Thinking About a Name Change? Guidelines to Consider…

As the market changes, perhaps your company name should, too.


You’re an established company, in business to do more business. And although your name has served you well in the past, you’re not sure whether it accurately conveys who you are in today’s damage prevention industry. Should you change it or leave it alone? Many businesses have transformed their images through a name change, and the reasons for taking on a new name are as diverse as the companies themselves.


Perhaps you’ve merged with another damage prevention business and need a name that better reflects your combined resources. Maybe new excavation safety capabilities or new market opportunities have caused you to outgrow your current identity. Or maybe you’ve suffered a PR setback that has damaged your reputation. Whatever your reasons, if you’re considering a name change, here are some issues you should think about.


Name reflects brand
Your name conjures up an image that tells others who you are and what you stand for. The goodwill inherent in your name is called “brand equity.” It can build customer loyalty and increase your bottom line, so before you mess with it, you need to consider the ramifications.


Brand equity can be positive, negative or non-existent. Begin by taking a look at how much your name contributes to your overall brand image. And don’t rely exclusively on your own perceptions. Ask your employees, your customers and your vendors what your name means to them. You might be surprised to learn your stakeholders don’t attach any specific characteristics to your name, which is often the case when companies haven’t taken the time or effort to build brand equity.


Next, step away from your business and look from the outside in. What does your company’s name communicate? What personality does it present? And most importantly, does it help educate your audience on your specific area of damage prevention or excavation safety expertise?


Plan for tomorrow, too
You also have to ask yourself if your name reflects the company you want to be tomorrow. Don’t shortchange what you want to be in the future. What’s your plan? Changing markets and opportunities often nudge companies in new directions.

Spend time “living in the tomorrow” so you can adequately evaluate the role your name might play in shaping your future. Reflecting on these issues can help you decipher whether changing your name is the right thing to do.


To change or not to change 
Once you’ve objectively assessed the strength of your equity in light of your past, present and future goals, it’s time to explore your three options.


1. Leave it alone.  The stronger the positive equity in your name, the more risky it is to change it. Yes, it’s possible to transfer the equity to a new name, but it takes significant time, effort and resources to do it well.


Consider what a new name might gain you, as well as what you might lose. There’s wisdom in the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s not to say you should never fix a name that’s not broken. Sometimes circumstances like a merger force you to change your name. Just don’t change for change’s sake.


2. Change it.  If your business has outgrown its name, it might be time for a change. A manufacturing client of ours was in just such a situation. It was operating in a mature market segment, and its growth hinged on branching out to new segments. While its old name spoke perfectly to its old base, it limited the company’s ability to reach out to the new markets it was going after. Though its name had strong, positive equity, it simply didn’t fit anymore. A new name repositioned the company for broader appeal and a more profitable future.


A tarnished brand image is another reason why companies seek a name change. If that’s the situation you’re in, keep in mind that a new name can help get you get off to a fresh start, but unless you’re willing to correct the issues that gave you a bad name in the first place, any benefit to changing your brand will be short-lived.


3. Reposition or revitalize it. After researching the equity in your brand, you might come to the disheartening conclusion that it has none. Or very little. Don’t take it too hard. There is a silver lining. If people have no preconceived image of your name, you have the opportunity to build the kind of equity you want. Maybe you don’t need to change your name, but simply update your logo and make it more relevant to your customers. No matter what, remember that your company name is the first thing people know about you. Make sure it says what you intend it to say.


When is it time to consider a name change?
1.  When your business has changed to the point that your old name doesn’t reflect who you are anymore.
2.  When you’re merging with another damage prevention company and blending cultures and capabilities.
3.  When your current name limits your ability to seek future opportunities.
4.  When a bad reputation has tarnished your name beyond repair.
5.  When you need to revitalize or jump-start your organization.


Jim MacLachlan is president of Tartan Marketing, Brand Management agency in Minneapolis. 

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