The Pitfalls And Potential Behind Changing Your Company’s Name: Cautionary Tales

Once a company has chosen its name, there is only one good reason for changing it. The truth is, it’s rarely a good idea to change a company name if it’s at all avoidable. It’s difficult to rename or re brand a company without causing any ripples in business. It can be very expensive and downright dangerous. Vince Bridgman from naming expert tells us why!

It will take some time and some money in order to come up with the new identity. The best case scenario is reinventing the company and the worst case scenario is risking the entire business in order to change things around.

Rose By Any Other Name

Think back to companies you know well. Let’s take a look at Radio Shack and Pizza Hut. When they both tried to change their names to “The Shack” and “The Hut” respectively, it was met with ridicule from the public and scorn. Eventually, both companies gave up the attempt to rename their businesses and remained as they were. BT and Abbey both kept their names in line with customers desire to have them remain the same. They managed to avoid this public scorn and ridicule.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest killers of business names was Britain’s much loved Post Office’s attempt at changing the household name to “Consignia”. Although they had a solid reason to change the name, it wasn’t met with open arms and in time, it was phased out and the original name remained.

Reputation Shot?

Some companies, such as Blackwater, A US Security Firm, have tried to change their names not once, but in fact, twice in order to remove themselves from reputational issues after many high profile shootings such as the one that left 17 Iraqis deceased in Nisoor Square in Baghdad. This initial name change was to Xe and made in an effort to save a badly tarnished reputation. HOwever, this wasn’t working to distance them from problematic issues. In 2011, the new owners formed a board of directors and again attempted to rename the company. This time, they called it Adademi. In spite of this, experts weren’t sure and it wasn’t moving the company forward. No one is yet sure if renaming the company a third time will help move the company forward or not.

The company could recover form their PR disaster and regain their former fortunes via distancing themselves with a name change. Ratners, at the tiem, head of the company, reported at a business conference that the companies offerings were feeble at best and as short lived as prawn sandwiches. The shares in this company plummeted and they had to close over 300 shops within two short years as a step in financial restructuring. The jewelry chain was thus renamed Signet Grou PLC and at long last, is the largest jewelry retailer in both the US and the UK.

Occasionally, a name change is fortuitous. Andersen Consulting, for example, changed their name in 2001 to Accenture. This was in part due to a legal agreement regarding the split with the parent company, Arthur Andersen. Later, it was determined to be a very shrewd move when he became embroiled in the widely scandalous Enron scandal. His name was then drug through the mud nad 85,000 jobs were lost while Accenture remained steady and unscathed.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin , on a lighter note, originally adopted googol (ie. the number 1 followed by one hundred zeroes) for their little fledging company. They wanted to introduce the sheer numbers of information available in the online search engines. In time, it was changed to the now famous Google when an investor accidentally misspelled the name on a check.

So, it all goes to show, it doesn’t matter what the reason is for a name change, if it’s to remove oneself from a PR disaster, for a legal reason or for simple convenience, nothing will ever completely remove a tarnished name except time and diligence and cleaning up your act. Memories remain long and in the digital age, the reminders are ever present. It only takes a minute for a bad story to spread.

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Amy Rice enjoys writing about business startup, when not writing she enjoys horse riding with her daughter.

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