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Brand Name Change Considerations


Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. To that end we’re happy to answer your marketing questions. Today we hear from Peter, a partner in a law firm in the Republic of Singapore who writes…

“Another law firm wishes to merge with our law firm but they want our Brand Name to include their Brand Name. What are the disadvantages?”

Thanks for your question Peter. When considering what name to use post-merger, the key question is, “What name will be most advantageous for us?” First, shorter is better because it is easier to remember. If the name is long,  people will likely shorten it in the most intuitive way. So, if the firm’s name contains essentially a list of the managing partners’ last names, as law firm names often do, people will likely shorten it to the first one or two names. Related to this, names that are easier to pronounce are preferable to ones that are more difficult to pronounce. If you are including a number of partners’ names in the firm’s name, you might consider starting with the easier to pronounce names and ending with the more difficult to pronounce ones.

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Changing The Name Of An Established Brand


Naming and verbal identity is such an essential foundation of successful strategic brand development. What about changing the name of an established brand? The decision to change a well-known brand name should never be entered into lightly.

There are many reasons established brands may consider changing their name. Changing a strategic business focus in new and different directions from legacy markets can be a good reason to change a brand name. That is, of course, if the naming change will serve greater meaning, resonance and value for consumers and customers.

Regardless of the strategic business issue driving a name change, established brands will always risk losing the brand equity associated with the original brand name. And in crowded me-too categories that is difficult and expensive to earn back.

Risking brand equity and a loss of meaning is something a startup brand doesn’t have to worry about simply because there are no associations or equities in the minds of customers. Startup brands are free to innovate their brand name across the entire naming spectrum, (description, evocation, real word, coined word etc.) Not so for an established brand considering a name change. Changing an established brand name has profound implications.

A case in point is the recent name change of Yousendit to “Hightail”.

Yousendit is a highly successful company with the benefit of a strong and descriptive brand name accompanied by a recognizable visual symbol that creates instant communication about the brand’s value proposition to users– sending large files quickly and easily over the web.

Of course I’m not privy to the intimate details of the business strategy driving the name change. But from the outside looking in, let’s assume it’s being driven by (as their new web copy describes) their shift in the business focus from “sending” files to “security, storage and sharing” files– and being a more viable competitor to DropBox (a great descriptive name).

Watch the video on the homepage of the Yousendit/Hightail site, and you’ll hear their executives answer that question by saying things like this:

“ The category is full of descriptive names and we wanted to get away from descriptive names”,

“ We are about more than just sending files”

“ Our current name yousendit constrained our vision”,

“We wanted to bring more humanity into our name”,

That all sounds good in a marketing video, but in practice I’m not so sure.

The new brand name “Hightail” although interesting and evocative of speed–as in “hightail it over here”, doesn’t buy the brand much in the way of more compelling relevance and meaningful communication of their expanded strategic direction and value proposition to users.

If you want loyal customers / users to make the leap with you, it seems logical it would be more effective to build new associations into the familiar and established name rather than an abstract or evocative one like Hightail. It’s difficult to imagine Yousendit users could not make the leap themselves without having to be confused by another name.

Evocative names will always require new meaning be built into them over time. They can be a good choice for a new enterprise at the beginning of their journey where no prior customer associations or restraints exist. Evocative or coined names seemingly are a more difficult choice for a well-known and established brand. The name Hightail will require the brand to rebuild itself from scratch– needlessly risking years of hard-earned brand equity with loyal users in the process.

Was it the needs of confused users that drove this rebranding initiative? Perhaps the whole initiative will prove to be a fool’s errand– much like the Tropicana, Gap, JCPenney, and Ernst and Young rebrands have taught us.

Sponsored by: The Brand Storytelling Workshop

Leave Your Comfort Zone: The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley October 17-18, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 50 participants
As in Your marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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Corporate Name Change Checklist


You can change a corporation name gradually – by phasing in new materials over a period of time.  Or you can do it radically:  Everything new and in place on one changeover date. Either way, you’ve got a lengthy list of materials to consider.

Here’s a checklist that can help as you pore over business records and gather samples.


Calling cards, Domain name, Email address, Email settings, Envelopes, Fax answerback, Letterhead, Mailing labels, Memo pads, News release form, Postal meter, Press kits


Business directories, Certificates of incorporation, Credit certificates, Directory listings, Licenses, Permits, Stock certificates, Ticker symbols


Corporate checks, Invoices, Payroll checks, Purchase orders, Statements

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Brand Names And The Language Of Action


Names just don’t sit there. Names “do.” Names have action and energy. Sure, names identify a business or brand. But names also suggest certain types of action:

  • To Ban that offensive odor.
  • To get those mosquitoes Off! 
  • To pack up the kids and Caravan down the road.

For more context, we call on John R. Searle, a reigning authority on the functions of speech, and the author of Expression and Meaning. Professor Searle has identified five basic types of “speech acts.” Here are four of these speech acts as they perform bits of business in brand names.

Representatives commit the speaker to the truth of the expressed proposition: They swear, report, assert or conclude. Toys ‘R’ Us. A pet day care and boarding establishment called Pets Preferred. The name of the action is built into two Canadian discount airline brands, Canjet and Jetsgo.

Directives attempt to get the consumer to do something: They command, exhort, urge. Guess jeans. A dance studio called Jump to It; a chain of paint shops, Color Your World. The insect repellant Off! A Microsoft imaging software product called Picture It!

Commissives commit to some future course of action: They promise, threaten, offer, vow. A deodorant will Ban.  A shampoo will Amplify. Software promises to Excite. Or one undertakes to Hide-A-Bed.

Expressives express a psychological state: They think, apologize, welcome, congratulate. Glad trash bags. Perfume that is Glorious. Chocolate that is Bliss.

In strictly literal terms, a brand name wants the customer to buy a product or service. But in terms of speech acts, a lot more is going on.

Sponsored by: The Brand Positioning Workshop

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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When The Domain Name You Want Is Taken


So you want to register a domain name – let’s call it “www.smith.com” – but that URL is already taken.

No surprise. More than 225 million domain names are registered worldwide, according to Verisign. (That’s something in the range of 30 times the number of existing trademarks.)

So, what should a marketer do? Let’s work from three assumptions: First, you want the status of a dot-com and won’t be happy with a lesser billing.  Second, you’re unable (or unwilling) to change the “Smith.”  Three, you’ve explored the purchase of the existing domain, but it’s either too expensive or too time-consuming a process.

You could…

  • Expand the company name. Consider SmithCorp.com or SmithLLC.com. Or consider telling more: SmithTechnologies.com or SmithVentures.com.
  • Expand the product or brand name by adding the specific: SmithCoffee.com or SmithOptics.com. (This should also boost your search optimization.)
  • Wave the flag. You should be proud to be identified as SmithAmerica.com or SmithUSA.com.
  • Go bigger. Consider SmithInternational.com or (using the common abbreviation) SmithIntl.com. Bigger yet: SmithUniversal.com.
  • Urge action. Following the lead of the direct-response crowd, consider GoSmith.com or TrySmith.com.
  • Underscore immediacy. SmithToday.com might work.
  • Be irreverent. With a nod to college rah-rah: WeAreSmith.com.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Steve Rivkin

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in Your marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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