A brand name sticks around for a very long time. The business will change, customers change, and products change, but the name does not.
A brand name is the longest living artifact of a company.
Many of the companies that we interact with have long, well-established histories. Colgate, for instance, was founded in 1806 by William Colgate. The company first manufactured starch, soap, and candles. Toothpaste wasn’t introduced until 1873, and it took another 23 years for the company to sell toothpaste in a tube.
Colgate is known around the world as specialists in oral health care, but the company served customers for decades before it cleaned its first set of teeth.
A brand name will outlive marketing, people, and products. It’s the one consistent thing that connects a company to its past.
A Name Is a Vessel of Meaning
A name grows and takes on meaning with time.
It’s not easy to change your name, because it’s packed with meaning. Your name is a vessel for who you are, how you behave, and what you have accomplished.
In 1993, Prince changed his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol. It was weird and it generated a lot of media attention, but Prince couldn’t escape his name. He just became known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”
In 2000, Prince dropped the symbol and went back to using his name. It’s who he was.
Brand names are powerful, because they contain the history and experiences of the company. The name is a vessel for what the company represents.
Changing Names Requires Moving Meaning
Choose your brand names deliberately. They stick around for a long time, and they are hard to change.
In 2004 I led the rebranding of my family’s business. Due to a variety of reasons we changed the company’s name from Miller & Associates to LEAPJob. Developing the new name was actually the easy part. The harder part was moving our customers’ relationship with the old name to the new name.
Changing a brand name can be like hitting the reset button. The brand’s history, meaning, and relationships are intrinsically linked to the original name. To transition customers requires consistent, direct communication — often more than you expect.
We spent over eighteen months conditioning our customers to the new brand name. We ran both names in parallel for a period of time, as well as several marketing campaigns to communicate how and why we were changing the company’s name.
A name is like a label on a file folder in your mind. It’s easy to overlook the importance of the label, because it’s just a word or phrase. But if you transition the name too quickly or don’t communicate the change effectively, you can risk losing the contents of the folder.
Brand Names Improve with Time
Hold onto your brand name for a long time. It improves with age.
Our relationships with brands are built over years, and often decades. Every interaction, customer experience, and story gets connected to the brand name. Over time that name becomes packed with meaning and emotion.
Hold onto your brand names and defend them. They’ll outlive your products and people, and they’ll connect your company to its past.