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September 22, 2017

BRANDING | Company Renaming is a Mindfield | Part One

It’s a joy to name companies.

It’s an art, an extreme test of creativity and, when done right, results in a bouncing baby brand with visibility, findability, differentiation, relevance – a name that evokes an appropriate emotional response in the target market: hipness or gravitas or whimsy or dignity or aspiration… It’s the beginning of a compelling brand narrative. But when naming is done badly? Well, read our White Paper on the dreaded three-initial company name.

Naming may be fun, but renaming? That’s a horse of a different kettle of fish in a nutshell. As they say.

The first hazard: the existing company name has become inappropriate or faded or failing, and these judgments put storm clouds on the horizon because they are subjective. Second, there are always timid people who believe names shouldn’t change, which adds rumblings of thunder to the clouds. Third, there are fears of losing brand equity/visibility/reputation/whatever if the transition is badly handled. Rainfall.

The process can never be free of risk or conflict, since the cost-to-benefit ratio is always a legitimate concern. Will you lose customers? Good will? Trust? Credibility? Or just the cost of printing new stationery? Will the new name communicate growth, weakness, opportunity, panic, power, instability, confidence?

Before you take the plunge, chew on these:

1. Do your homework. What do your stakeholders (outside and inside) believe and perceive now? Some answers can come from research, such as how much equity is in your current identity. Some answers can only come from within, such as, should we invest in and trust research? What’s our tolerance for risk? What’s cast in concrete?

2. If you’re legally obliged to change, start without delay. The IP lawyers from that other company will not be patient.

3. If you’re not legally obliged to change, start without delay. Why procrastinate? Set a schedule and a budget, then start the ignition.

4. Evolution, not revolution. Customers hate sudden drastic changes. Make sure you do your spadework first, telling them what’s going to happen, then tell them it’s happening, then tell them it happened. Employees first, customers/distributors second, prospects next, the general public eventually. Be aware that sometimes, name changes have to occur in stages.