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GT&A In The Media (an article from 2000) "Rename Redux: Is It Time to Rechristen Your Company?"
Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman; Gordon Sumner renamed himself Sting; JudyGarland switched from Frances Gumm; and the most famous he-man cowboy of all time,Marion Morrison, re-branded himself John Wayne. What's in a name? As poor, doomedRomeo soon found out -- pretty much everything.
Death in the Capulet crypt isn't the usual consequence of having the wrong name in thebusiness world, but an increasing number of companies are opting to re-christen themselvesdespite the inevitable cost and inconvenience.
Graeme Thickins is the founder and president of GT&A Strategic Marketing, a Minneapolisfirm that helps small and mid-sized companies with all aspects of marketing, includingrebranding. He says interest in name-changing doubled between 1998 and 1999, and peakedin the first quarter of 2000.
"Renaming has become a popular, trendy thing to do," Thickins says. "People looked at nameslike Java and Yahoo! and they want names for their own companies that capture the imaginationsof consumers like that." The trend has snowballed recently, he says, because "the technologyfield has discovered the power of naming." Because You Want To
Companies are re-christening themselves for two very simple reasons: they either want to,
or they have to, says Thickins. On the voluntary side, many companies switch because the
original is too long, too vague, or just too boring. "They're failing to communicate their
message to their key audience," says Nan Budinger, creative director of San Francisco's
Metaphor Name Consultants, which helped give Architext, a software developer in Cupertino,
Calif., a new life as Excite.
That's confirmed by Dmitri Ekimov, CEO of an Arlington, Va. unified messaging servicepreviously called "That was too long and too narrow," he says.
"Also, we wanted something more memorable – like Yahoo!" Ekimov's choice: aTelo.
Interestingly, the company opted for a new name after only three years in business, andone year of operating in the U.S. Was it wise to change so soon? "Definitely," says Ekimov.
"Identity is very important and it helps to become known with a quick, simple name." Thickins has assisted a number of companies with similar motivations.
• Net Sources International, a B2B exchange company in St. Paul, Minn., wantedsomething more memorable and became ZeroFriction – an allusion to its objective ofeliminating the middle man.
• An Internet commerce firm in St. Paul, Minn., didn't like the sound of InTrek andbecame Eliance – an intentional association with the word "reliance," • ThemeMedia of Redmond, Wash., which develops mapping software, found its nametoo cumbersome and became Cartia, from the French carte for "map." A second commonly cited reason for a voluntary change of titles is a change of direction.
"Often, a company's name will be tied to a specific technology or product that has becomedated," says Budinger. "Or it will have discovered new success with a new product." SAC Technologies of Eden Prairie, Minn., for example, is currently in the process of movingto Las Vegas and renaming itself Bio-Key International. "We charted a new course of action,"says marketing chief Jeff Brown, "and we wanted a new name to reflect that." SAC beganworking with biometric fingerprinting technology in 1992. It has since developed a corealgorithm, the Bio-Key, and is now more focused on supplying it globally – hence, Bio-KeyInternational. "It's a better explanation of what we're doing," says Brown.
Because You Must
In many cases, a company's name change is not a choice, but a necessity. A small business may
expand, for instance, and upon conducting a national or global trademark search, will discover
its name is already being used. Or a large company may host a spin-off, such as World Kitchen
branching off from Corning Consumer Products.
Conversely, acquisitions and mergers will often necessitate a name change – sometimes two orthree. USWeb of Santa Clara, Calif. and CKS Partners of Cupertino, Calif., for example, joinedforces in December 1998 to form USWeb/CKS. Just three months later, that company mergedwith Whittman-Hart of Chicago and became marchFirst, now a global professional servicescompany.
Then there's the good old lawsuit. Nancy Grigor, CEO of, for example,is "still in court" battling Darrell Rubens of The former is a locationsscouting firm in Amaganett, NY; the latter, a large South Hampton home for rent as a medialocation by the owner.
Grigor is alleging that Rubens began his Web site only after seeing her company's card, and thathis site's name was chosen specifically to drive her traffic to him. "It's not enough to just changeone letter," says her attorney, Michael Griffith. "I can't rename my company Pepso-Cola andexpect to get away with it." While the outcome of the dispute is yet unknown, there is one certainty: someone's going toend up with a pricey new name.
Matchless Monikers
Once the decision to rename has been made by – or thrust upon – a company, there remains the
crucial issue of selecting the right one. "It is the single most important marketing decision a
company will ever make," says Thickins.
Marketing firms like GT&A and naming specialists like Metaphor essentially follow the sameprocedure. After in-depth interviews with the company, hundreds (sometimes thousands) ofpotential names are whittled down through legal and linguistic analyses to two or three finalists.
That can take anywhere from a few weeks to many months. "The broader the search, the longerthe process," says Thickins. And more importantly: "You need CEOs with strong leadership –the more people involved, the slower the process," he says.
Time, of course, is the least painful expense incurred in an identity change. Financially, thewhole process will run anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 to a few million dollars, dependingon the size of the company, the type of firm hired, and their location.
First, there are consultants' fees, which run the gamut. GT&A charges between $2,500 and$15,000 for naming services, whereas Metaphor charges $25,000 to $40,000. Many smallercompanies, such as Bio-Key and aTelo, chose to avoid the consultants' costs altogether bydevising their own names and conducting free preliminary searches. (Two sites for freesearches are and Some expenses can't be avoided, however, such as legal fees, which can easily run into the$10,000 to $25,000 range for small to mid-sized companies. Then, there is the cost of re-marketing, which entails everything from new business cards and letterhead to redesigningthe logo and Web site to launching an extensive ad campaign. Naturally, this expense willvary tremendously, but "we’ve found it can range from ten thousand to north of fiftythousand or more for small and mid-sized firms," says Thickins.
Despite the costs, once a company has committed to changing its name, "it's almost alwaysa positive move," says Thickins. Budinger offers a word of caution, however: "You cannever fool your audience," she says. "If you pretend you're new and improved -- and youaren't -- it will backfire." Related Links – GT&A Strategic Marketing Inc. – Network Solutions – US Patent & Trademark Office
This article reprint provided by:
Graeme ThickinsFounder & PresidentGT&A Strategic Marketing Inc.
Minneapolis, MN, [email protected]


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