Before the launch of your company, you may spend hours, days, and, yes, months thinking of that just-right name. You begin your journey into the business world, but soon a slew of customer feedback, repeated misinterpretations of your product, or (gulp) a call from your lawyer can put that name choice once again at the forefront of your agenda. So, when do you make the hard choice to change your company’s name? We have four scenarios answering the “Why?” and “How?” of a name switcheroo.
Scenario #1: A name switch to reflect an evolved business and attract new customers
Jane Glazer started her business in her home in 1983, but now it is a 100-employee company, producing two national catalogs and reaching 35 million people annually. As her business evolved over the years, Glazer realized the previous name—Home Trends—wasn’t properly reflecting everything her company now offered, and it wasn’t attracting an essential piece of the marketplace: the younger demographic. As detailed in this interview with CBS News, she switched her name to QCI Direct, with the “QCI” short for “Quick Cook Incorporated.”
During the first two months the new QCI website was live, sales doubled. But that successful transition took hard work. “It takes a consistent rebranding effort to make a new name work. You definitely need a plan and to evaluate the plan along the way. It involves a lot of small and large details—from the logo on your stationery to the name on the thousands of boxes we use to ship out orders,” says QCI Direct spokesperson Kyra Mancine. “We also upped our PR efforts this year to get the name change out there. It has worked. We’ve been [featured] in many media—print, TV and newspaper—and won awards as well, all under the new QCI Direct name.”
Scenario #2: A name change as part of brand growth
“This summer we changed our name from Laniado Enterprises to Main Merch for several reasons,” says George Fox, marketing coordinator of Main Merch, a company that owns and operates a handful of e-commerce websites. But this wasn’t the first time the company has changed its name. “The company began seven years ago in a New York University dorm room. The founder, Roy Laniado, began by selling t-shirts from his dad's beachware store, Bargain Beachware, on eBay. He soon started a website, WearYourBeer.com,” Fox recalls. “But vendors were wary of partnering with an online-only brand, so Roy created the name Laniado Enterprises because he thought that it would sound like a more professional company with a brick-and-mortar presence.”
With 55-percent annual growth as proof, that name switch was a huge success and allowed the company to step beyond the beer realm. “We began acquiring more vendors while branching out into different product niches—superheroes, TV show merchandise, movie merchandise and so on,” says Fox. However, Laniado Enterprises wasn’t fully working. “The name Main Merch is easier to spell and comprehend, especially over the phone. Main Merch is also a much shorter e-mail address,” notes Fox, “[In addition], Roy Laniado, the founder and president, didn't want many of the third-party people we work with to know right away that he was the company owner. A lot of service providers would [treat Roy differently] and didn't seem to be as genuine as they might be if they were just talking to someone who worked for the company.”
The Laniado Enterprises name also didn’t reflect the essence of the company. “We wanted our umbrella company to have a more fun, light-hearted name that still sounds professional. We want vendors and partners to know that we are a couple of guys in our late twenties that grew up with this pop culture and really get what we're selling. We wanted to make sure that if any of our customers stumbled upon the umbrella company, they wouldn't think of us as suits, which the name Laniado Enterprises seemed to infer,” says Fox.
Scenario #3: A change because the current name doesn’t reflect how consumers think of your product
CEO Steven Sashen started his company—a “modern spin on the traditional barefoot running sandal”—with the name Invisible Shoes. But he soon realized the folks buying his shoes didn’t think of them as invisible or wear them that way. “We found that our customers began using our product in ways that were not consistent with the name. They started decorating them and making them more visible,” says Sashen, “Our new name, Xero Shoes, is more brand-able.”
Sashen notes this brand transition has come with some bumps in the road. “The biggest challenge has been timing—we've had the new name for a year. We've been putting it on our product for six months. But the website build has taken way longer than expected. We've had a few trade shows and magazine articles where we needed to use the new name and special deals for advertising that we needed to jump on, well in advance of [the website] being ready.” Sashen’s main tip? “Don't expect it to go smoothly. Expect a transition period.”
Scenario #4: A change to avoid a legal name war
You may do all of the legal research and due diligence before selecting your name, but sometimes even that isn’t enough, as Eshe Glover, owner and “idea maestro” of BluePepper Public Relations, can tell you. Glover changed her company's name to BluePepper from Peppercorn PR on January 1. “We vetted the [former] name and filed for a trademark. Two years later (trademark still pending), we received a 'cease and desist' letter from an attorney claiming our name infringed upon their client's trademarked name. After several conversations with our attorney, we opted to change our name,” Glover explains. “We were a young firm and didn't want to potentially have to change our name years later after we were more established.”
Glover details all of what goes into a name change. “Before deciding to change our name, we pondered the impact on the firm, on clients—past, current, and prospective—and on brand awareness. [We also looked at] the opportunities a new name brand presents, as well as the financial investment associated with the name change,” she says. “After deciding on our new name, we pondered how to increase brand awareness, how to seamlessly transition to and unveil the new name and brand, and what other changes—i.e. services—should be made simultaneously.”
Glover suggests selecting a target date for completing the rebrand and to use the
deadline as a motivator. “Allow a minimum of six to 12 months to roll out the new name and/or brand. This will ensure you have enough time to notify all clients and customers and transition 'on paper,’” notes Glover. As you venture through the ins and outs of the switch, Glover encourages owners to outsource projects. “Hire others—a graphic designer, a web master, a trademark attorney, a PR or marketing agency—to assist you, as necessary. Trying to save money by doing it all yourself, unless specifically experienced in the various areas, can ultimately cost you more money, time and frustration,” says Glover. It is a big endeavor, possibly one of the most important ones you may take on, but Glover notes a name and brand revamp can be a positive move. Says she: “View it as an amazing opportunity to reinvent your firm or increase brand awareness.