—Mark Prus, Marketing Consultant at NameFlashSM

In my NameFlashSM name development business, I sometimes get asked by clients, “Should I change my brand name?” From a purely selfish standpoint my answer should be “YES!” because I get paid to generate names! But the reality is that there are times when you should not change your name, despite the negative impact on my cash flow.

So how do you decide if you need a better name? Here are some tips on when you should or should not change your name.

Consider changing your name when:

  1. Sales are declining rapidly/market share is going to competition – An obvious reason to change your brand name is when your competition is doing a better job of attracting customers.
  2. Your customer base is not what you want – Rebranding gives you an opportunity to make a fundamental change in your target audience. Target audience is a key consideration in name development. For more thoughts on target audience considerations see my earlier post on DuetsBlog titled Good Name, Bad Name? It Depends.
  3. Your brand name and brand identity don’t align – If your brand name screams “cutting edge” but everything about your brand (such as advertising, packaging, selling materials, customer base, product positioning, etc.) says “Baby Boomer retro,” then you need to change the name (and probably much, much more).
  4. You want to launch a new, “go-to-market” strategy – If you are changing the overall strategic direction of the product, then you should change your name to allow customers to approach the brand with a fresh perspective. A great example of this was Goldstar, the electronics brand. When they launched, they were known as a quality entry level brand. However, the quick pace of technological change generated numerous low end competitors. The company decided to redesign their go-to-market strategy to create and market new and innovative products, and they changed their name to LG. Almost instantly they became known as an industry leader in technological advancement, which would have been impossible under their previous name.
  5. Consumers are tired of your name – Please note, I said consumers are tired of your name. I did not say you, your boss, your CEO, your spouse or your advertising or PR agencies are tired of your name. When you get signals that consumers have lost the magic in your existing name, then you need to change it.

When should you NOT change your name?

  1. The company is under new management or has a new brand manager – If the only reason you are changing the name is to mark your territory, then you are doing your brand a disservice.
  2. You have strong equity in the existing name – Brand equity takes years to develop and can be destroyed by a snap decision to change the brand name.
  3. Your brand has issues that are not caused by the name – If J&J did not change the Tylenol name after the tampering incidents, why would you run away from your name? Fix the other issues and end up with a stronger brand going forward.
  4. You’ve had the same brand name for a long time and think it’s time to change it – No, it isn’t. Beretta Firearms was launched in 1526. Do you think the “let’s change the name” question has been approached a few times since then? Wisely, the management avoided it and the brand name remains strong even today. Fiskars blades and scissors started in 1649. Twinings Tea started in 1706. When it comes to brand names, “change is good” does not ring true all the time.
  5. You can’t afford to change the name – My NameFlashSM name development service delivers tons of great names in a flash for a very reasonable price. But changing the name involves so much more. Make sure you understand the total cost of rebranding including things like advertising cost to generate awareness of the new name. A name change can be very, very costly in the long run.

What is your favorite example of an effective name change?  What is your favorite example of a name change gone bad?