What's In a Name? Keep It. Change It. Tweak It.

Deciding if you want to change your business name is like going through an existential crisis with seemingly no right answers. I'm sure many of you have contemplated a name change or even done one (I've even gone through my own in my other business). But here are some things to consider regarding a name change. Grab a cup of warm beverage-- this is long!

Why You Should Keep It

I'm not going to lie guys, if you were my client and I knew nothing else about your company I would likely be doing my best to steer you towards keeping it and here is why... 

You've Built a Lot of Capital

I get that the word capital seems really MBA jargon-y, but basically you've accumulated a lot of good will, trust and familiarity with that name. If you've been in business for more than a year with any amount of seriousness, then it's likely you've built up a reputation, trust and relationships with customers, vendors and craft shows with that name.

I know it probably doesn't seem like it will be that big of a deal because you're on the inside, but really put yourself in your customer's shoes. How will their expectations of you change? What confusion will this cause as you change over? What will you lose?

It Will Be a Pain in the Rear to Change

While you shouldn't not do something because it's hard, you definitely should REALLY think about it. Often there a lot of hidden things that you don't even realize that will have to change when you go through a name change, but some things to consider include:

  • A complete overhaul of all of your graphics
  • Changes to all of your social media handles and domain name
  • Old hashtags will still point to your old media
  • Old website links pointing to your site... those will need to get redirected
  • Packaging needs to change
  • Printed pieces will likely be outdated, including business cards

When you put this all together, it can be expensive along with time consuming.

It's Not As Confusing to customers as you think

Most of the time the confusion or weirdness with the name is largely you. Customers are probably fine with it if your name is Sparkle Glitter Happy because you started out making glittered party signs, but now you don't really use glitter in the signs, well no one probably is getting hung up on that.  

If your name is more abstract (think of the names like Yahoo! or Nike), you can generally shift around pretty broadly. Also, a name doesn't have to mean "this is exactly what I do. It's more like "this is what people call me and how I get found." So if your name doesn't exactly line up with what you do now, don't worry, it's probably fine. 

Why You Should Change It

But if you've really considered all of the reasons above, you might want to change your business name if...

You've Done a 180

You haven't just evolved, you've completely changed. You're doing very little that you originally did, but not just that you are making the change fairly dramatically. Lots of companies no longer do (really) what they originally did and still have that same name (Xerox does way more than copiers, Proctor & Gamble started making soaps and candles and now owns have the beauty and cleaning products at the store, etc.). But their changes have been gradual-- over years and often more like decades. If this change in your product or business is abrupt, then a name change might be best to indicate that change.

It's Causing Confusion That Matters

I want to be clear about this one... customers get confused, A LOT. I mean things that you think have been made really clear are just not for whatever reasons. People constantly aren't reading things correctly, don't actually search or look for information then ask questions, and I think sometimes purposely ignore directions.

But those causes for confusion are often primarily the customer's fault. If your name is causing confusion that holds back your business because it is legitimately unclear, then changing it will save you time, headaches and the ability find your true customers. 

So here's one example from our members PF Candle Co. Some of you might remember when they were Pomme Frites Candle Company.  Pomme Frites is a play on the owner Kristen's last name Pumphrey. She thought it was cute because Pomme Frites means french fries, but kinda sounds like her last name. I'm sure you can guess that the question she got ALL THE TIME was about where people could find her candles that smell like french fries.

She had no such candles and, in fact, did not want to have any novelty scents in her brand because she wanted fragrances that were classic. Knowing that the name caused confusion not just with the product line, but an understanding of something that is fundamental to the brand (classic fragrances), you can get why a name change was necessary.

You Hate It 

While not necessarily the best reason, it is legitimate. If your name is really causing a psychological stumbling block and you just can't take being that name any more then by all means abandon it. Just don't be capricious about it. Your name is important for people to identify you and form a relationship with you, but if it makes doing business harder for you and you've tallied the costs, then go for it and never look back.

Why You Should Tweak It

A nice compromise to a name change can simply be a tweak. By a tweak I mean adding something or taking something away from your existing name that will allow you to keep most of the capital invested in your original identity.

Here's an example: Starbucks Coffee is now just Starbucks. Their logo dropped coffee essentially because coffee is not the only thing they want to be known for as they build a diverse product line that includes things you'd expect with coffee (like pastries or mugs), but also sandwiches, an assortment of non-caffeinated beverages, music and tons of things that while they could have kept coffee, dropping it lets non-coffee types embrace the store more.

Another example from our own community is shared by Emily McDowell, whose company has grown tremendously in a few years and now includes a full team of people making that brand happen. Emily shares why her name alone no longer fit the vibe of the company (can read fully why on her blog here) since it's not just her any more (and for a few other good reasons too). But she has built up soooo much capital with that name that instead of an overhaul (which could be legitimate here), she's tweaking the name to now be "Emily McDowell Studio."

In both instances, these companies could still use their respective domain names without much confusion (Starbucks was already just Starbucks for their name and for Emily adding studio isn't necessary), legacy logos, graphics and printed pieces can stay around a bit during the transition and it's not going to hurt much and your social media won't change that much either. In some cases, your actual name stays the same and you add a tagline that clarifies things that include everywhere.

How have you dealt with a name change? Or are you thinking about one? Let us know your story in the comments!