What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” –Romeo and Juliet

Were William Shakespeare to come back today, he might find it oddly amusing the care and marketing attention companies and organizations pay to find the right name.  Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours coming up with THE name–one that will help them earn big bucks, cement customer loyalty, get them attention and, in many cases, reinvigorate their brand.

An article in the Washington Post’s Capital Business today highlights how many companies and nonprofits are undergoing branding makeovers, developing new logos, taglines and names.  And they are spending big bucks despite a tough economy to do it.  Some of these are the result of mergers, some are designed to breathe new life into a tired brand and some stem from the need to reposition themselves in a rapidly changing and more competitive landscape.

If you are considering a re-branding  effort for your company or nonprofit, think about the following:

To Rename or Not to Rename?

To what end? Every communications initiative should start with this question.

Why are we doing this?

Is there a problem with what we are doing?

If so, what is it and how will a re-branding effort help fix it?

Those who read this blog know how much I dislike Verizon.  Their problem isn’t a name or logo–it’s service. Cramming a new logo down my throat won’t do anything to change my view of the company. In fact, I wish they would stop sending me glitzy ads telling me how wonderful they are and invest in better service so they could BE truly wonderful.

Some reasons to re-brand:  the company or nonprofit adds new services or expands.  I re-branded my own company several years ago from Liz Wainger Communications to Wainger Group.  Why?   No one could spell communications but more seriously, I am augmenting my communications work with facilitation.  I kept my name because that is part of my brand and added “group” because we are growing, expanding and partnering to deliver sophisticated and complete communications and organizational development services.

Another reason to re-brand: the company has a bad reputation the result often of a single catastrophic event.  If becomes impossible to overcome negative impressions associated with the company’s name, it may be time to rename and re-brand.   Remember low-cost airline ValueJet and the crash in 1996 of one of its planes.  It could not recover and merged with AirTran, with many of the former ValueJet folks running the company.  Security company Blackwater Worldwide changed its name to Xe Services, LLC several years ago in an effort to distance itself from the negativity around its 2007 shooting in Iraq that killed seven people and to focus attention on the company’s training and logistics services.