There are a number of reasons organizations change their names, from mergers or company splits (Anderson Consulting to Accenture in 2001) to wanting to better align their names with an evolving service or product line (Apples Computer to Apple in 2007) or even distance themselves from a product in the portfolio (Phillip Morris to Altria Group in 2003).
It can be an expensive and time-consuming process – Inc. Magazine estimates that the cost of a business name change, which often requires rebranding too, can range anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million, depending on the size of the business. There are also a number of regulatory steps required, from notifying the IRS to updating contracts.
The key to the success of a name change, however, hinges on how well you communicate that change to employees, customers and partners. Creating a communications plan that includes six key steps will help your organization’s name change go off without a hitch.
- Begin with your employees. Your teams are the face of the organization to customers and partners alike, and it is of critical importance that they understand why the name is changing and be able to explain it, succinctly. Hold staff meetings and offer Q&A sessions to help your teams understand why the change is important – and do this well in advance of launching the new company name. Provide talking points for employees at all levels, and make sure that any policies about speaking to the media are understood throughout the organization.
- Inventory your marketing materials. From your website to business contracts and company letterhead, minimize confusion or inconvenience for your customers. Don’t forget about social media profiles and email signature lines. Any collateral in use needs to be reexamined and rebranded.
- Announce the name change publicly, with a multichannel approach. If you are notifying customers by email, follow up with a letter mailed to their place of business. Reach out to relevant media with a press release and consider placing an ad in key publications, if the name change is a significant one. Use your website to host the press release, FAQs, a video and a letter from the CEO. Explain the rationale behind the name change, but in less detail than you did with employees.
- Announce it again, in another way. There’s no such thing as overcommunication when announcing a business name change.
- Flip the switch. Pick a day for your switchover and ensure that your customers, partners and suppliers see your new name, not the old one, on all marketing materials. Many organizations have a transition period in which materials have a message along the lines of “new name, same excellent service,” or a temporary logo that incorporates the old and the new, but all materials and communications should switch over to the new name at the same time.
- Go big. Don’t miss an opportunity to connect with customers and get out in front of new ones. Consider hosting an event to celebrate the launch, such as a happy hour or meet and greet. Or perhaps offer a promotion or discount aligned with the announcement. Don’t forget to reach out to industry and local media to not only announce the name change but also invite them to any events or offer any promotions.
Branding is more important today than ever before, and your company’s name is the public face of your brand. Changing it requires a thoughtful approach that ensures your investment pays dividends.