When external forces begin threatening a brand image, it may be time to cut your losses and move on. This can be especially true in the case of a scandal or tragedy. Often, such occurrences cling to a business name and never leave the public consciousness. Take, for example, the case of ValuJet. A crash in 1996 tarnished the airline’s reputation and cast a dark shadow over its future. To distance itself from the tragedy, the company acquired AirTran and adopted its moniker. The company was eventually able to rebound from the tragedy, thanks in part to its new name.
Although society has a short memory when it comes to many things, negative publicity often burns damaging images into its collective unconscious. The brain makes immediate associations when it comes to words or phrases. A company who becomes saddled with a negative association will have a very difficult time shaking it. Such is the case with Phillip Morris. In order to shake the negative image society held for all things smoking related, the company changed the name of its holding company to Altria in 2001. Although their goods and services didn’t change, distancing itself from the controversy surrounding smoking enabled them to remain top players in the industry.
Sometimes, companies are forced to rebrand themselves because of a shift in public perception. When society was obsessed with dieting and getting thin, a company named Diet Deluxe entered the industry. The business enjoyed a great deal of success until society’s focus shifted from quick fixes to eating healthy. Because of this shift, the word “diet” was often used synonymously with unhealthy living. Diet Deluxe began suffering the consequences. To remedy the situation, the company changed its name to Healthy Choice, thereby honing in on the health movement. Today, Healthy Choice is one of the most successful and popular makers of frozen diet meals.
Other companies may change their name in an attempt to maximize profits on the heels of a very popular product. Such was the case with Matsushita Electric Corporation of America. In 2005, the Japan-based company changed its name to Panasonic, which was its most popular brand at the time. The only place the name change didn’t take place was in Japan, where Matsushita reigned supreme. Once again, the name change was a success and the company has enjoyed a front row seat in the industry for many years.
The act of changing a business name should not be done without a great deal of thought and preparation. It is not enough to simply change your name, especially in the case of negative associations. An entire culture change needs to take place in order to give the new name a separate and positive identity. If the public sees a new name without a corresponding change in company goals, message, or values, they will not see the new business as anything more than a gimmick. A radical transformation, however, will gain consumer trust and allow the company to travel down a new path. In addition, name changes can be very expensive, especially to a company that is already struggling. You need to decide whether the risk is greater than the reward. If so, a name change isn’t the way to go.
It is entirely possible to rebrand your company. Careful planning is the first step to making the transition a success. A moral inventory of your company is also necessary. What do we stand for? How can we make ourselves better? What do consumers want from us? These are all questions that can ensure you are making a complete company overhaul, not just a surface name change.
The decision to change one’s company name can be difficult to make. Even when the decision has been made, you may feel like you are falling all the way back to step one. That may be true, but if that is what’s necessary, there may be no other option. If you find yourself in that position, let Brandroot help. Our names are carefully chosen to provide you with unique opportunities for brand identity and awareness. Your new name may be in our database, just waiting for you to make it your own. What are you waiting for?