Naming with Care

What to consider before you embark on a name change for your brand.

Diana Lillicrap 6.2.2020

Deciding to change your brand’s name is a big decision. Before you take the leap, here are a few considerations and suggestions to help you thoughtfully plan and enter into the process with your eyes wide open.

Why are you changing?

If you’ve decided your brand needs a name change, I’m sure you have good reasons. Perhaps you’ve changed your offerings, you are under new leadership, or your purpose has evolved. Whatever the case, take time to define the “why” behind your change and identify the compelling reasons this is the right direction to go. This will help you immensely during your creative name development process and even more when you get to launching your new brand to the world.  

Have you considered your current equity?

It’s likely your current brand has some equity. Carefully consider what elements you want to keep and what you want to leave behind. Your new name might just need to be a shorter or fresher version of your old name. Or you may need some transitional language, like Company X is now Company Y because it better represents our promise to you. For some brands, there may be other equity elements that you should use during the transition. It might makes sense that your old logo or brand image take a more evolutionary path that guides audiences along so they recognize the new brand as a natural step from the old brand. No matter the situation, being purposeful and clear during the transition will help your new brand name be more successful.

Are you prepared to feel uncomfortable?

Change is hard, especially for those who are close to or have a long history with the current brand. Don’t underestimate (or underprepare) for the resistance you might encounter. Even during new name exploration, you’ll notice, no matter how perfect a new name might be for the direction you want to go, all of the new names are going to feel unfamiliar. This is especially true when your name is more unique. A unique name will have a higher intellectual property value, not to mention the URL will be easier to get. But it will also be harder for you and the world to get on board with the change. You can be sure fanciful names like Pepsi, Clorox, and Zillow were not loved by everyone around the planning table on the first day. Adapting to a new name takes time, so don’t move too quickly. And keep reminding yourself and your team why you are changing and ultimately where you are going. With a focus on the end goals, the new name choice and brand shift will be easier. 

Are you ready for the investment?

Changing your brand name will take a fair amount of resources (time, money, energy, focus). There are the business considerations: legal documents you’ll need to file, update, or change. There are audience considerations: communicating the change and carefully bringing customers, employees, and others along during the shift. And there are tactical considerations: new business cards, new signs, new website and marketing tools, just to name a few. Changing your name can be a pretty big deal so you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons and plan for a full-scale effort before you commit.

So why should you leap?

A new name can align your brand to your story. It can give you new focus or a fresh start. It can communicate a big change (and new energy) to your audiences. And it of course gives you a new reason to reach out to customers to share the news and why the new name is a reflection of the work (or products or services) you do for them. A new name can really be a game changer for a brand. And when it’s done with thoughtful consideration, the process will be easier and the brand value will be more successful in the end.

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