October 16, 2012

Re-naming, a fable

Once upon a time, 3 portfolio managers split off from Megabroker, Fenner and Bean*, to form a new company.

They didn’t budget any money for branding or naming, so they wound up with
CLM ASSOCIATES, using their first initials. (Curly’s idea, but Larry and Moe agreed.)

Everybody has a tagline, right? So they conceived Strategic Solutions. (It sounded important and universal and dignified. They all agreed to that.) The logo was easy enough to agree to, too: all caps in a dignified typeface, reversed out of a dignified respectable conservative navy blue rectangle. Dignified to the max.

A few years went by, and they had to consider changing names. Prospects couldn’t remember which 3-initial brokers they were of the 6 in town, they didn’t own the .com, and Larry went away after that little scandal….

But changing names is vewy, vewy scawy. After all, they had history in that name. Equity. Comfort. Clients would be confused, so Curly and Moe just couldn’t decide on the risk and reward.

What broke the tie was the realization that they didn’t need to throw out equity with a revolutionary change, but could make evolutionary change instead with a transition process over time.

First they would announce the coming of (and rationale for) a new name*

making sure employees and customers knew that changes were coming, that services would be better than ever, that the name represented new improved blah blah blah. Then the unveiling of the name could become an event, carefully keeping the old name as part of the identity for further reassurance.

After a transition period promoting the virtues of re-naming, they could begin to let the old name fade away, maybe bringing in a (new! improved!) tagline to clarify the benefit and they could live differentiated ever after.

Moral(s) of the story:

1. Re-naming need not be abrupt and destructive to brand equity. Announce, explain, retain, transition. Evolve.

2. Name changes would not be as frequent or traumatic if the name had been professionally crafted in the first place. Invest early.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent and/or metaphorical.