Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

What’s in a name?


When my son was in high school I seldom knew the last names of his friends. The old friends, I knew. The new friends came with only one name. When I pressed for last names, his standard response — “What does it matter?”.

It mattered because last names were reference points. Did I know the parents? Where do they live or work? Do we have something in common? Names are part of the brand.

The names and accompanying brands of businesses are built over time and are nurtured with care. A good name is more than identity. It conveys feelings, emotions, memories, and trust. Yet it is not uncommon for a business or organization to seize upon a name change as a means of addressing problems or declining support. The thought is that a quick name change will solve all problems. Generally that approach is the wrong approach.

Names have value to your customers and community. When a respected and familiar name is hastily abandoned, loyal supporters may be left behind.

Before making a name change, a great deal of thought, preparation and groundwork are required to ensure that awareness and support built over time are not lost in the process.

Certainly, a name change can be a good thing. I’m involved with a non-profit that changed its name last year. The change has been a tremendous success. But it didn’t just happen.

It started with research to determine how people felt about the current name, assess views on changing the name, and project how the community would benefit. Focus groups and surveys confirmed that the current name created negative connotations for many people. Clearly, a name change was appropriate.

Then months went into developing and testing a new name, colors, logos and themes. The entire process took about two years. Though not inexpensive, that name change is paying dividends.

If you are considering a name change for your business, be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Do your research. What do people think about your current name? Are there any liabilities associated with the name? How long have you used the name? How will you let people know that you’re doing business under a new name? How much can you spend?

Name changing and rebranding cost money. Simply changing letterhead, business cards and signs won’t do the trick. Ideally you should consult with professionals who know how to take you through the process. Beware of moving too quickly, of deciding to change names simply for short-term gains, of not having the budget to carry out the project, of not leaving enough time for customers/clients to gain familiarity with what’s happening, or unintentionally creating new issues with a hastily selected new name.

If your business needs more clients or customers, don’t exercise a name change as your first option. Focus groups and surveys are excellent ways to find out what people really think about your business.

Maybe all you really need is a new look, new colors or a new logo. If you do decide for a name change, make the decision for the right reasons. Back your decision with sound research and a realistic budget.

My son has been out on his own for a few years and I still don’t know the last names of his new friends. He uses descriptors. “The guy with the weird laugh”. “The guy that lived in San Francisco”. “The girl that used to go with one of my friends”.

So what’s in a name anyway?

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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