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Ten Principles for Renaming, from Alina Wheeler’s Designing Brand Identity V | Marshall Strategy

Ten Principles for Renaming

from Designing Brand Identity, 5th Edition, by Alina Wheeler

We’re pleased to be included in the fifth edition of Designing Brand Identity, by Alina Wheeler. This comprehensive guide to brand identity is a valuable resource for designers, marketers, CEOs, brand builders and internal teams. For the new edition, we contributed a list of key principles to consider when renaming your product or a company.

Ten Principles for Renaming
by Marshall Strategy

  1. Be clear about why change is needed. You should have a compelling reason, and clear business benefits, for going through the name change process. Making a strong case for change – whether legal, market-based or other, will help rise above emotional issues and enable a more successful and meaningful effort.
  2. Assess the impact of change. A name change is more complicated than creating a new name because it affects established brand equity and all existing brand communications. You should conduct a thorough audit of equity and communication assets, to fully understand how a name change will affect your investments and operations.
  3. Know what your choices are. Depending on your reason for change, it can be very difficult to consider change in the abstract. It is much easier to commit to a change when you have alternative names to consider that solve your communication issues.
  4. Know what you are trying to say before you name it.  Naming is a highly emotional issue that can be hard to judge objectively. By first agreeing on what your new name should say, you concentrate your efforts on choosing the name that says it best.
  5. Avoid trendy names – By definition, these are names that will lose their appeal over time. Choosing a new name simply because it sounds “hip” or “cool” generally results in names that wear quickly.
  6. “Empty Vessel Names” require filling. Made-up or meaningless names will require more investment to build understanding, memorability and proper spelling than names that have some inherent meaning. Compare the immediate meaning and relevance of names like Google and Amazon to empty vessels like Kijiji and Zoosk.
  7. Avoid names that are too specific. This may be the reason you needed to change  in the first place. Names that identify a specific geography, technology or trend might be relevant for a period of time, but in the long run they could restrict your ability to grow.
  8. Understand that a new name can’t do everything. Names are powerful tools, but they do not tell the whole story. A name change alone – without rethinking of all brand communications – could risk being seen as superficial. Consider how new taglines, design, communications and other context-building tools should work with the new name to build a rich new story that you can own.
  9. Ensure you can own it. Check patent and trademark offices, common law usages, URL’s, Twitter handles and regional/cultural sensitivities before you decide, and make the investment to protect your name. This is best done by an experienced intellectual property attorney.
  10. Transition with confidence. Make sure you introduce your new name as part of a value-oriented story that conveys clear benefits to your employees, customers and shareholders. The message “we’ve changed our name” on its own generally falls flat. Commit to the change with confidence and implement as quickly and efficiently as possible. Having two names in the market at the same time is confusing to both internal and external audiences.

If you wish to make a meaningful statement, a name change is not enough. The name should represent a unique, beneficial, and sustainable story that resonates with customers, investors, and employees.

Philip Durbrow, Chairman & CEO, Marshall Strategy

Companies change their names for many reasons, but in every case, a clear rationale for change with strong business and brand benefits is critical.

Ken Pasternak, Managing Director, Marshall Strategy

Notable Renaming

Old Name

New Name

Anderson Consulting Accenture
Apple Computer Apple
Backrub Google
The Banker’s Life Company Principal Financial Group
Brad’s Drink Pepsi Cola
Ciba Geigy + Sandoz Novartis
Clear Channel iHeartRadio
Comcast (Consumer Services) Xfinity
International Business Machines IBM
Datsun Nissan
Diet Deluxe Healthy Choice
Federal Express FedEx
GMAC Financial Services Ally Financial
Graphics Group Pixar
Justin.tv twitch
Kentucky Fried Chicken KFC
Kraft Snacks Division Mondelez
Lucky Goldstar LG
Malt-O-Meal MOM Brands
Marufuku Company Nintendo
Mastercharge Mastercard
Mountain Shade Optic Nerve
MyFamily.com Ancestry
Philip Morris Altria
Service Games SEGA
ShoeSite.com Zappos
TMP Worldwide Monster Worldwide
United Telephone Company Sprint
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Blizzard Entertainment, BlizzCon

Becoming a Beloved Brand

In 2017, when the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship for the second time in three years, the Bay Area exploded with excitement.  The victory parade drew more than one million fans in their blue and gold to cheer and bask in the glory of “our” victory. The Warriors are truly one of San Francisco’s few beloved brands. They are respected and adored by men and women, young and old, in winning and losing seasons.  People want to wear their colors, they know the players like neighbors, and they internalize the team’s struggles and celebrate its victories. This highly emotional connection is known as community branding, and is the envy of most brands.

Are there business benefits of community branding?  The W’s have sold out every home game for the last several seasons. The Warriors have become a major attraction for out of state and foreign tourists. Win or lose, W’s fans are behind their team in every way, emotionally and economically.

How does community branding work, and how do you become a beloved brand? If we think beyond sports teams, what other brands can truly say they carry this esteemed mantle?  Certainly many universities could make the claim – whether you are a Harvard Man or a Cal Woman, your alma mater is often a beloved brand worthy of your lifetime support. Other brands are a beloved part of their communities and even the world at large.  Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon gathering is an epic celebration of their game universes and their communities. Some players spend months crafting elaborate costumes of their favorite characters. Coca-Cola energizes Atlanta GA; the NYFD has become one of New York’s most beloved and respected brands, (beyond its sports franchises); Disney is a beloved brand trusted by families and their children around the world; and Chevy and VW have captured our imaginations and elevated our pulses more consistently over time than other car brands have been able to manage.

What do these community brands all have in common? Each satisfies a universally human motivator.  Sports teams ignite the thrill of victory. The Fire Department embodies bravery and valor. Beloved consumer brands provide happiness and escape. These motivators are deeply and universally felt and part of our shared human experience. Brands that are successful enough to become and remain beloved are those that most consistently address, and fulfill, these instinctual needs. They become a part of how we define ourselves.

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managing brand reputation

Managing Brand Reputation: Media Brands Live or Die by Their Integrity

The news of AT&Ts attempt to acquire Time Warner without shedding CNN brings the value of media brands back into the spotlight. CNN has seen its share of criticism over the last year –primarily from one powerful voice – but its position, and the debate over “fake news” raises an important issue for media brands everywhere. Embellishments and dramatizations may be acceptable in politics and in the corporate business world, but in journalism, they violate a universal standard: integrity. When a writer or editor runs afoul of that hard line, it reflects on the overall media brand. Inability to earn and sustain public trust can kill a brand, or forever damage a business. That balance, trust over mistrust, fact-based journalism over sensationalism, is harder to achieve than ever.

managing brand reputation

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal from a few years ago is a perfect example of how to mismanage brand reputation. Executives of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. covered up allegations and evidence of gross misconduct instead of exposing those responsible and holding them accountable. Now, with criminal investigations under way and News Corp. employees in jail, News of the World has folded and Rupert Murdoch’s personal and corporate brands are damaged beyond repair.

Some media brands have managed their brand reputation effectively under challenging circumstances. When Stephen Glass of The New Republic and Jayson Blair of The New York Times were exposed as frauds, their editors immediately made it known to the public and took steps to make it right. This American Life took the extraordinary step of retracting a story when it was discovered that a nonfiction storytelling piece on Apple supplier Foxconn was rife with falsehoods. Editor and host Ira Glass went on air to explain the failures in his and his team’s fact-checking that allowed the story to air. Oprah Winfrey confronted author James Frey for lying in his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which she had promoted. Each of these media giants avoided long-term damage to their brands by being forthright about their errors in judgment.

Managing brand reputation is essential to any organization, but especially to media organizations. At the end of the day, it’s the brand that takes the biggest hit when credibility and integrity are questioned and restoring the integrity of the brand is most critical. How media editors, publishers, and executives respond in crisis can dictate their brand’s survival.

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Creating Meaningful Messages

Meaningful Messages are Memorable Messages

We’re big fans of “Marketplace” on NPR. One reason we like the show so much is because its host, Kai Ryssdal, is an incredibly natural and entertaining communicator. In the middle of each program, Kai takes a moment to quickly rattle off a bunch of numbers about what’s been happening in the stock market. He provides these numbers with cute analogies, but without much commentary. We wonder how many of his listeners understand the meaning of these numbers, or care about them.READ MORE

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southwest culture

Culture Drives Brand Value – Where Will It Drive Yours?

I recently published an article in Inside Higher Ed describing five strategies of great brands, and how they apply to universities.

One of those five strategies is: brand inspires behaviors – you build a brand by being something, and letting that culture shape the way you behave and communicate. A successful brand strategy must lead to tangible behaviors, ways of thinking and acting that can differentiate you and your company in measurable ways.

Consider FedEx, Southwest Airlines, GE, and other brands that have become legendary for their corporate cultures. They all recognized the importance of defining and articulating not just their customer promises, but their internal behaviors for fulfilling those promises. Customer satisfaction and business success are the rewards that reinforce these behaviors, creating a cycle of growing brand strength.

A recent example of this is San Francisco’s own Salesforce.  Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO, has fostered a culture of “Ohana” within the company, a set of principles that inspire everyday behaviors against which employees are evaluated. Ohana is a Hawaiian word with deep meaning, which translates very roughly as “extended family”. What it means is that all members of a family, and their greater community, support each other. This culture extends externally for Salesforce – their number one mission is “customer success.”

The emphasis on culture has major effect. Benioff recently said, “There’s all this incredible energy in your company and you can unleash it for good. All you have to do is open the door.”

With this attitude, it becomes evident why Salesforce is one of the world’s fastest growing companies, and is ranked among the “best places to work” wherever it has offices.

Compare Salesforce’s results, and the brand benefits they accrue, to recent events at United Airlines and Uber. These two companies have dominated the news cycles lately, for all the wrong reasons.  Within each story is a tale of bad behavior and poor choices, revealing crippling or even toxic corporate cultures. People who describe these woes as “PR problems” aren’t dealing with the core issue, the deep cultural flaws that threaten the very existence of these two companies.  When United loses $1Billion of market valuation in one day and Uber has over 200,000 customers deleting its app, that threat is clear and present.  These companies need to focus on their cultures at all costs, or they will lose any customer loyalty that remains.

We hope that more companies will take a close look at what promises they really want to make to their employees, customers and shareholders, and what those promises mean for how they act, speak, and treat each other – as well as their customers. Iconic, customer-centric brands like Salesforce and Southwest show strong evidence that placing a priority on building and living a positive culture results in loyal customers, healthy companies and strong brands.

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The Importance of Listening

The Importance of Listening

The most basic of all human needs

is the need to understand and be understood.

The best way to understand people is to listen to them.

~(Ralph G. Nichols)

Watching the Democratic national convention, we’ve been closely following the protests of Bernie supporters, not because we love drama, but because we believe they will rejoin the party once they believe they’ve been heard and understood.

We are often asked what makes a strategic positioning or identity program succeed or fail. One of the most critical keys to success is to ensure that important people within the organization feel like they have been heard and understood. From universities to corporations and government initiatives, decision makers and rank and file alike are more enthusiastic and involved when they know they’ve been heard.

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honor all olympians

Honor All Olympians

With the Olympic games upon us, what it means to be an Olympian is taking center stage. To be an Olympian is to be recognized by your country as the best they have in a given sport at the time of the Olympic games. It is an elite circle representing athletic excellence, competitive drive and unquestionable dedication.

While allegations against the Russian delegation are putting that brand promise to a particularly meaningful test, I’d like to share a personal perspective on the nuances of being an Olympian, as an Olympic competitor myself (Rowing, Tokyo, 1964).

During the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, a fellow competitor and I were walking in The Ginza, Tokyo’s dining and entertainment district. We were both wearing our Olympic blazers.

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A Truly Universal Name

A Truly Universal Name

There is wide frustration with how difficult it is to find a name that is legally available and protectable in any product category or geographic market.

As a challenge, our naming team set out to see if we could create a name for a product or a company that would be legally available in every product category worldwide.

And we have succeeded! The name we created is:

Qwxzyo   

Pronounced QWIX – zee – oh

There are several reasons why a name like this could provide strategic advantage:

  • It is completely distinctive
  • The iconic letter Q is memorable
  • It is surprisingly easy to pronounce
  • The unexpected letters have impact when assembled this way

When companies have global ambitions to build a multinational, diversified empire, the ability to own an idea worldwide gets tougher and tougher. The coined-word route is a viable direction to consider.

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Why One Identity is More Powerful than Many

Why One Identity is More Powerful than Many

Many organizations – whether corporations, non-profits, or educational institutions – develop broad stables of identities to segment their offerings to different audiences. Some of them succeed with this strategy, but many of them do not. Our client, The University at Buffalo (UB)’s recent success can help explain why a singular identity lends more collective strength to an institution than can a handful.

UB is an AAU institution, which means it has been carefully selected to sit among only 61 peers in the American Association of Universities. It is the largest and most comprehensive research university in the SUNY system, and has multiple nationally ranked departments. Over the years, however, UB has had multiple names, and adopted specialized identities for athletics and other departments. These changes had a dampening effect on awareness, appreciation and internal pride.

Now, the university is committing to a singular identity, backed by a strong and unifying brand strategy, and is already reaping huge rewards in local pride and national momentum.

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Global Teamwork Achieves Scientific Breakthrough

In Marshall Strategy’s work with leading researchers at Caltech, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara and Rockefeller University, it has become obvious that today’s most important issues require not just brilliant people, but people who have the skills for working with others productively.

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of space-time gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe, opening a new window on the cosmos, and confirming Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. This was only made possible by large groups of people working together and points out the importance for universities to not only impart knowledge, but to impart the skills required for working with others successfully. This applies to all significant areas of human endeavor.

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