Your company name is the first and most powerful part of your brand. The right name sets it apart, positions you as an industry leader, and communicates what your company does. A weak name, limits the brand's ability to expand in the market, neutralizes branding efforts, and is easily forgotten.
When to Consider a Name Change:
Before rebranding with a name change, you need to consider the benefits and the negatives. There's a cost involved--new website, new letterhead, new signage, etc. There's also non-financial costs such as history and trust with a well-known name.
If the benefits outweigh the costs, it may be time for a change. Here are situations that may require a name change and rebranding.
- The name no longer fits the business. A famous, recent example includes Research in Motion changing its company name to its most famous product, Blackberry. Apple Computer changed its name to Apple when it was clear they were more than just a computer company.
- The need to distance a brand from a negative event or association. If a brand name drives away customers because of an event or particular product, it's time to change it. Phillip Morris changed its name to Altria in 2003 to signal it was more than a tobacco company selling "cancer sticks." Blackwater changed its name to XE Services after two guards were accused of manslaughter in connection with a shooting that killed more than a dozen civilians in Iraq.
- A merger or acquisition. Joining two company names with a hyphen doesn't work. A name change following a merger or acquisition follows a logical sequence. Rebranding after a merger involves a little more strategy than a simple name change, requiring a need to join two companies without alienating or making one of the entities feel subservient.
- A trademark conflict. Not all name changes are voluntary. Although careful research will help you avoid a costly court battle, trademark infringement cases still populate the court docket.
- A new name for a new country. In addition to language differences, cultural differences may necessitate a new brand name. In the case of Burger King, the name was taken in Australia, which is why they are Hungry Jack's down under.