Things to consider when renaming your brand

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Changing your brand name is a huge, crucial decision no matter what sort of business you are – whether you're a multinational household name or a small local operation.

Cuckoo Design's creative director Phil Rainey.

There are several reasons a brand might want to change its name, including:

  • A recent repositioning;
  • An expansion of services;
  • A merger with another company;
  • An acquisition by another company.

Of course, there's also the possibility that the brand has realised that its current name is just plain clunky, is a bit of a mouthful, or is generally uninspiring and boring. A poor name can have a negative effect on customer engagement, which in turn leads to poor performance.

A punchy and imaginative name is understandably not at the top (or anywhere near the top) of every company's list of priorities when they start up – what they want more than anything is to become operational.

However, there's no denying that a brand name is important in the long run – especially in terms of capturing new customers. You will always miss out on at least a segment of your target market if your branding is poor – and of course your name is a huge part of this.

Picking a fairly long company name to begin with isn't exactly out of the ordinary. In fact, initially this can be quite advantageous, as a longer name may better inform your target market of what you do. However, once you are established and well-known within your industry, you won't need such a lengthy title and, arguably, the shorter the better.

Take FedEx for example. It started out as the Federal Express Corporation in 1971, but it didn't take long for people to refer to the company as 'Fed Ex' in conversation.

In 1994 the company decided to make this unofficial moniker the official one. In that same year, the company introduced the 'FedEx' branding with its ingenious arrow between the capital 'E' and the 'x'. It would be safe to say that FedEx's decision to shorten its original name turned out to be the right one. It's much easier to say two syllables than five, and from a visual perspective the company's branding is iconic and instantly recognisable.

Key things to bear in mind include:

Ask your audience what it thinks

If possible, you should conduct a survey (or several) and test the waters with a few potential new names. Just because you, as a company, like one name in particular, there's no saying your target market will. Remember: you're changing your name to better connect with your audience – not for vanity (or at least not solely).

Does your proposed new name have a suitable and available web domain?

Years ago this wouldn't have mattered a great deal, but now it's essential that you choose a name that you will be able to use for your web domain. Of course, this might limit your options somewhat, but there's no getting around it. A short and precise web domain could prove invaluable.

Initial sales dips after the name-change aren't unusual

Depending on the extent of your name-change, your customers may react badly to begin with. Shortenings are usually better received than complete overhauls, as they often go unnoticed or are shrugged off quickly.

A good example of when a complete change has not worked at all would be when Kellogg's Coco Pops became 'Choco Krispies' in the UK in the late nineties – it went down terribly. After a dramatic drop in sales, the company ran a poll and it was abundantly clear that 'Coco Pops' was the much preferred name.

Above all, it's vital to make the right choice for your customers.

The reason you're renaming your brand in the first place is to better connect with your customers. For this reason, you should try to see things from a customer perspective – if you were them, would you identify with the new name? If not, you'll probably want to go back to the drawing board.

Phil Rainey is creative director at Cuckoo Design.

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