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What Is Brand Evolution and How To Do It Right

What is Brand Evolution and How to Do It Right

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For many small businesses like yours, the key to growth, longevity, and market dominance is the ability to evolve.

What works today may not work tomorrow, as market dynamics, consumers’ needs, and preferences constantly change.

So, if you want your small business to remain relevant to your target audience, you have to work on a smooth and consistent brand evolution absolutely.

This includes modifying your logo, slogan, product line, or simply anything that adjusts your brand to modern trends.

Many brands have undergone drastic transformations over time. Your favorite Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Pepsi have all modified themselves in recent years. The reason? To stay relevant to audiences.

In this post, I will cover some essential branding evolution insights to help you understand this concept:

  • Brand evolution explained in detail
  • Why and how evolving your brand might be the best strategic decision for your small business.
  • Some evolving brands that wowed the world
  • Brand evolution strategy and process, including logo evolution examples
  • Difference between rebranding and brand evolution
  • Brand evolution tips

What is brand evolution?

Brand evolution is developing and changing a brand over time according to consumer preferences, market conditions, and business goals.

Brand evolution can involve slightly tweaking a brand’s visual identity, completely overhauling its core values, or even changing the products or services.

The main objective is to strengthen a brand’s connection with its target audience, increase its relevance, and give it a competitive advantage.

You shouldn’t try to make a rapid evolution of your brand as it might alienate your audience and affect your r. Instead, do it gradually, starting with small changes and growing larger over time. These modifications impact your audience’s perceptions and purchasing behavior in the long run.

Simply put, brand evolution ensures you are updated with the latest industry trends and market conditions.

Related: Small business branding guide

Benefits of brand evolution

As a small business owner, the first thing you might think before undergoing brand evolution would be, “What exactly will I gain from it?”

You can get really big benefits, especially if you want to build a timeless brand like Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Burberry, etc.

Here are just a few of what your business will benefit from evolving to meet changing customer needs.

1. Maintained relevance

Relevance means that your audience still has to connect with you; you need to resonate with them.

But times are always changing.

So you have to understand your changing customers, their needs and preferences, and evolve to meet them. You should be able to easily adapt to new trends, technologies, and customer needs.

This can help you stay a fresh brand and relevant to your target audience, ensuring your brand remains appealing and valuable.

Customers align with brands that understand their needs, take their side on social or political issues, and continuously deliver on their promise of effective customer experience. Share on X

2. More differentiation

Brand evolution creates your unique identity, helping you to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Updating your brand’s attributes, messaging, and values can change people’s perceptions of your company. You can improve your brand’s overall image by communicating that you are modern, innovative, and forward-thinking.

This can help you to stand out in a crowded marketplace and attract more customers.

3. Enhanced brand loyalty

Customers will not think twice before leaving a brand that does not meet their needs and preferences. In fact, customers are 2X more likely to buy first, stay loyal, and advocate for brands they trust.

That in itself is a huge reason why you should definitely evolve your brand over time. It assists you in delivering what your customers need, making them return to your brand for more.

4. New market opportunities

One of the most lucrative benefits of brand evolution is appealing to new audiences and expanding your reach.

Most brands launch with a single product, service, and/or messaging. However, as they evolve, they expand their product line, services, and/or messaging based on recent consumer behavior and market trends.

Brands like Apple, Google, PayPal, and Abercrombie & Fitch are good examples of companies that started with a single product and evolved.

Apple, for instance, started as a computer manufacturing company and later diversified into phones, electronics, watches, etc. In fact, the company was founded in 1976 but did not make its first phone until 2007.

Today, Apple is one of the best luxury phone manufacturers in the world, with a 24.1% global mobile market share. If that’s not motivating you to adopt brand evolution, I don’t think anything ever will!

5. Unified brand experience

Sometimes, brands lose focus of their identity as they evolve and add more products or services. This can cause branding inconsistencies, rough customer journeys, inefficient business processes, and a significant loss of customers.

Successful branding evolution brings uniformity to your brand’s identity, business model, products, and services.

It ensures consistency across channels, including visual designs, texts, colors, etc. We will check out some examples of logo evolution later in this article.


Brand evolution stages

When you’re building and growing your brand, it’s important to understand the different stages it goes through. Here’s a simple guide to each stage, designed to help you know what to expect and how to manage your brand’s growth effectively.

1. Brand creation

In the beginning, you’re focused on building your brand from scratch. This includes choosing a name, designing a logo, and setting the overall tone and look of your brand.

This is also the right time to define your brand purpose and brand elements that will guide your brand positioning.

You’re also defining what your brand stands for and its core values, as well as identifying who your target audience is. This stage is all about laying a solid foundation for what your brand will become and even creating a brand story.

Related: Difference between business and brand

2. Introduction and awareness

Now, it’s time to introduce your brand to the world.

You want to make people aware of your brand and what it offers. You build your branded website and probably optimize it for SEO. You might even use ads, social media, and special promotions to spread the word.

You also establish two-way communication with customers to engage your audience efficiently.

The main goal here is to grab the attention of your target audience and start building brand recognition.

3. Growth and establishment

Once people know about your brand, you focus on growing it.

This could mean marketing more aggressively, entering new markets, or adding to your product line. This stage is all about building a loyal customer base and grabbing a bigger share of the market.

4. Maturity and sustainment

When your brand is well-known and has a solid place in the market, you reach the maturity stage. You might even become an icon

Customers then recognize the brand with this logo/icon, and it becomes their identity.

Such items are considered trustworthy, as customers can easily search for them, learn about them, and ensure their quality.

One of the best-evolving brands at this stage is McDonald’s. Its iconic “M” is the first thing that comes to mind whenever someone talks about fast food. The same is the case with Apple.

We instantly think about the “bitten apple” when someone talks about an iPhone or iPod. Talk about logo evolution!

Now, the challenge is to keep and strengthen your spot in the market.

You might improve your products or services, make your customer service better, or tweak your marketing strategies to keep your customers and attract new ones.

5. Revitalization or rebranding

Every brand needs to update itself to stay relevant. This might be because people’s tastes change, new technologies come out, or more competitors show up.

You might need to rebrand completely, introduce new products, or change your business strategy to match the current market.

6. Legacy and expansion

After successfully updating your brand, you might enter a legacy phase. Here, you use your strong reputation to grow even more, maybe by moving into new places or different sectors.

This stage often includes focusing on being socially responsible and sustainable, showing that your brand’s values are reflected in everything you do.

Consumers prefer to connect with companies that adhere to ethical values and policies. TATA is an excellent example of such a brand.

Understanding these stages helps you plan better and adapt your strategies to ensure your brand thrives for a long time.

Brand evolution examples & strategies

Many business owners think brand evolution is only about logo design or color changes.

The below logo evolution examples may make you think like this, too, but here is a reality check before we move forward: A brand evolution strategy goes beyond visual modifications.

This journey takes different shapes, from updating visual identity to changing messaging to appeal to a new generation or a larger or more defined customer base.

Many brands have revamped their logos, added new products or services, and changed their color or messaging to respond to evolving consumer preferences and behaviors.

Here are some examples that show the evolution of branding:

1. Logo redesign

A brand is much more than a logo.

That being said, a logo redesign is one of the first things that comes to mind about brand evolution. It is an excellent way for evolving brands to communicate minor changes to their target customers.

Instagram is one of the best logo evolution examples. The platform is known for its iconic camera image logo. It has kept it the same but made minor changes over the years to consistently meet customers’ visual appeal.

In 2016, Instagram updated its logo to a more modern design with a simplified camera outline and bright, gradient colors. 

Brand Evolution Examples - Instagram logo change

Even today, Instagram stays true to its brand identity and competitive positioning as a visually-driven social media platform that encourages self-expression, creativity, and community building.

Another example of evolving brands is Pepsi. From just the text (Pepsi-Cola) to the iconic red, blue, and white ball icon with a small text (Pepsi), the brand has undergone some serious work. 

Pepsi logo redesign

When discussing evolutionary branding, how can we forget BMW? Although the brand has retained its iconic blue and white wheel icon, it has refined its colors and made it more modern and sleek. Here is an excellent logo evolution example:

BMW logo redesign

It is important to maintain your core brand value proposition no matter how much your brand's visual identity evolves over time. Share on X

2. Brand color change

Burberry shows us another typical example of how brands evolve.

The company was initially known for its iconic check pattern but has undergone several brand color changes as time and purpose demanded. In the early 2000s, Burberry’s products had countless counterfeits, prompting the British luxury fashion brand to undergo a series of brand evolution processes.

In 2018, the company introduced a new, modernized logo and changed its brand colors from beige to a brighter, more vibrant blue.

Brand Evolution Examples - Burberry color change

Isn’t it a newer, more refreshing outlook?

3. Product diversification

Product and service diversification are other forms of brand evolution.

For instance, Apple started as a computer company producing personal computers that are small, convenient to use, and inexpensive. 

Over time, it evolved from just a computer manufacturing company to a consumer electronics company with products such as the transformed MacBook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Apple's product diversification

4. Shift in messaging

If the brand values remain unchanged, a company can modify its messaging to communicate better. 

Changing brand messaging is a brand identity evolution technique smart businesses use to stay relevant to their target audience while breaking into new markets. That’s known as the evolution of brand management.

This is evident in how Coca-Cola has evolved from a brand focusing on the product to concentrating on the customers’ emotions and experiences. Initially, their messaging centered on marketing Coke as a medicinal drink.

Coca-Cola brand evolution example

Source: Smithsonian Magazine

But today, Coke is marketed as something more than soda. With Coca-Cola’s current messaging, a Coke translates to just one thing – happiness.

Sharing a bottle of Coke with someone means sharing happiness and extending a hand of friendship.

CocaCola Ad positioning the drink as a drink for happiness
Source: Peter Phan.

If you are curious about how these brands evolved their businesses smoothly, read on to understand the evolution process to do it for your brand.

Brand evolution process

Brand evolution is the series of steps to grow and adapt to the changing market demands, consumer behavior, and industry trends.

The process can vary depending on the specific brand and its goals. The stages include brand assessment, brand evolution strategy, identity design, marketing, and management.

Here is a general step-by-step brand evolution process:

1. Conduct a brand audit

Start by reviewing your brand’s current position in the market. For that, assess your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It will help you identify areas where the brand is strong and where it needs work.

It all starts with answering all your ‘why,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what.’ Doing so will define your process and direct you toward achieving your goals best. 

Some questions you should be asking in your brand audit include:

  • Is my brand messaging confusing for customers?
  • Does my brand messaging align with the current market trends?
  • How can I differentiate my brand from the competitors?
  • How can my brand speak to the market and new audience?
  • Is my brand flexible and future-proof for expansion?
  • Does my brand story reflect the company’s values?
  • Does my brand create a memorable impression on the audience’s mind?

2. Refine your strategy

Based on your brand audit and target audience analysis, develop a comprehensive brand strategy for evolution to maximize and improve the brand.

A few key elements of a brand strategy include your brand’s positioning, messaging, visual identity, and communication channels.

If you have not created a brand story before, do it now. 

Find a new story to tell to your audience that keeps your messaging fresh and engaging for your consumers. It should also be personalized for your audience, attracting leads to your brand and boosting your reputation in the market. 

You need to have a vision of your brand’s future and build a roadmap to achieve that vision.

An efficient brand development strategy is a crucial step in the evolution process, helps guide future brand activities, and fosters brand consistency. Share on X

3. Refresh your brand design

Once you know the current state of your company and develop a brand evolution strategy to improve it, the next step is to create a visual identity to communicate the changes.

Some examples of brand imagery to refresh include tweaking brand logos, color palettes, typography, and other visual properties that make your brand recognizable. 

If your brand evolution involves design changes, remember to update them in your brand kit to guide your future designs.

Related: Brand kit examples

4. Create relevant messaging

The next step in the evolution of a brand is to communicate the brand messaging pillars and your brand adjectives to your target audience through various marketing channels.

Advertising, social media, and email are some key avenues that you can use to show your target audience the changes you have made to your brand. 

One critical aspect that many brands overlook here is “personalization.” Nowadays, customers expect personalized treatment from the companies they interact with. They don’t just want a buyer-seller relationship but a strong connection.

So, whether you use emails or social media advertisements, ensure your promotional messages aren’t too salesy or pushy. You must develop an authentic messaging or narrative that establishes personalized consumer connections. 

5. Monitor your brand evolution

Once you have worked on your brand evolution strategies and implemented the changes, you should keep tracking them to see how your audience responds. This is an essential and continual process. 

If you have done all the work correctly, your brand acceptance, loyalty, and engagement should grow after the brand evolution process. 

Track your brand’s success using metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, email campaigns, and sales. This will help you identify areas for improvement.

Remember, this is not a one-time process. You should keep monitoring the progress of your brand evolution and make adjustments to your branding strategy. 

Brand Evolution Process for Small Businesses

Rebranding vs. brand evolution: What are the differences?

You are probably curious how brand evolution differs from rebranding, a term you are likely used to. Maybe you came across the term – brand evolution – while searching for rebranding.

Both terms represent changes in how a brand looks, interacts, and presents itself to its target audience. However, there are a few differences.

Rebranding is when a brand makes significant changes to its identity or strategy, such as updating its logo, messaging, or overall direction, often to keep up with new trends or fix problems. Brand evolution, however, refers to the gradual and ongoing adjustments a brand makes to its identity and strategy to stay fresh and relevant to customers.

They can be summed up in 3 main differences

  • The extent of changes. Rebranding completely overhauls a brand’s look, messaging, products and services, and internal processes. Brand evolution or brand refresh, on the other hand, refers to the subtle changes in how a brand looks, acts, and presents itself.
  • The purpose. Rebranding occurs when a brand wants to repair a bad reputation, move into a new market with a new target audience, or employ a new management that feels things should be done differently. Brand evolution changes are made in response to customer feedback, design trends, and slight changes in internal processes.
  • The process. A rebranding is usually a drastic process, whereas brand evolution is a smooth transition to a more refreshed brand identity while keeping the core brand values and story the same.

Big businesses usually hold a launching event to announce brand changes and inform the target audience about what to expect.

The difference between rebranding and brand evolution is in the depth of the changes made and how long the process takes. Share on X

Difference between rebranding and brand evolution

Small business brand evolution tips

Brand evolution can be challenging, especially if you are a small business working on it for the first time.

Here are some helpful tips:

1. Know your target audience

It would be difficult to evolve your brand according to your target audience’s needs and preferences if you do not understand them.

Before starting the branding evolution process, conduct market research to understand your target audiences’ interests. This will make it easier to meet your customers’ needs and preferences.

This will ensure that your brand evolution process is going to be effective.

2. Stay true to your core values

As you evolve your brand, it’s important to stay true to your core values and mission. Ensure that any changes you make align with your brand’s purpose and don’t compromise its integrity.

Related: Brand purpose examples

3. Update and improve your online presence

It is essential to update your websites, social media accounts, and other online platforms to reflect the changes in your brand identity. Do this uniformly across all your online platforms to ensure message consistency.

4. Be open to feedback

Before you launch your brand evolution process, get feedback on the proposed changes from stakeholders like your customers, employees, or other people related to your industry.

You need to understand how your brand changes could be perceived and, if necessary, make changes based on that feedback.

5. Be patient

Brand evolution takes time and effort. Be consistent and patient in your efforts, and you will be able to create a strong brand identity that resonates now and in the future.

Related: Branding checklist for your business

Do you need to work on your brand evolution?

Brand evolution is crucial if you want to stay competitive and relevant in an ever-changing market. 

It goes beyond tweaking your brand logos and color schemes to create an attractive brand identity.

You must continually evaluate and refine your brand to better connect with your target audience and differentiate yourself from your competitors. If you are not sure where to start, get the help of a branding professional.

Embracing branding evolution as a continuous process will position your business for continued growth and success.

Have you worked on a brand evolution exercise for your brand before? How did you do it? Share your stories!

Brand Evolution: Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

Here are five FAQs about brand evolution tailored specifically for you:

How often should you consider evolving your brand’s identity?

There’s no strict timeline, but it’s wise to review your brand’s performance and relevance regularly, like once a year. This helps you decide if it’s time to make some changes based on market trends, customer feedback, and your competition.

What are the risks if you don’t evolve your brand over time?

If you don’t update your brand, you might lose touch with your customers, fall behind competitors, and see a drop in market share.

Your brand could start to seem outdated or out of step with what your customers care about.

Can evolving your brand affect the loyalty of your current customers?

Yes, changing your brand can make your loyal customers happier if they like the changes. Or it could push them away if they feel a strong attachment to the old way your brand looked or felt. It’s important to consider their feelings when planning changes.

How do you measure if your brand evolution is successful?

You can look at how well-known your brand is, how valuable it seems, customer happiness, how much of the market you control, and your sales.

Getting feedback directly from your customers can also give you a good idea of how they see your new brand identity.

What role does involving your employees play in a successful brand evolution?

Your employees are key because they represent your brand every day.

If they understand and support the new direction, they can help make the transition smoother and show a united front to your customers. Make sure they’re well-informed and excited about the changes to share the new brand message effectively.

Picture of Christopher Iwundu

Christopher Iwundu

Christopher ‘Positive Equator’ Iwundu is a freelance SEO content marketing specialist with over five years of experience. He works with B2B and B2C business owners looking to generate and convert leads with content marketing.

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1 year ago

The Instagram app icon is classic. It went from 3D to flat because all mobile buttons went flat. It was a sad day in logo land.
Another classic example of brand evolution is Starbucks. Have you noticed how that logo has changed over the course of the past few decades?

Ryan Biddulph
1 year ago

All smart tips here Christopher. Being different in branding terms to serve and stand out is so key yet few muster up the courage to walk off of the blogging and branding beaten path. Goodness knows I have at times LOL. Sure it feels uncomfortable to do things differently. But that is why we all have our unique gifts, talents and paths to walk. We all have specific jobs to be truly helpful, to craft stand-out brands and to be of best service but need to listen to our intuition for guidance. If you ignore the intuition you will fit in, your brand never evolves and no one will notice you. Not because you work little, or, offer a poor brand experience per se, but because you looked past the small, still voice that guided you to have fun and stand out.

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