The question for this week is one that many business leaders have faced at some point in their history – should we change our name?
And the answer is usually that that is the wrong question.
The better and more important question is why do you think you want or need to change your name?
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When I’m approached about naming it’s one of the first things I ask. Because I don’t believe anyone should change the name of their business unless the name you have is a genuine barrier to success. Unless you know your name is costing you customers.
I’ll come back to why I take such a narrow stance on that later in the blog.
When I ask people who come to me in regards to naming, I get a range of answers, but here’s a few that always make my head explode.
1. We’ve had some problems and want a fresh start.
Changing your name will not erase the sins of the past. They will follow you, usually via the often used “previously known as” line that accompanies such endeavours. Instead of trying to hide behind a different name, try mending your ways and demonstrating that you’ve turned things around. Not only will you save a pile of money, but you might win some new customers in the process.
2. Our name is boring we want something creative and different.
Having a creative, different name won’t make you creative and different unless you are. And if you are then the name won’t matter because people will recognise it anyway because it’s what you do.
3. We’ve had this name for years and we’re bored with it.
This comes in two parts. First, names have a legacy of valuable associations and affection that organisations disregard, often far too easily. And second, just because you are bored doesn’t mean anyone else is. If you are bored with the name you have now, what’s to stop you being bored by the new one in a few years too? Maybe take a look at what you are really bored with – I suspect it isn’t the name at all.
4. Our name doesn’t tell people who we are.
Hardly any names do. Your name is a marker. Nothing more. Sometimes it’s a descriptive marker (XYZ Bank). Sometimes it’s something more esoteric (Nike; Apple). Sometimes it’s emotional (My Space). Other things will combine with your name to do the heavy lifting of who you are. Your messaging can (and should do that). Your products and services will do that. The way you do things will do that. The experience people have and the promises you keep will do that.
5. Marketing said that if we “rebrand” with a new name and image it will help us get more customers.
What we have here is bright shiny object syndrome run amok. (Unless your name is a barrier.) If your customers don’t care about you now, if what you are doing and how you are doing it isn’t connecting, no change of name or logo is going to make a difference. There is not a company that has succeeded or failed solely because of a name and logo.
As a sidebar, I’ll add here that the idea that by changing a name or a logo you are ‘rebranding’ is a dangerous myth. I wrote more on this back in 2009 – you can read it here.
So, are there any legitimate reasons to consider a name change?
Sure. Here’s a couple.
You’ve merged with another company and the new entity needs to be called something else because you can’t use either of the names.
The previously mentioned, our name is a barrier to our success – either because it is too much like a competitor’s name, or it is completely at odds with what we stand for. Or when we called ourselves that we did something completely different. All pretty extreme cases.
I take such a narrow stance on this topic because I’ve seen too many organisations get distracted, ignore important operational issues that could have made a difference and waste valuable resources – all in the search for a new name they didn’t need. Only to find that cost was far greater than the return.
See you next week.
Michel Hogan is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make.