Top Tips To Change Your Brand Name - Gulf Business
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Top Tips To Change Your Brand Name

Top Tips To Change Your Brand Name

Rebranding is a complicated and expensive process, writes Anthony Ryman, managing director of grow, a brand consultancy in Qatar.

A brand name is a powerful tool to add value to your brand:

– differentiate you from the competition
– increase share of voice + share of market
– reduce customer acquisition costs
– increase bottom line profits

Companies change their name for a wide variety of reasons. Primarily:

– the company has changed focus/direction and its name no longer reflects what it does or it has merged (Kinkos became FedEx), or the name is too limiting to describe its present activities. Or the market has changed – a prime example is Kentucky Fried Chicken who changed to KFC when fried food became a big no-no in our increasingly healthy-living society.

– the company has got some management issues/skeletons in the closet/bad press/tarnished reputation or is simply badly named, eg a sports drink called Tsunami in 2005. Uh oh!

– the company started with a functional/descriptive name and now many other businesses call themselves “Q” something (QAPCO, QAFCO QASCO, QAFAC, QBEC, QBC, QFB, QIC, QFC) and while that may not be an issue for them – as they expand geographically, it will certainly be an issue internationally to remember who does what. And why are they all called Q-something anyway? Where’s the brand value?

So you’ve decided to change your name, here’s three things you need to know:

1. It can be expensive. Not just the naming process, but all the collaterals, both offline and online eg vehicles, signage, website etc and legal protection of trademark. So be prepared.

2. You need to spend time (and money) explaining to people why you’re doing what you’re doing and why they should be interested/motivated and involved/engaged. In other words, what’s in it for them?

3. You could lose share of voice and market in the beginning as you roll out the new name. You’re no longer top-of-mind and you have to again persuade your clients that they’re going to enjoy doing business with the NEW you and state very clearly what has changed and why it’s better.

If you’re determined to change your name, here are some suggestions:

1. Consider the long-term strategy for the name you’re developing. Do you want something highly descriptive to play along a narrow front or a more generic or coined name to allow for brand expansion across categories?

2. Consider how the new brand name will fit into your firm’s brand architecture and brand hierarchy systems. Will you be developing sub brands? What type of relationship will it have to other existing brands in your universe?

3. Consider the real fixed and potential costs involved in creating, registering and defending a new name. These costs include legal screenings to ensure the name is available, legal registrations to protect the name in various classes, and once created and built into a valuable asset, costs associated with defending your brand against all comers, by class and by country.

4. Keep an open mind.

5. Set up a defined criteria as to how names will be judged in the process and stick to it.

6. Eliminate confusion by deleting names that have negative double meanings or are unpronounceable in key languages, or contradict your organisation’s desired positioning. Chevrolet’s NOVA means “doesn’t run” in Spanish. Not a good name for a car!

7. Communicate how the name fits into the overall strategy for the business and how customers will experience the name.

8. Spend time and resources to adequately communicate your new brand name to your intended target audiences (both internal and external) to build equity in your new investment.

9. Try not to have too many people involved in the name selection process. Empower a few champions with a solid understanding of your brand’s vision, goals and attributes as well as the business development strategy to move quickly to the final selection and avoid selecting a name by committee.

10. Can you buy the domain URL for your chosen name? If it’s not available, it’s not the end of the world. Many domain names are simply squatted on to make a quick buck. Make a reasonable offer to purchase it from them.

11. Don’t rush. Naming done well takes time. Do your checks and searches before you launch, as doing it after is costly (and embarrassing!).

Naming criteria

1. Does the name reflect the organisation’s brand attributes?

2. Is the name unique?

3. Does the name work cross-culturally? In other languages?

4. Can the name be pronounced in relevant languages?

5. Can you copyright the name?

There are three main categories of naming types and the first step is to research names in each category as a first step to drilling down to the final name.


A functional / descriptive name describes your product, business or industry sector in an obvious or easily understood manner, eg, ‘France Telecom’.

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Evocative brand names are brand names that project the “essence” of the brand, ie bringing to mind its positioning without actually describing it or providing a literal explanation. Examples include Oracle, Yahoo, Virgin, Apple.

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Experiential names offer a direct connection to human experience, connecting the name to the product, the perceived or real benefit or experience. Examples include: Facebook, Salesforce, Ford Explorer.

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