A brand’s name is an integral part of the entire DNA of the brand. With such importance laid on the name there is the pressure to have a name that stands out, is memorable, perhaps links to who the brand is and doesn’t cause offense.
Ideally a brand’s name is one for life. However, the original name given to a brand at conception may no longer be relevant, or the business direction may have changed course. Even further down the line a newfound topical negative association with the name may leave a business with no choice but to change it.
The latter happened to new online fashion retailer, Noose and Monkey. The brand, named after the legendary tale of a monkey being found with a noose around its neck on a beach in Hartlepool during the Napoleonic War, became the target of abuse. This was after an article was published online accusing the brand of being racist. In the interest of safeguarding the future of the business, the brand relaunched as the Twisted Tailor.
Less controversially, the desire for a new name may simply be triggered by an overall rebrand. Often a brand will consider a name change because their current name is unknown and meaningless, or even because the company is changing direction and the name is no longer relevant.
However, unless a brand has no choice but to change its name, a name change should not be undertaken lightly and there are some key areas to consider before going ahead:
1. Do you want to amplify the story? A new name provides fantastic content to share and a reason for people to pay attention — but a brand must be ready to share it. While it’s possible to launch an updated brand strategy in a subtler way, ideally a new name needs a more deliberate introduction. However, not all companies want to announce to the world that they’ve undergone a strategic shift in branding direction, especially if, like Noose and Monkey the reasons behind it are sensitive, and instead, may choose to show rather than tell.
2. Can you put up with some disagreement? Good names are hard to find and even harder to agree upon. It’s naively optimistic to think you’ll find a name that everyone will love and that won’t face some criticism. It’s important to accept that not everyone will immediately take to the change however, over time of course, any unease will subside.
3. Have you factored in the resource required? A new name may fall flat if enough resource isn’t invested into transitioning it into the business. Businesses should factor in the costs of telling the new story as well as the cost associated with updating assets including domain names, signage, printed materials. For a fashion business, there is the cost of relabelling garments and potentially any stock disposal.
4. Does the new name work internationally? You may be content focusing on UK growth, however at some point may look to expand globally. This means it is critical to consider whether the new name translates across international markets and even fits into local cultures. Who can forget the infamous launch of the Nova car into Spain?
Before going ahead with a name change, it is important to remember an established brand will typically have built a strong relationship with its audience, one which evokes intense emotion and loyalty – much of which lies in the connection with the name. So, any attempt to change the name of a long-established brand may be met initially with scepticism, and possibly hostility – depending on the new name and the audiences’ feeling towards the new name. A great example of this is the disastrous rebranding of the Post Office to Consignia. The new name failed to win over the British public and within 18 months, and at a cost of over £2m, the company reverted to the Post Office!
Ultimately, a new name should not be viewed as a miracle business solution. In isolation, it is unlikely to solve any marketing or branding problems. however, if part of a wider scale company-wide rebranding strategy, it can play a vital role in the overall success of the re-brand. Any name change should be approached with caution, as well as with an appreciation of the costs and risks involved. Also required is an understanding of the potential for it to take several years for the new name to be accepted and any resulting loss of brand loyal-ty to be restored.
Thinking of a name change or a brand refresh? If you would like to talk it through for a second opinion, please get in touch to speak to a consultant in our team.