The only constant is change. If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. This is why you need to evolve your brand on a constant basis and even rebrand when warranted. A BRAVE approach to rebranding can make all the difference – like it did when Blue Ribbon Sports rebranded as Nike. Work from the outside in and think through your environment, values, attitude, relationships and behaviors.

Miller Ingenuity’s Steve Blue puts this well,

No matter your reason for embarking upon a business rebranding effort of a company or product name, logo, phrase, design scheme or other such asset, which can be mixed and many, one thing is certain: execute poorly and suffer extreme consequences. There is simply no rebranding effort where the stakes are not extraordinarily high and the margin for error is slim at best.

Building on the BRAVE leadership framework:



Begin with the context. Understand the brand’s history. Understand what is changing in terms of the impact customers, competitors, collaborators, your own capabilities or the conditions around you are having on perceptions of your brand. If you have a strong brand and nothing is changing, there’s no reason to rebrand. Something changed in the environment to prompt your rebranding. Make sure all understand that change.

Blue Ribbon Sports’ name change was prompted by its change from importer to manufacturer.



Get clear on what matters and why. Before you change anything, understand the essence of your brand – the things you cannot change. As Steve Blue explains,

A brand is not just your logo. A brand is the sum total of the messages, interactions, and experiences a customer has with your product, services, and people. To a customer, a brand is the promise of an EXPERIENCE and the customer’s EXPERIENCE of that promise delivered. It’s a valuable asset to nurture over time.

Bowerman and Knight cared most about giving athletes a winning edge.



Attitude in this case is code for strategic, posture and cultural choices – which together make up how you’re going to win. If you’ve chosen to rebrand, it’s because you think that can increase your chances of winning. This is about closing a gap – the gap created between your customers’ ideal brand and the current reality by changes in the environment.

Bowerman, Knight and Johnson chose to out innovate their competition.



At their hearts, brands exist only in their customers’ minds. Thus, job #1 in any rebranding is to do no harm. When The Coca-Cola Company changed it’s flagship brand from “Coca-Cola” to “New Coke”, the world revolted. Interestingly a large number of the people that called to complain had not actually drunk a Coca-Cola in a very long time. It wasn’t so much that the company was changing their current experience as that it was polluting their memories.

Brands with current strong relationships like Coke, Brink’s Home Security, and Kentucky Fried Chicken risked harming those relationships with changes to New Coke, Broadview Security or KFC.

Of course, troubled brands like ValuJet after its fatal Florida crash have less to risk in changing to names like AirTran.

As you’re choosing your new name, find one that preserves your current relationships while opening doors to new fans.

Winners get blue ribbons to frame and admire from time to time. Nike is the goddess of victory with whom all great competitors want to have an ongoing, intimate relationship.



How you do what you do is as important as what you do. Steve Blue talks about how important it is to “Maintain control of the rebranding process”. In particular, he suggests using a “third party guide” to make sure you’re grounding your choices in your strategic, attitudinal and cultural choices.

Remember that everything communicates. Blue reminds us that “Your logo, tagline, typography and design should tell a single-minded story”. That story must drive towards the ultimate benefit your brand provides to its customers.

There may be no better example of the congruence of these than Nike’s name, swoosh and “Just Do It” tagline.


BRAVE Implications for you

Environment: Begin with the context for your rebranding. What changed?

Values: Anchor everything in what matters and why – to your brand’s customers.

Attitude: Close the gap created by changes in the context: strategy, posture, culture.

Relationships: First do no harm to your brand’s relationships with customers. Then build.

Behaviors: Maintain control of the rebranding process. How matters as much as what.


Click here for an overall executive summary of the New Leader’s Playbook articles and links to each of the individual articles organized by category.