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5 Things to Consider When Renaming an Established Brand

By Ryan Rieches

As companies evolve, it’s common for them to redefine their brand or rebrand in order to clarify their new value proposition. But the consideration of renaming an established, successful brand presents a greater challenge and with the process comes many questions. The rationales for brand renaming vary so I won’t get into those details here, but rather focus on key elements that will produce the best results when it comes to renaming.

#1 — Executive team involvement is critical to success.
The process of renaming is not for the faint of heart and can either unite or divide an organization’s executive team. The process involves executive level agreement on where the organization is going in the future and ensures that the strategic positioning and visioning process clearly establishes the path forward, supporting the next stages of growth. Moving forward as one unified team is very powerful and the process of making strategic decisions as an executive team ensures a greater probability of success.

#2 — Strong corporate naming solutions are built from strategy and research.
When a new brand name is evaluated and publicly introduced, an accompanying story is required to bring the name to life. This story must be built upon a solid foundation and emphasize the organization’s unique strengths which ideally are validated by the core target audience. Research with existing and prospective customers help identify the company’s existing perceptions and those of the competition. The organization’s clarified core strengths form a believable, defendable and relevant brand position, which develop the foundational elements used to comprise new brand names.

#3 — Trust the process.
Brand naming is emotional and everyone involved must follow a rational process. The best names are not created nor decided upon overnight. They are the result of a defined and strategic process that builds upon itself. The benefit of having buy-in at every stage of the process ensures that irrational emotions won’t rule at decision time. Rarely is the final chosen name admired at the beginning. The “perfect” brand name doesn’t jump off the page and initial gut reactions change over time. Key brand name criteria include (1) the name is on strategy, (2) the name is easy to pronounce/spell, and most importantly, (3) the name is legally available. If the brand name meets these criteria, then it is time to take the name candidates into final legal review. When you get the green light from counsel, then you can begin to get emotionally attached to the new name.

#4 — Develop a corporate identity that considers the existing brand equity, but informs the new brand’s promise.
The right solution depends on the amount of positive brand equity that currently resides with the brand and also how much of a strategic departure from the past is desired. The aforementioned research should help clarify what equity exists. In either case, a new story is to be told — one with a compelling value proposition. The purpose of corporate naming and identity is to bring this new brand to life so that when the identity is seen, it represents all the positive associations of the brand while a new, memorable brand promise emerges.

#5 — Develop a clear strategic internal launch plan.
Introduce the new brand name and brand promise to the internal team first and then to key customers, media and the industry. Often the internal audience is overlooked in a company’s urgent desire to utilize the new name as a means to drive new business. But first, it’s critical to plan a systematic approach to properly inform and educate your internal team on why a new name, why this new name, how it will be brought to life, and what the name can accomplish. Presenting the comprehensive process and strategic rationale will ensure greater buy-in and mitigate negative reactions.

After the internal introduction, it is paramount that the CEO, President, or Senior Management Team personally introduce the new name and brand promise to existing customers. They need to feel respected. They shouldn’t have to hear about the new name from the media and will appreciate being treated as a special audience for the announcement.

Finally, the plan to introduce the name and brand to the media and industry should be implemented. Media can be very competitive, so a strategic communication plan must be evaluated to determine the most effective partners to broadcast the news. And lastly, use this exciting event to introduce the new brand promise to new customers. People are drawn to what is new — make it relevant to them and they will invite you in.

Tune in to a recent radio show with Jason Rose, Senior VP of Business Development for Inovalon as he discusses the process the brand undertook when shifting from their former name — MedAssurant.