renaming Tag

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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Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Has Lost Its Brand

Although we understand the critical importance of trademarks in preventing others from profiting from your intellectual property, we are disappointed in the move by Delaware North to try to extract $51 million from the National Park Service for a shortlist of iconic location names in Yosemite Park. To us, Delaware North is holding these properties for ransom from the American people, for a few historic names that will have little to no value anywhere else.

Let’s back up a minute – last year, Delaware North lost the contract to run hotels and concessions at Yosemite National Park. Shortly thereafter Delaware filed suit, claiming that the Park Service (or its new contracted vendor) no longer has the right to use the familiar and iconic names of historic park facilities (Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Park, Badger Pass, the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, and Wawona Hotel). It turns out the Park service had never trademarked the names, so Delaware North took advantage of the situation and trademarked them themselves. Rather than pay a ransom to use the names, The Park Service has agreed to create new names for the facilities.

READ MORE

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When Naming or Renaming, Go Short

Brand logoIs there a correlation between the length of a name and success? It is human nature to shorten words to make communication easier and more efficient. People will eliminate the unnecessary part of the word, while keeping the meaningful part:

  • Omnibus becomes bus
  • Motion picture becomes movie
  • Television becomes TV
  • Gasoline becomes gas
  • Coca-Cola becomes Coke

Since companies don’t want to put obstacles in the way of communicating their names, short communicative names of one or two syllables are generally more successful. For example:

  • Apple
  • Target
  • Chevron
  • Dell
  • Nike
  • Visa

Short and Successful

This human tendency to shorten names can have a direct impact on your organization’s value. A recent story in The Harvard Business Review noted new research demonstrating that companies with short, easy-to-process names were more likely to attract investors, generate more stock trading and have higher valuations.

According to the study “Company Name Fluency, Investor Recognition, and Firm Value,” corporate renaming generally increased a name’s “fluency” and as a result translated into more value. Shortening name length by one word could result in a $3.75 million increase in value for a mid-size company.

Renaming

If your organization doesn’t have a short, simple name, what can you do?

Sometimes the public renames your organization for you. The San Francisco 49ers become the Niners. Nicknames like this convey fondness and familiarity. Sometimes they can be prompted. One of my favorite billboards in New York read: Our name is The Irving National Bank and Trust Corporation (You can call us Irving.)

We often see a long, cumbersome name as the result of a merger or acquisition. The investment bankers and lawyers who are involved aren’t thinking about corporate identity strategy. They’re thinking about closing the deal, and they don’t want the name to get in the way.

Yet this creates problems down the road in ways that end up costing the organization. If a company name is long and difficult to shorten, often the only hope is to go to initials. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers goes by PwC. But initials make weak names. They are difficult to remember, easily confused and hard to relate to—unless billions of dollars are spent over decades to make them familiar (e.g., IBM, NBC, GE).

The better course? Even in the case of a merger or acquisition, it’s usually better to look forward to the opportunity of a shorter, more fluent name instead of backward. When in doubt, go short.

Learn about Marshall’s work in naming and naming systems.

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