Learning why and how it’s done, from the biggest brands in the world.


“Life is like going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk. Walk and you stay put. Stand still and you go backwards. To get ahead you have to hustle.”

All great businesses know this. Look at the history of any great brand and you will see an obsession with moving forward — you will see a history of progress and bravery, as they constantly reposition themselves in the ever-changing world around them.

In this two part blog we look at some of the biggest rebrands in history — and the lessons that smaller brands can learn.

Spread your wings

In 1971 Blue Ribbon Sports (since 1964 a distributor of Japanese Tiger running shoes), decided to release it’s own line of footwear. The company had already gone from selling shoes out the backs of cars in Oregon to having their own store in California, and a further branch on the East Coast. Their next goal was to become a global brand. Henceforth, all products designed and distributed by this company would bear a swoosh on the side, and the company would be known as Nike.

Their founder , Phil Knight, said: We wanted to become the world’s best sports and fitness company. Once you say that, you have a focus.”

In America, the blue ribbon is awarded to first prize in athletics and in county fairs, to kids and dogs. In Ancient Greek mythology, Nike is the Goddess of Victory — the very personification of victory. The core message remains the same — being the best, number one — but the image becomes universally recognisable. The name Nike and the image of the swoosh are not constricted by borders or language barriers. They represent the origins and the core message of the company, but now they also represent the goals and ambitions of the company to “become the world’s best.”

Not everyone’s ambitions are quite as grand as this, but whatever the scale, the way forward is the same. First you have to understand the essence of your brand — the things you cannot change. From there you can decide where you want to take it. Blue Ribbon Sports cleared a space in front of them, created the space that they wanted to grow into. All companies can and must do this if they want to move forward.


Next week we look at Apple, Starbucks and Old Spice — and how they overcame common rebranding obstacles.

1 comment

  1. Interesting that Nike is one of the most successful commercial brands ever, yet few can pronounce it properly (should be Ni-key, not Nyke). Proof that if the product/presentation is good, what you call it doesn’t matter..

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