebrand cost?” and “How long will it take?” are questions every company needs to ask.
When it comes to branding, the answer to each of these questions (like it is for so many things in business) is “it depends.” A small business with five employees and a customer base confined to a 25-mile radius requires a much different rebranding solution than a Fortune 500 company with 100,000 employees that is expanding globally. While rebranding can cost millions of dollars and span across multiple years, most companies can expect to invest $50,000 to $150,000 and four to eight months to transform their brand.
How Much Does Rebranding Cost?
When we’re approached by a company wanting to know how much a rebrand will cost, we start by asking them a few questions:
How long has the brand been around?
How many sub-brands, if any, do you have?
How many employees do you have?
How many customers do you have?
Is your geographic reach domestic or international?
How competitive is your industry?
What are your top business goals?
When do you need to achieve these goals by?
What problem are you trying to solve?
What would a successful outcome look like?
What is your budget for this project?
What is your timeline for implementation?
The answers to these important questions will help determine what type of rebranding approach is best for your company. We recently did a rebrand for a small business that was extremely profitable because of an uncomplicated business model and low overhead. While the company was small, however, their needs were not. They had no idea how their customers perceived them. They didn’t know how to differentiate themselves from their competition. Their company name was confusing and meaningless. Their brand identity was stale and outdated. This “small” business required the same rebranding solutions as some of our largest clients.
While there’s often a correlation between the size of a company and the amount it should invest in a rebrand, what’s more important is the nature of its challenges and opportunities. Small companies can have complex needs and/or ambitious goals. Conversely, large companies can have relatively simple needs and more basic objectives.
Whether large or small, your brand exists across a variety of touchpoints, each a distinct opportunity that can be leveraged to communicate your message. Central to the cost of rebranding is determining which of these touchpoints are best utilized considering your brand’s unique needs and budget parameters.
In what follows, we’ll look at some typical rebranding cost and timeline estimates in three distinct levels of increasing size and complexity. Your company’s needs likely fall somewhere along the spectrum, but not necessarily squarely within one level or another. Remember, the rebranding approach that’s right for your company is not necessarily determined by your annual revenue, but rather the nature and complexity of your needs. The levels are meant to be a practical guide for estimating the scope of your rebrand, not fixed packages.
The most basic branding level, the brand refresh, is best for businesses with relatively simple needs. A brand refresh typically includes the following components:
Elements like Discovery, Identity, and Stationery are going to cost more or less the same for every brand refresh. The variables most likely to determine the cost and duration of this type of rebrand are the size and complexity of your website needs. Does your site need to be a sophisticated lead generation tool or will it mainly be used as an engaging online brochure? Will it require numerous layouts including a blog, or can you get away with a streamlined single-page site? What types of functionality like ecommerce, document management or memberships will your website require? Since a well-designed website is the centerpiece of any brand refresh, the answers to these questions will the determine the time and budget you’ll need to invest on the initiative as a whole.
Another element in the brand refresh that’s different for every brand is photography. We always recommend original photography, for example, as it imbues your brand experience with a palpable authenticity you just can’t get from stock photos. For some brands, however, the need for original photography can be minimized or even eliminated depending on the nature of its offerings, number of employees, etc. When it comes to photography, the unique needs of your brand will dictate where your investment is best allocated and where you can find places to save time and money.
The next level of rebranding is the brand reboot. A brand reboot is best for companies who are dealing with the systemic issues that typically accompany business growth and/or age. A newer company on the fast-track to outgrowing its original brand should be thinking about fundamental shifts in branding that will stand the test of time. Conversely, a company that has been around for decades but never updated its brand requires profound, strategic changes as well.
A brand reboot typically includes elements such as:
Naming and Tagline
The major difference between a brand refresh and a brand reboot is that the latter includes comprehensive research and strategy. Are you struggling to differentiate your company or articulate your unique value propositions? Is your brand misaligned internally and/or externally? Are you unable to effectively communicate to each of your distinct audience segments? These are the type of critical challenges addressed by the brand reboot.
On the research side of things, a brand reboot typically includes a limited amount of internal research to understand how the brand is perceived by key internal stakeholders. This comprises one-on-one interviews with a handful of members of the executive team.
In addition to internal research, a brand reboot should feature in-depth customer research to glean a comprehensive understanding of current brand perceptions. The cost and duration of the customer research phase depends on a few factors. How large is your customer base? How many unique customer segments do you serve? Will the research entail one-on-one customer interviewsand quantitative surveys? How many different customer personas must be developed?
Another important facet of the research conducted in a brand reboot is the brand audit. The brand audit includes both an internal audit and competitive audit. These audits give you answers to questions like, how does your brand fit into the competitive landscape? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competition? What is your brand doing wrong and what is it doing right? If there are things that are working well with your current brand, it’s important to identify them so that you can preserve them in your brand’s new iteration.
The strategy side of the brand reboot is where you define the psychological makeup of your brand, and position it for growth and success. Core messaging, brand personality, competitive advantage, brand promise—these are the foundational elements that are revealed during the strategy phase. Strategy is essential for companies that have big goals, particularly those around increased growth or expansion into new markets. Does your company have ambitious objectives that are five to ten years out? If so, brand strategy is indispensable. It is both the roadmap to future success and the blueprint for the brand that will get you there.
Another variable area of scope in a brand reboot is renaming. Has your company outgrown its current name? Have its offerings or geographical reach expanded? Do you need to divorce your brand from negative associations with its current name? Or is your brand vision no longer embodied by your current moniker? Renaming is a powerful and often unavoidable initiative. But it can tack on thousands of dollars to the cost of a rebrand, as it usually requires weeks of research, brainstorming, and vetting.
The final rebranding level, the brand overhaul, is best suited for companies with wide-ranging and complex challenges. For a company that is an established enterprise, often with a global presence, rebranding is complicated by the size and complexity of its business model.
Qualitative research consists of interviewing internal stakeholders to better understand how they think about your brand. Participants usually include targeted segments of the workforce such as sales, marketing, customer support, management, etc. Qualitative interviews return some of the deepest and richest insights possible. Quantitative research consists of online surveys designed to collect data from a wide range of participants that will either confirm or deny certain hypotheses developed in the qualitative research phase.
In addition to brand research, the extent of a brand overhaul depends largely on your brand architecture. Brand architecture is the integrated system of names, symbols, colors, and visual vocabulary that maps out your brand and its offerings. Oftentimes this includes multiple sub-brands in an organized hierarchy. How many brands does your company include? Is it a monolithic architecture with a singular parent brand and sub-brands underneath it? Or are we creating distinct brands that live on their own?
The nature and extent of your brand architecture will in turn affect the scope of your brand identity. Your brand’s identity is more than just a logo or logos. It is the visual embodiment of the positioning work done in the strategy phase. A powerful identity will capture your brand’s defining attributes, its purpose, promise, and personality.
The number of marketing and design touchpoints also affects the cost of a brand reboot. How are you currently marketing your brand? Do you sell physical products? If so, packaging is critical. Are you a life sciences company who gets the majority of your leads through trade shows? If so, you’ll need to think about trade show booths, catalogues, and brochures. Are you a consultancy marketing yourself almost entirely online? In addition to a stellar website, you’ll need an arsenal of content for automated marketing including guides, whitepapers, case studies, and the like. Or are you a restaurant or retailer operating out of a physical location? In that case you’ll need signage and wayfinding in addition to flyers and menus.
Finally, the extensive human capital that is involved in a brand overhaul also entails a considerable investment in brand activation once the new brand is ready to be introduced to the world. Meticulous brand guidelines must be created if your team is expected to execute the brand in a cohesive and consistent fashion. Both new and existing employees must be trained on the implications of your brand’s positioning. They should be familiarized with core messaging including vision, mission, values, and brand promise. A brand is only effective if it is aligned both internally and externally, and both of these goals require investments of time and money.
Choosing a Partner for Your Rebrand
When it comes to choosing an agency with which to partner on your rebrand, keep in mind that just like brands, there are large agencies and small agencies. If you’re a large, multinational Fortune 500 company in need of a comprehensive rebrand, you’ll likely need to work with a large branding agency with a massive staff and offices across the globe. This type of rebrand can cost millions of dollars and span across multiple years.
If you’re a medium to large company, working with a smaller, boutique branding agency has many advantages. Boutique agencies are highly specialized and much more nimble. They give you the advantage of working directly with senior level staff and top talent. You’re more likely to ensure that your needs are met and your project is prioritized by working with a boutique branding agency.
One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of agencies out there claim to be experts at branding when in reality they’re just marketing and/or design firms without deep experience in research and strategy. You should be careful when selecting an agency to work with. A qualified branding agency will have a proven track record of substantive research and strategy initiatives with successful results.
The truth is, when it comes to rebranding, no two company’s needs are the same. An effective rebranding initiative must be custom tailored to your brand’s unique challenges and opportunities. Wherever your needs fall on the rebranding spectrum, though, the most important advice we can give is not to cut corners. If you’re going to invest in a rebrand, it’s always in your best interest to spend the time and money to do it right. Any savings you realize in the short term by taking shortcuts are sure to cost you exponentially more in the long run.