Domain scarcity and oversaturation of brands makes a company’s name a highly valuable asset. Nowadays, trademarks and domains cost anything from a few dollars to a couple of million, with $10,000+ not uncommon for strong sounding, six syllable words.

So what happens if you need to rename at speed? And how do you avoid losing mindshare and missing out on sales whilst simultaneously spending on a new name? It’s a mammoth task, but having renamed many brands my team and I have pulled together a checklist to help you navigate the process.

Why change your company name?

Renaming a brand is a laborious, costly and often unquantifiable process. Before taking the leap, evaluate whether or not it is truly justified – are there straightforward, strategic and consumer centric reasons for the change? If not there are easier, less risky ways to grow. Entrepreneur Magazine provides lots of valuable advice on why you should change your name, but a few strong starting points are:

  • Issues with trademark (an inability to trademark your name can devalue your brand).
  • A large competitor emerges with a similar name
  • Your name lacks market relevance (this happens when entering new geographies with a name the new audience finds confusing or hard to spell).
  • Your business has outgrown its name (e.g Sound of Music became Best Buy or Confinity became PayPal).

The strategy behind a name change

Deciding to rename often happens overnight: what most founders do not foresee is how much the effort is required to create and implement a new name. Here’s a simplified list of steps we as an agency take with our clients:

  • First, we re-hash the company’s mission, vision and brand strategy through a series of workshops and research exercises.
  • We then move onto name generation; the most enjoyable part of the process – if you wish to rename in house but are not sure where to start check out our brand naming checklist.
  • Once the top 5 options are approved and domain availability and semantics checked, we test them with selected customers and stakeholders before selecting a winner.
  • Next, we buy the domain name and trademark, this often requires the involvement of a lawyer.
  • In parallel we prepare an implementation plan for bringing the new name to life through the updating of visual assets.
  • We then announce your new name to all employees, internal stakeholders and partners.
  • Your new name is simultaneously rolled out across main communication channels: website, marketing collateral and sales deck.
  • In parallel, we engage your PR partner to draft and distribute a press release with the reasons behind the name change.
  • You may want to give existing customers a heads up about the name change.
  • Finally roll out your marketing and public relations plans together.

In order for this long (although still high level) list to run smoothly, be sure to have a full plan in place before starting and assign team members in various departments as key decision makers.

Questions you can expect:

A key goal of your name change is to keep your audience engaged and aware of you as a business. Consistent and transparent communication is the key to sustaining relationships through periods of change. Change and uncertainty are scary, and if customers do not understand the reasons for renaming or why the new name is a better fit for your mission, they may lose trust in your brand (which inevitably leads to decreased revenue).

Much like customers, employees are crucial brand ambassadors. They also need a clear explanation to understand and support your new mission. To obtain company-wide buy-in engage employees early on. Nothing prevents you from organizing a company-wide name competition to generate excitement around the process. Your team will feel motivated knowing they have had a say and are likely to feel more attached to the end result. Ultimately your employees will be communicating the name change to customers, so their approval is vital.

Publicize your new name

Let’s spend a few minutes understanding the importance of talking about your new name. Renaming is a sign you care about your business, It represents forward-thinking, a desire to invest in your growth and is a sign of strength. It is attractive and it is reassuring.

It is also a fantastic PR opportunity that must be leveraged to build new media partnerships, gain the spotlight and generate excitement around your business. It is an all important hook for those increasingly hard to come by media opportunities.

Following renaming web traffic typically increases – be sure to capitalize on it. Refine the paths to purchase, ensure service and product pages are updated and easy to find, add an article about your renaming to the top of your blog page and ensure your mission and about pages are aligned with your reasons for renaming

P.S. Love thy loyal one, or community comes first

It’s no secret renaming is a turbulent and distracting process. Strategy, transparency and timely communications are crucial; but even more important is ensuring you continue to provide excellent products and services to your customers. Renaming and rebranding always take longer than expected. Oftentimes you’ll face competing work streams and priorities; regardless of where you are in the process remember your clients and their needs are your #1 priority and always come first.