We’ve spoken to two different companies in a little over a week that — among other issues — need to consider renaming. It’s a radical move when you take into account how much equity you may have built into your brand name and how costly and disruptive it may be to change it. But if your name is more of an impediment to growth than a boon, you have to consider a change. Here are a few situations when a renaming may be in order:
- You can’t own your trademark. Even if you never got your name trademarked you’re probably safe within your immediate geographic region. But there’s no telling what you’ll discover when want to expand geographically. If you need to move to new pastures where you know you’ll encounter trademark conflicts, you have little choice but to rename. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. St. Louis Bread Company faced a situation like this and changed their name to Panera. They’ve done OK.
- Your name is very misleading. One of the companies we recently encountered has been able to gain some regional renown selling a super premium product despite the fact their name is an Italian phrase that sort of means the opposite of premium. Some of their retail customers actually prefer to private label their product. To their credit, the company has come to the realization that their name so misrepresents their brand, it’s a millstone — wisest to change it sooner rather than suffer with it any longer. A few other weak brand names that were changed? How about BackRub, Brad’s Drink, Blue Ribbon Sports, and Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web (Google, Pepsi Cola, Nike. and Yahoo!, respectively).
- Your brand has experienced radical change. GMAC was certainly well known. But when they spun off from GM and acquired new capabilities, they made the (correct) choice to change their name to Ally Bank. New mission, new name, new opportunity.
- Your brand has been disgraced. About two years after its shocking fall, Enron came out of bankruptcy to be renamed Prisma Energy Company. Who can argue with the wisdom of THAT decision? (Prisma Energy survived a couple years, before being swallowed name and all by Ashmore Energy.)
A colleague of mine likes to say “a good name won’t make you a success, but it can put the wind at your back.” Likewise, a really bad name can be a powerful headwind. Sometimes, a radical course change is the best decision.