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Naming: Of Renamed Brands And Previous Names


Branding and Naming Strategy

Linking a renamed brand to its previous name: should you or shouldn’t you?

First, I would ask, why did you change the name? In general, it is better to use an existing name if it has built awareness, equity and positive associations over time. There are only three situations in which I would change a name: (1) the name change was forced by a parent company, merger, acquisition, ownership change, disassociation from a parent organization, legally forced loss of use, etc., (2) you currently have multiple brands that make the same promise or meet the same need and you want to simplify your brand architecture and reduce your costs by merging the separate brands into one brand and (3) the previous brand name carried so much negative baggage that you believe that you would significantly increase your marketing success by starting over rather than by repositioning the old brand.

Assume you changed the name for the first reason. Here is what I would do. Communicate the new identity aggressively. Link it to the old name for a while, assuming the old name had high awareness and mostly positive associations (Formally known as…). Make sure you have legal permission to communicate this link (which is especially unlikely in a legally forced loss of use). Monitor awareness and other equity elements associated with the new brand. When the brand equity has achieved its targeted level, delete the link to the previous name.

If you changed the name for the second reason, the approach is simple: change the identity on all of the merged products to that of the remaining brand(s). If the rationalized (that is, eliminated) brands had strong brand equities or loyal consumer franchises, pursue the same sort of transition outlined above.

If you changed the name for the third reason, do not link the new name to the old one.

Make a clean break. Aggressively build the new brand identity. If you feel the need to mention the old name, then explain that the name change signifies significant changes in the way your company is meeting the needs of its customers. Use the name change as a strong signal that the brand has changed for the better. Reinforce the new brand’s values and promise.

In all of the above situations, you must try to build the new name quickly (usually at a significant cost). The first and third situations (ownership change and negative baggage) are also opportunities to talk about what your new brand stands for and what its unique value proposition is.

Note: You may need to change the brand’s name because the name itself references a product category that has become too limiting or that is inaccurate. Rather than changing the name entirely, I would try to modify the existing name to retain the positive equity but eliminate the reference to the product category. Example: changing “Hallmark Cards” to “Hallmark.” If done well, few will even recognize the change (unless you intend for them to).

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  1. Name Wire: The Product Naming Blog - May 30, 2007

    Brand Naming: A Naming Company’s Best Friend

    Alex Beam has a great column up in The Boston Globe entitled “It’s a re-brand new world” that takes a hard look at the prodigious amount of renaming that’s going on lately. He looks at the very intelligent rebranding of Boston University as “Boston’s U…

  2. Anonymous - June 2, 2007

    Branding Strategy Insider: Naming: Of Renamed Brands and Previous Names

    There are only three situations in which you should change a name…

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