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Every hour around the clock and every single day of the year, a major corporation is forced to change its name for several reasons, such as that the name becomes a liability or is no longer appropriate due to changes of businesses models or technology or trademark litigation. Nonetheless, corporate name changes are done all the time and often very successfully.
To change or not to change, that's the big question. A very large number of corporations, big and small, are faced with the question of how and when they should bite the bullet and change their name or whether they should simply do nothing. Why?
Sometimes -- and more often it is like an underground movement -- almost the entire staff whispers about the problem with the corporate name; after all, they are on the frontlines and confronted daily with some kind of a backlash for not having a clear message or a distinct connection with their corporate name.
There are always talks, jokes, suggestions and ideas. However, this underground movement of a silent majority is never heard at the top, as there is no direct platform or single critical element that would put this on top of the agenda. No one dares bring it up, and the problem goes on for years and sometimes decades. Mum is the word.
Fear of change
Out of fear of change, management often brushes off all the rumors. For instance, a fictitious company called REDCOM might have to repaint hundreds of trucks and change thousands of red uniforms. What about changing all the stationery and billboards? The entire organization trembles with this notion that it might end up with BlueCOM, as a preferred choice of half of the entire staff, while the other half refuses to wear baby-blue uniforms and are threatening to quit.
Of course they have also read some of the horror stories of corporate name changes and how others ended up with dumb names. The fear keeps the murmur from becoming a thunder and life goes on. Agony is prolonged.
Very often at the very top, in the darkly lit boardrooms, the deeper voices think very differently. Just don't rock the boat. Why fix it, if it ain't broke? Let REDCOM, for the traditional Redmond Construction Management, continue, let our logo of a red phone shine. Who cares? If people think that we are a communications company selling red phones, call the lawyer and give them more budgets to fight it out, and run some more ads explaining that we will never sell red phones.
These kinds of short quips take place every other day of the year and sometimes continue for decades.
To find ideas and a solution, create a forum and invite candid and previously hidden comments, while carefully monitoring and measuring the problems of public misperceptions. Try to measure the pros and cons.
If a large majority of the general customer base believes that REDCOM is in the communications business and fails to see that it is really drawn from the name "Redmond" and not the color red, then what is the real cost of such lost opportunities? The issue is not how many customers like you and are happy to call you REDCOM. Rather it's how many customers are ignoring you because of your image while many are calling you to buy red phones.
Most importantly, how is this name creating more difficulties for your regional and global expansion.
Every hour round the clock and every single day of the year, a major corporation is forced to change its name for several reasons, such as that the name becomes a liability or is no longer appropriate due to changes of businesses models or technology or trademark litigation. Nonetheless, corporate name changes are done all the time and often very successfully.
For management to explore this issue with a serious plan is the first step. To proceed, it would be best to select a small team and let it search out a professional strategy with a proven track record. Explore the Internet and build a solid case.
Incidentally, very often, and totally unknown to the customer base, there are numerous successful adventures and various victories that a corporation has. As long as the old perception of a red telephone inhibits the incubation of other brighter and newer perceptions in the minds of the potential customer base, this corporate image is a cumbersome liability. The older the companies, the more their hidden achievements.
Fresh corporate name changes are great opportunities to embrace the future, start of a new journey and open the gates to new customers. It is a proven fact that modern names attract customers and old dysfunctional names don't ring the cash registers. Let the bells ring.
Today, the power of a company, apart from financials and delivery of quality products and services, lays in visibility and image perception. In the old days with fewer companies, most corporations simply got along as long as they had a good business process.
Today, it's a real battle. Either you are clearly visible and have a clear identity or you're simply lost and all the goods and innovation is sitting on the shelf, collecting dust.
The rules of corporate naming and establishing of global identity and corporate image have become very sophisticated and are no longer the common branding games. Cyber-branding and global domain name management is now a very advanced technique and critical to expanding businesses.
Two options: Do something today, or stay on course. It's time to make a call on a hotline -- perhaps a red phone.
Naseem Javed, author of Naming for Power and Domain Wars, is recognized as a world authority on global name identities and domain issues. Javed founded ABC Namebank International, a consultancy he established a quarter century ago, and conducts executive workshops on image and name identity issues. For comments reach Naseem at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.