Renaming? Go All the Way!

Quite often an organization will want to change its name.

There are several valid reasons for changing your company’s name.

1) A name change might be sought because the company has outgrown their old name, that is the name has become irrelevant (Radio Shack).

2) The company’s reputation might have been sullied to the point no salvation (Enron).

3) Perhaps the name itself has taken on an undesired life of its own (Aids).

4) Legal conflicts with Trademark holders that dictate changing the name.

5) Mergers and acquisitions where confusing or conflicting situations arise either in the marketplace or internally.

6) A “nickname” based upon the original name becomes so dominant the company is practically forced to officially adopt the nickname (IBM, FedEx).

There are probably other reasons, but these six predominate.

The management mind-set is different in each of these situations.

But let’s just concentrate on the first situation: an outmoded name. In 1), management is perhaps reluctant if not conflicted about making a change. They see equity in the name. They don’t want to confuse customers. This may also apply to managements in the 4) and 5) situations, but probably not to the same extent.

Renaming: an example of blinders thinking
Changing a name - but not very much

What often happens is that management believes they must “transition” from the old name to the new, that they should retain part of their old name, or at least associate with it in some way. The outcome is usually a weak and often confusing name that neither retains old, desirable associations, nor defines a new “role” for the organization.

By not being open to a name that might signify new directions, new markets, new opportunities, they limit the potential of a new name that’s more relevant to the company’s vision and mission. So Radio Shack becomes The Shack.

Here in Colorado there was a “home for wayward boys” called Colorado Boys Ranch. As it evolved, it catered to a nationwide clientele of boys and girls, and became much more “high-tech” than a ranch. To “transition”, they used the initials CBR coupled with a generic phrase that was much too abstract to mean anything. Now, except for long-time donors who still call it Colorado Boys Ranch, there is no identity for this fine organization.

By attempting to hold on to old equity and placate stakeholders, yet reflect what the organization has become, managements inhibit and restrict creativity and the chance of adopting a name with gusto.

You can’t have it both ways.

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