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

Ten Principles for Renaming

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 of brand naming 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 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 Ancestry
Philip Morris Altria
Service Games SEGA Zappos
TMP Worldwide Monster Worldwide
United Telephone Company Sprint
Ask Marshall About Renaming for Your Business
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.



Allegheny Health Network

Allegheny Health NetworkWe are pleased to announce the launch of Allegheny Health Network, a revolutionary model for healthcare delivery developed by our client, Highmark, with brand strategy, naming and identity development by Marshall Strategy.

After acquiring the West Penn Allegheny hospital system, Highmark assembled a patient-centric, progressive new network for delivering affordable, high quality healthcare within western Pennsylvania. Highmark chose to name this new model Allegheny Health Network, to take advantage of existing equity and a tradition for excellence at Allegheny General Hospital. In its new incarnation, we recommended communicating the key attributes of expertise, progressiveness and teamwork.

In partnership with renowned designer Jerry Kuyper, Marshall developed a cohesive brand strategy, naming architecture and visual identity system for Allegheny Health Network. The resulting system is fresh, engaging, and immediately recognizable. The new symbol arches upward, suggesting optimism and a fresh, progressive approach to health and wellness–its green and blue diamonds compose a larger mark that conveys both teamwork and patient-centricity.

When used in combination with a hospital or service name, the symbol, color palette and Allegheny Health Network endorsement create an immediate sense of presence and connectivity, enabling a variety of distributed facilities, services, and physician groups to build awareness for the overall network. The new system will connect seven hospitals, multiple specialized outpatient care centers, and 7,900 professionals from more than 200 physician practices into one of the strongest networks in Pennsylvania.

So far, local business press has been positive. We look forward to seeing how Allegheny Health Network’s new market presence helps transform health care delivery for the better.


University of California

The University of California has recently unveiled a statewide promotional and advertising campaign, to improve awareness and appreciation of its unique and critical value to the state of California, the nation and the world. The campaign, and the ideas it promotes, are all based on a positioning strategy we developed for the University’s Office of the President, to help internal and external audiences understand the University’s true scope and commitment to the future.

To counter the concerns and criticisms that have come with reduced state funding and attention-getting political controversy, we helped UC articulate a larger vision for California, and its role in the state’s future. Identifying UC as “Boldly Californian” and articulating its role as “embodying the spirit of California, and igniting the potential of its people”, we were able to focus attention on a largest idea that transcends short term concerns and puts difficult decisions in a grand context. This idea enables UC to continue to develop its role as both creation and catalyst ofCalifornia’s importance in the world. With its current investments in advertising and awareness building, we anticipate that its role in the world will be better understood, and appreciated as it adapts to new realities.



At the recent VMworld event in San Francisco, VMware showcased the power and commitment of its unrivaled Partner Network to enable business transformation through innovation, technology, and expertise.  This message, and the graphic tools that support it, are the results of our work with VMware to position its Partner Network as a uniquely aligned business and technology ecosystem, “collectively committed to business transformation”.

With over 50,000 partners in its ecosystem, VMware required a powerful, yet simple message that could be adopted and translated across thousands of client relationships. The notion of being in a collective effort to transform business was a unique differentiator for thePartner Network.  When supported by leading technology and continuous innovation, this story became highly compelling, aspirational and sustainable for both network participants and the customers they serve. One of the most motivational aspects of this simple strategy was the number of ways it could be communicated, broadly or specifically. From giveaways to group events,  VMware has begun investing in telling the story of its Partner Network, to increase value for participants and customers around the world.


A New Brand for a Groundbreaking Satellite Service

We’re proud to announce the new brand launch at CES of our client ViaSat’s new superfast satellite broadband service which we named exedesm . Delivered by ViaSat-1, their recently launched state-of-the-art satellite with more bandwidth capacity than all other North American satellites combined, exedesm is faster than DSL, and offers flexible volume plans to meet customer needs. The new service platform dramatically exceeds the speed and performance capabilities of existing satellite, DSL and wireless broadband. This is just one of many exciting new service offerings from ViaSat, a serious innovator in satellite technology.

Satellite Service

Exede Viasat Satellite Dish

So far the press coverage has been very positive. More people will soon have the chance to sample the exedesm speed when it becomes available for consumers, broadcast journalists, and in-flight on Jet Blue and Continental Airlines. Were confident that exedesm and its parent ViaSat will continue to exceed expectations around the world with their end-to-end, technologically advantaged communications satellite services.