July 02, 2009

What's in a name change.

I was listening to the radio and heard a story on the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and how they're thinking of changing the name of the state to Rhode Island. Yes the full name of Rhode Island is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It made me think about company names and changing them.

I have developed a strong brand and, I think, a rather unique and recognizable, though sometimes difficult to use, logo.

Now that I have developed a brand I find that sometimes I need a simpler logo and name. I use YAD, Your Art Director's acronym, and a YAD button.

Now I don't have the resources, or brand recognition, to change my company name like International Business Machines, IBM, did and because YAD* has another meaning, I make sure that when I use YAD it is always in conjunction with Your Art Director in some way.

In these days of texting and twittering LOL, RT and @, 2 ur friends, when is it right to make the switch from your full name to a shortened name or acronym?

Some things to ask yourself before you make a switch.

  • Do I have a strong brand, would I be giving up brand equity to make a switch?
  • Do people have an emotional attachment to my companies brand?
  • Is anyone using the new name or acronym already?
  • Is there a problem with the new name, it's acronym or URL?
  • Does my new name work internationally?
  • Why do I need to change the name?

A strong brand - Kleenex® and Band-Aid® wouldn't think of changing their names, they have actually had to sue people to not use their name. An interesting article about just that: American Red Cross Sued For Using a Red Cross

An emotional attachment to the brand - McDonalds® and the Golden Arches® have many childhood memories attached to them for a lot of people, using Mickey D's may be okay in more playful marketing targeting younger customers, but the loss of an emotional attachment to your customers could prove devastating.

Is the name or acronym already used - In many cases people base their company name on the availability of a URL. I think you should choose the best name for your company then figure out the URL. That said, be sure the URL that matches your company name isn't being used by your competition, or something worse. An article on acronym problems in the Credit Uunion industry

Is the new name a problem - It's easy to think that the company American Sprinkler Systems (I made this up, not affiliated with American Sprinkler) could use it's acronym, but it might not be in their best interest. Sharing expert information online is a great idea, so who wouldn't like the Experts Exchange, well some spam blockers might not, expertsexchange.com. The top 10 unintentionally worst company URLs

The new name internationally - When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America they didn't know that "no va" meant "it won't go." After the company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe. This is a horrible website, but it has some fun international marketing mistakes, well, I'm sure they weren't fun for the marketing professionals in charge.

Why change the name - Changing a name and logo is the quickest way for a marketing profession to put their mark on a company, but is it the best thing for the company or just their portfolio? There needs to be a good compelling argument to make a big change to your brand. Sometimes through no fault of it's own a company finds it's name has become a bad thing. You wouldn't blame a company with 911 in it's name for feeling like it needed a change. Sometimes a company outgrows it's name. Apple Computer® changed it's name to Apple® after the rise of the Ipod.

What can you gain from making a brand and name change? In many case's a lot but whatever you decide to do, be sure to build some matrix to measure the effect the brand change is having.

Some more information on naming companies.

Entrepreneur.com's naming rsources
Why Companies Change Their Name, Name Wire
The 10 Commandments of a Great Business Name, About.com

As for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in my opinion, changing the name is a waste of time and money. No one refers to it as Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, I've only ever heard it refered to as Rhode Island, they also have the distinction of having the longest state name and it's going to cost a lot of money to change all the documents and signs.

*A YAD (Hebrew: יד‎), literally, "hand," is a Jewish ritual pointer, used to point to the text during the Torah reading from the parchment Torah scrolls. It is intended to prevent anyone from touching the parchment, which is considered sacred.

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