Brand Refresh & Rebrand: Understanding The Difference

People often get a rebrand and refresh for a brand confused. Or they don’t even know what any of it means. So, they just keep doing what they have always done and eventually start to lose customers because they aren’t offering anything new … or just aren’t reaching people.

Both are centered around a need for change to evolve within a marketplace and stay competitive to a target demographic. A rebrand is a completely new look and feel, while a refresh simply cleans certain elements up but still looks and acts the same.

Change is hard, but necessary! Follow along as we dissect a rebrand and a refresh!


As mentioned previously, a rebrand has a completely new look and feel. It entails changing the following:

  • Logo
  • Font typeface
  • Color Palette
  • Tagline
  • Key Messaging
  • Market Position
  • Brand Values
  • Brand Guidelines
  • Mission & Vision Statement

Be prepared to ask and answer some hard questions from your internal and external audiences. Conduct market research to learn more about how to be competitive within your marketplace and with your chosen audience. What do customers think of your company/brand now? What is your competition doing better than you?

A rebrand will take an investment in time and financial resources to do a thorough job. It is also possible that you might lose some longtime customers because your brand is evolving beyond them. However, if done correctly, your brand will be positioned to stand the test of time and continue to grow for the long-term with the marketplace.


In 2021, this Korean carmaker decided to go for what’s been called a “dramatically different logo”. The slogan was also changed (now it’s “Movement that inspires”), as well as the company’s name (KIA ditched the word “motors” from the name to show a full-on transition into electric mobility). As the company’s CEO, Ho Sung Song, put it: “Kia’s new logo represents the company’s commitment to becoming an icon for change and innovation.”



A refresh is a simpler process and doesn’t entail changing the core of how a company looks. It typically just includes adaptations to the following:

  • Logo
  • Font typeface
  • Color Palette
  • Tagline
  • Key Messaging

At the end it still looks and feels like the original design but is smoother and more polished. Typically, there is less of a time and financial obligation, but input from internal and external audiences is still critical to it being successful. Some market research is also a good idea to get aligned with buyer personas and market expectations.

Dunkin Donuts

For its brand refresh, Dunkin’ retained the familiar pink and orange colors and iconic round sans-serif font. However, the brand simplified its name to “Dunkin,” which is how their customers have affectionately referred to the company for years. This name change builds on rapport with their audience and portrays the brand as friendly and familiar. The departure from their previous branding also reflects their expanded menu—the modern Dunkin’ is more than a place to get coffee and donuts.



Be strategic about how you launch a new look and feel for your company and make it exciting! Additionally, make them feel like you did this for them (which you did!!). And, most importantly, create a plan that ensures that new look is incorporated across all multi-channel platforms, marketing materials, signage, and key messaging. Tell your customers why you did it, what it means for them, what it means for the company and its products/services.

Looking to take a deeper dive into a rebrand or refresh for your organization? Contact Creative Vortex to schedule a free consultation!

Small Business Hacks For Busy Entrepreneurs (and Solopreneurs!)

The year is still pretty new and, personally, I am still working some kinks out! This made me think about being a small business owner and how over the past 16 years I have learned some lessons on how to be successful. In the spirit of wanting to support the next generation of up-and-coming entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, I have listed my top five hacks for making it.

1. Focus on Meaningful Projects

Make sure you are investing your time in projects that have real potential for making it to the launch pad. Your success is based on the success of your clients and putting a lot of time into a project that isn’t well researched, funded or doesn’t have a real strategy could mean a big waste of time and effort, as well as a paycheck that doesn’t materialize.

2. Free Up Your Time with Technology

Typically, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs are trying to wear a lot of different hats to save money. But make sure, you are saving TIME too! Use technology to automate your billing, manage your calendar, organize your projects and meetings and even support your actual work. Four of my favorite pieces of technology include:

  •  Dropbox – file sharing and storage
  • Asana – project management
  • Office Time – time tracking
  • Keeper – password management and sharing

It is also important to note that you should limit time spent surfing social media to less than 60 minutes per day. Nothing kills productivity more than getting sucked into mindless scrolling!

3. Leverage Your Network

Use your network to find clients, talk through best practices, support client work and, most importantly, open doors. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask them about anything and everything. Most times people want to help and love it when asked for a resource or opinion. Just make sure to reciprocate the support in the future!

4. Be Smart About Meetings

There is no doubt that meetings are a necessary part of running and building a business but be smart about it. Here are few recommendations:

  • Only go to the part of the meeting you need to be a part of
  • Use Zoom to cut back on travel time
  • Limit the number of meetings per day
  • Be prepared and have an agenda
  • Be clear about your availability
  • Have a firm start and a hard stop

5. Take Real Breaks

We all need to recharge our batteries at some point. So, whether it be a daily work out, meditation session, lunch, or vacation, be sure to take time to shut the laptop and silence the phone notifications. Even taking 30 minutes a day to go outside for a walk or to sit in the sun goes a long way in keeping you mentally sharp to handle all ups and downs of small business ownership.

So, there you have it! Let me know if you need any more small business hacks.

CIELO Community: Night Market

Brand Project

CIELO hosted the in-person fundraiser and interactive experience A Night Market to present an updated brand and formally launch their OC MicroFund to the public, which aimed to raise $250,000 for BIPOC small businesses in Orange County. The event featured many of the small businesses that the nonprofit had supported and helped to build. Attendees included donors, corporate and nonprofit executives, community members, and small business owners.

The Challenge

This was a new event and the first large-scale community event for CIELO. Many of the marketing materials used to execute the event needed to be developed and be based on event branding.


  1. Must follow precise brand guidelines determined by CIELO
  2. Leverage current logo while working to launch a new logo
  3. Leverage event brand assets already developed
  4. Must hold the new brand in confidence until launch at the event
  5. Marketing collateral needed to be conceptualized, developed, and distributed in a timely manner to meet print and mailing deadlines
  6. Brand messaging, colors, fonts, and tone must be consistent across all print and digital channels
  7. Work seamlessly with an events management team, CIELO employees, and vendors


  • Brand Identity Development
  • Social Media Post Management (Image Development, Scheduling & Posting)
  • Event and Booth Signage
  • Two PPT Designs
  • On-site Support
  • Event Program
  • Promotional Items (source, design and print)
  • Printing Management
  • Email Campaign Design & Management
    Social Media Kit for sponsors and featured clients/vendors


CIELO’s Night Market hosted 100+ people from local nonprofits and corporations, the OC community, ticket buyers and donors. The organization raised $80,000 from sponsorships and ticket sales that was used to seed and launch the OC MicroFund. CIELO received positive feedback from all who attended on the impact of the event and grew its own awareness in the community.

Creative Vortex successfully finished and executed all the requested deliverables, as well as provided support for additional items as they came up.

Settle Into Your Zone of Genius

Ever get a feeling of energy and flow that is effortless when performing a task or activity? I am talking about pure Zen! That is a Zone of Genius and it is your own unique power. It can be described as the sweet spot between skills, strength and talents.  Most times, this is where entrepreneurs and small business owners are at and the reason they went into business in the first place. It is the passion that drove them to set out on their own and create a product or service that nobody else could!

What does this all mean? The activities you participate in typically fall within one of four zones:

  1. Zone of Incompetence – things other people can do better than you
  2. Zone of Competence – Things you can accomplish and other can do too
  3. Zone of Excellence – Things you can do better than others, but you don’t enjoy it
  4. Zone of Genius – Things that you are uniquely good at and thoroughly enjoy doing

As someone inspired to start and run your own company, it is important to recognize where your Zone of Genius lies and when you start to drift into incompetence, competence, and excellence. What are the activities that you are spending your time doing that you aren’t very good at or are not enjoying? Could someone else be doing it better? Finding the right workflow means understanding what you want, what you are good at and what the organizations needs to grow and thrive.

Working in your Zone of Genius is all about finding joy and energy in a task. Anything that falls outside of that in Zones 1 – 3 needs to be considered carefully and then outsourced to people that find purpose in the job. The task could be overhauled or even eliminated. The Zone of Excellence can be tricky because you will do it well but not enjoy it. This is exactly how people end up in jobs they hate for 20+ years! Be transparent about how you feel about tasks and responsibilities … to yourself and to the people around you.

What is the best way to realize our Zone of Genius? Consider leveraging these exercises:

  1. Monitor work related tasks for a set period … two weeks is usually a good baseline
  2. Put each task into the Zones 1 – 4
  3. Tally up what went into each Zone

This is the fun part! For all the tasks that went into Zone 1 – 3 figure out ways to either eliminate (most of the time it is not feasible to completely eliminate a task, but it is possible periodically!), outsource it or rework the task to make it enjoyable.

Understanding your Zone of Genius means embracing your natural talent, which often can go ignored because you feel pressured to “like” another job or task better, a negative and subjective work evaluation or simply because you are overwhelmed trying to be everything to everyone.

Want to learn more about finding your Zone of Genius? Check out this YouTube video!

Brand Case Study: InspirationALZ Gala

InspirationALZ Gala
August 13, 2022

Brand Project

The Alzheimer’s Association, Orange County Chapter was hosting their inaugural InspirationALZ Gala on August 13, 2022 in Newport Beach to bring awareness to their mission, drive awareness, connect with their community and raise critical funds for their mission of advancing research and supporting those impacted by the disease.

The Challenge

This was an inaugural event for the organization and followed 2.5 years of a global pandemic that kept people from hosting and attending large scale in-person events. The brand identity and promise for the InspirationALZ Gala needed to be explored and developed from scratch with the organization and Board of Directors to set the tone for the project. The event committee was composed of business leaders from across the community volunteering their time and expertise.


  1. Must follow precise brand guidelines set forth by the Alzheimer’s Association at the national office for chapter offices.
  2. The brand identity for the InspirationALZ Gala still needed to be unique in order to be appealing to the unique culture of the Orange County community.
  3. Marketing collateral needed to be conceptualized, developed, and distributed in a timely manner to meet print and mailing deadlines.
  4. Brand messaging, colors, fonts, and tone must be consistent across all print and digital channels.
  5. Incorporate the theme “Mind, Music & Memories” and the name “InspirationALZ Gala” across all marketing platforms.
  6. Social media assets that coordinated with event theme and branding guidelines.
  7. Sponsorship packet development to drive attendance and general awareness of event.


  • Brand Identity Development
  • Event Logo
  • Save the Date Postcard
  • Sponsorship Package
  • Print Invitations
  • Print ads for OCBJ
  • Social Media Assets + Post images
  • Signage
  • PPT templates
  • Event Program + Live Auction Program Insert


The first annual InspirationALZ Gala was a star-studded event that included performances from singer/songwriter Andrew Cole, American Idol finalist Janelle Arthur, and Nicholas Petricca of Walk the Moon. Vicki Gunvalson of Bravo TV! And CEO of Coto Insurance served an emcee and shared her personal inspirational story with Alzheimer’s disease. The event was attended by more than 300 people from the Orange County community.

Creative Vortex successfully finished and executed all of the requested deliverables by working closely with the executive team at the Alzheimer’s Association. The theme resonated with the organization’s mission and was created in a way that it will serve the Gala for many years to come.

Deemed an amazing success by committee organizers and staff, they have already kicked off planning the 2023 InspirationALZ Gala. The beloved theme will be the driving force for booking talent and securing sponsors for next year’s event.

Disruptive Branding

“The customer is always right”

This is what drives brands to look beyond the status quo and shake up the marketspace through innovation and disruption to reach new customers. A truly disruptive brand works to consistently develop products and services and marketing methods that rise above the noise.

What Is It Exactly?

Being a brand disruptor is not just about doing something differently. It is about actually changing the game. To make an idea (whether it be a new idea or a reinvented process) or a marketing process truly disruptive it needs to be so significantly better that it completely shifts how people think and steers the market in a new direction. AirBNB and Uber are great examples of this. Not only did these companies give people an opportunity to make money but they made it easier for customers to go and stay places cost effectively.

Key to Success

Pulling off a successful disruption is a perfect mix of market research and risk. It is important to understand the following:

  • Customer experience gaps
  • Insight into customer journeys
  • Current brand perception
  • Consumer market research and data analysis
  • Scope of threat from competition
  • Competitive pricing structure
  • Customer engagement strategies

Be sure to determine the unique customer benefits and experience for customers. Is it really going to disrupt the marketplace or potentially completely miss the mark and damage your brand reputation?

Customer Technology

Consumers relationships with brands are driven by technology, whether it be through social media, websites, digital advertising, or apps. These customer experiences are more interactive, discernable, and reactive given the accessibility and ease of technology. This provides brands the opportunities to learn more about what their customers need and want, along with how they want to be engaged by a business. It also gives them ease of access to what their competition is doing.

The technology also allows brands to conduct market research and test strategies that allows them to find market anomalies and hone in on what could serve as the greatest disruptor for the consumer and marketplace.

How to Be a Disruptor

To be a great brand disruptor, think big! Think about an innovation that seems impossible but then do the research to back it up. Maybe it is about creating a product or a service. Or maybe it is simple about how a marketing and/or advertising campaign is executed to get in front of people and create a positive memorable impression.  At the end of the day being a disruptive brand is all about the belief that customer experience needs to change. Remember, the customer is always right!

5 Steps to Power Up Your Market Presence 

What exactly is it? How do you get it?

Brand differentiation is how your brand sets itself apart from the competition by associating a superior performing aspect of your brand with multiple customer benefits.

In essence, it is your competitive advantage.

Brand differentiation is an essential aspect of a brand marketing strategy. It enables companies to reveal their profitable qualities that help develop a unique selling proposition. This way, they understand their competitive advantage and stand out among competitors.

Companies selling status quo items in the marketplace are easily interchangeable and prone to fall victim to price wars because that is the only thing left for them to compete with. Consistently undercutting prices ultimately leads to a lower net profit for the business.

Below are 5 tried and true strategies for building competitive brand differentiation.  


Innovation is really one of the best ways to stand out. Do your homework (or research!) and find out how to really solve your customers’ problems. If a product already exists, find out what the gaps are and where the trouble spots are. What are customers complaining about? Make products easier, simpler and more solutions-oriented to attract attention. Organizations that are consistently bringing innovations to a crowded marketplace are typically more successful and have stronger customer loyalty.


Does your brand have a consistent presence? Presenting a brand that has a clear visual strategy (color palette, logo, tagline, etc.) across multiple platforms is more likely to be remembered by customers, and more easily recommended to additional customers.


Is the way that customers interact with your brand unique and dependable? Customer experience is felt through a brick-and-mortar store, website, social media, shipping, customer service unboxing/packaging and more! Perhaps, that customer experience even comes from being able to customize a product or service through a website, app or in-person event. Customer experience can either make or break a brand.


Pricing can be tricky and needs to be handled properly. Companies need to find the balance between being affordably priced to offer financial value and being a premium brand with additional benefits at a higher price. To create a pricing strategy and differentiate your brand perform a marketing pricing analysis, target audience research, competitive landscape analysis, and lay out the results next to your business goals.

Emotional Response

How a brand makes a customer feel matters because it plays a big part in whether the person comes back to buy again or refers the company to someone new. Statistics show that customers with an emotional relationship to a brand have a 306 percent higher lifetime value and will recommend the company at a rate of 71 percent. Along that same line, 70 percent of viewers are more likely to buy a product from an ad after having an intense emotional response. Creating an emotional response from a customer is closely tied to the customer experience.

Know Where Your Genius Lives

Every decision we make carries an opportunity cost. If we don’t budget our time wisely, we end up wasting it, as well as our energy on things that don’t matter or should be delegated to those with the proper expertise. For example, when I first started my business, I thought I needed to handle my monthly accounting, data entry and P&L statements. I spent HOURS trying to understand and organize the money I was making and spending. What I quickly learned was that the amount of time I was spending on this task each month was significantly taking away the time I spent on client work which ended up causing me some very late-night hours and a lot of stress. The obvious lesson I learned here was that I needed to outsource this task to an expert that manages this more efficiently so that I could focus on building a graphic design and branding business.

Fifteen years later the term “stay in your lane” resonates loudly with me as I seek to create synergies with third parties that can help me run Creative Vortex more efficiently. That’s not to say that learning a new skill or gaining an appreciation for another talent isn’t still important but knowing where your genius lives and honoring that is equally, if not more so, important.

This concept also applies to creating a marketing and design strategy for a business. It is amazing to me how often people think they can do this themselves because they “know their business the best” and consider themselves to be creative or a great writer. Or they simply just don’t see the value in investing in a professional design team because they think that an online software can give them everything they need for $150 a year. Then waste hours of their own time trying to do something they are not very good at and struggle with the execution.

The examples below are the most common:

  • Working solo to customize marketing materials from a template to save money vs hiring experts with proven experience to increase sales and company revenue and hit deadlines.
  • Posting on social media sporadically with content that has no meaning to the target market (you think it does, but it is totally off base) vs hiring a professional to do some market research and create a strategy and content calendar that has relevance with your audience.
  • Paying for online ads and using stock visuals (or worse yet, visuals stolen from the Internet) vs hiring a professional digital marketer/designer to create custom visuals and assist with ad copy.
  • Paying a lot of money for a booth spot at a trade show, waiting too long to create the design/marketing and end up missing the mark because they didn’t know about the many, many details related to printing, shipping, set-up and execution.
  • Buying a discount logo online and expecting it to work for all your marketing and business needs. Please know that putting a vertical logo into a horizontal space isn’t going to work because it is so small that people can’t see it. Just because you can get a logo for $99 in a day doesn’t mean you should. Your brand mark should have the ability to shine in all its applications.

How much is your time actually worth? How much time in your day are you spending on tasks you don’t understand and consequently getting poor results for your effort? Think about how much more you could achieve and build your business by partnering with a creative/marketing professional that could help strategically guide your business and ultimately save you time and money. Branding is a process and it is important to build the foundation, which typically includes business name, tagline, mission and vision statement.

Every day we are faced with choices on how to invest our time, and we all can be guilty of the same thing: Taking on too much without properly understanding the costs. Especially when it comes to marketing and design, it is important to partner with experts that know how to create the most impact for your money, no matter how big or small a budget is.

Interested in learning more about creating a branding and marketing strategy? Contact Creative Vortex today for insights on how we can help your business stand out in a crowd.

Leveraging a Visual Marketing Strategy

Humans have an incredible ability to remember things far after they have seen it. According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules, if you hear a piece of information three days later, you will remember 10 percent of it. But, by just adding a picture, you will remember 65 percent of it. That being said, design and visual content remains a challenge for content marketers in understanding how to use it in conjunction with content to create relationships with customers. Let’s jump in and explore how visuals are key to creating great customer-brand connections that lead the way to long-term buying loyalty.

Understand Your Target Market 
Your brand’s visuals have a huge impact on what current and potential customers learn and know about your brand, as well as how they engage with it. However, if you don’t know the people in your target market, you can’t properly create the visuals. This isn’t about you, but about THEM  wanting to buy from you, and then telling their friends and family about it. These days people do a lot of research before purchasing and typically end up buying from the brand that is more relatable, even if it might end up costing a little bit more. Once you have a clear understanding of the emotional triggers in your demographic it will be easier to create and use appealing visuals that would make them choose your company over a competitor.

Emotional Appeal 
What do you want consumers to think and feel when they interact with your brand? As mentioned previously, sometimes consumers will spend more on a brand that they can easily relate to and solve their problem. Not only is color and font type important, but photos, images and design elements should play a big part in your brand identity. The visual is going to catch someone’s eye first and then ready the copy to learn more. Food packaging is designed to create an emotional reaction when a hungry person walks by. Instagram images for a yoga apparel brand are designed to make people that practice yoga frequently feel like they can move easily while doing a class. A TV commercial for a tire company is built to create a sense of safe driving for people that live in areas that experience bad weather. It is important to generate an emotional reaction that leads consumers to make purchases.

Beyond the Logo 
There is so much focus on creating a logo in line with a company’s mission and vision statement, that sometimes business owners forget that everything that comes after that needs to align as well. While it is the face of the brand, a logo can only go so far as a design element.  Use the logo as a launching point to develop a website, social media, marketing collateral, advertising, employee headshots and signage that visually works together to tell your company’s story and sells its products/services.

Do the Research
Creating a strong visual brand takes time and you need to be willing to experiment to truly discover what resonates with your customers. Don’t try to create visual elements before understanding what is needed to stand out in crowded market spaces. One of the biggest mistakes brands and their marketing teams make is to create a strategy based on what they think they know about a target audience. Basing the visuals on qualitative and quantitative research will form a strong visual strategy and point your company in the right direction of connecting with the right customers.

Research has shown that 75 percent of consumers are inspired to make purchases based on images and video content that has appealed to their emotional well-being at that moment. Having a well-researched visual marketing strategy aligned with a content strategy, as well as being on brand, has the power to make your company stand above the competition.

Interested in learning more? Contact Creative Vortex today for insights on how we can help your business stand out in a crowd.

Elements of a Great Marketing Piece 

Potential customers often see a business’ marketing collateral, whether it be printed or digital, before they actually experience a product or service. No matter what the piece is, be sure to incorporate the following best practices to create a good impression with potential and returning customers.

1. Readability

For people to connect with a business or organization, it is important that marketing materials are easy to read. Potential customers need to be able to quickly understand what the business is, the problem it solves, how to buy and where to find more information (website, social media, store location, etc). Keep your messages concise and don’t use jargon. Lastly, make sure that all marketing collateral is free of any kind of errors. Nothing throws doubt on a company’s credibility like seeing grammar and spelling errors! And, to that point, ensure that the website works, social media platforms are updated, chat boxes are being monitored and phone lines are being answered.

2. Crystal Clear Call-to-Action

What do you want readers to do after reading your marketing piece? The call-to-action (CTA) needs to provide a very clear path to prompt an immediate response or encourage an immediate sale. It should be obvious but very specific and create an urgency that drives a consumer to make a purchase. A CTA should focus on making a transaction, including:

  • Shop our sale now
  • Visit us online to buy now
  • Get free shipping when you spend $100

It can also focus on a personal engagement between the buyer and the seller. Examples include:

  • Call / DM us for a free consultation
  • Sign up for a free 30-day trial
  • RSVP to attend our event

No matter what  the CTA is, the direction should be crystal clear, free of any ambiguities and impossible to miss.

3. On-point Visual Design

If you have a great message and a precise CTA, but your visual design is a mess, all that work will be for nothing because it will be lost in confusion. Having a properly designed marketing piece for a reader should do four things:

  1. Catch a consumer’s attention
  2. Direct the reader’s eyes
  3. Answer who, what, when, why and where
  4. Organize the information and graphics

A visual strategy for all your marketing collateral will provide order and present the most important information so it is easy to find and read, and subsequently make it easy for people to engage with the company.

4. Stay On Brand

Lastly, marketing collateral needs to be on brand, reflecting the proper logo, fonts, colors, key messages and design elements that are synonymous with the organization’s brand identity. Conduct a brand audit to make sure that old branding and messaging has been retired and isn’t lurking in the shadows. It is important to conduct a brand audit every 4-6 months to maintain continuity, identify gaps, and implement updates.

Creating an easily identifiable marketing mix with strong and well-built pieces goes a long way in building a trustworthy and credible business that will consistently retain customers and attract new ones.

Want to learn more? Email at to book a free 30-minute consultation!