How to Change Your Organization’s Name: A Marketer’s Guide
New ownership, a new direction, a changing marketplace, a fresh start: For any number of reasons, the time may come when you need to change the name of your organization.
An identity change is a major undertaking with enormous marketing implications for any business. Where do you start? How do you do it? And how do you avoid mistakes?
As a marketing consultant, I often advise clients on how to change their names and develop new brand identities. I’ve found that preparation and communication are the keys to success.
Here are the steps of planning a name change and selecting a new name.
Getting Started: How to Lay the Groundwork for a New Identity
A name change is a big event that usually happens only rarely in a company’s history. Many people will be involved and significant resources may be required. It’s crucial to carefully plan the process. Here are the steps I recommend:
- Clarify your objectives. Why are you changing your name? What do you hope to achieve? How will your business benefit? Develop simple, straightforward answers to these questions to get buy-in across your organization and secure the resources needed for success.
- Assign responsibility for the process. Create an interdepartmental team led by the marketing department to plan the name change and oversee its implementation.
- Establish the timeframe. A well-planned name change doesn’t happen overnight. Set a realistic timeframe to be sure everyone understands what will happen – and when – at each stage.
- Determine how the name will be selected. Who will review options? Who has the ultimate authority to select the new name and brand? Everyone should go into the process knowing their role and who will make the final decision.
- Set criteria for evaluating name options. There are many factors to consider when choosing a new name. Here are some of the evaluation criteria we’ve developed for our clients to use as a starting point.
- Compile an inventory of all uses of your current name and logo. Identify every place your current name is used, such as products, packaging, retail displays, interior and exterior signage, vehicles, uniforms, name tags, business cards, forms, advertising, sales collateral, websites, videos, trade show exhibits, advertising premiums, stationery, and social media profiles. Make a list of all the vendors you’ll need to work with when the name changes.
- Develop a budget. Estimate the cost of creating a new identity and implementing the name change across all materials and channels.
Next Steps: How to Create and Select a New Name
Now that you’ve established the process and parameters, it’s time to come up with a new identity:
- Decide what the new name should communicate about your organization. Your company’s name tells the world who you are and why your organization exists. It’s critical to clarify how you want to be perceived before you start brainstorming.
- Gather input. Use surveys, focus groups, and one-to-one outreach to learn what key stakeholders think, then share this input with the planning team. An independent marketing consultant can play an important role here by helping guide the process and synthesize the results.
- Evaluate competitors. Analyze the names and brands of competitors to determine which words, colors, fonts, or other elements cannot be used in your new name.
- Assess your current identity. Before you say goodbye to your current name, decide if any aspects of the name or brand (font, icon, colors, tagline, words, etc.) have the equity to warrant retention in the new identity.
- Brainstorm ideas. Consider the full range of possibilities, from a modest, incremental change, like US Air becoming US Airways (now American Airlines) … to naming the company after yourself or the founders, like Sherwin-Williams … or even creating a name that’s not a word yet, like Google.
- Check available URLs. It’s essential to pick a name with an available, easy-to-remember URL. If you find some strong possibilities, buy them now – you don’t have to use them later.
- Narrow your choices. Apply your evaluation criteria to narrow your choices down to the best three to five. Ask your in-house or outside legal counsel to review trademark availability for your top picks.
- Select the name. Using the approval process you’ve already outlined, share the finalists with key decision-makers and make the choice.
- Create a new graphic identity and branding platform. Develop a full branding platform to support the new identity: A new logo, a marketing tagline, key messages for all communication materials, and design standards to govern the new brand’s use.
- Prepare for launch. Develop a marketing communications plan to announce and promote the new identity using advertising, social media, web marketing, media relations, event marketing, and other tactics.
- Train your staff. Everyone on your team will be asked, “Why did you change your name?” All employees should know the rationale for the name change and be able to articulate it.
- Deploy the new brand across all marketing channels and materials.
A Final Tip for a Smart Marketing Strategy
Sometimes in marketing, the stakes are so high that you need professional support. A name change is one of those times, especially if your company has a high profile.
Get help from a branding and marketing expert or a marketing agency with in-depth experience in brand development and market positioning to create a new identity that will position your company effectively now and in the future.