Rebranding and Marketing: What’s in a Name?

One business owner I met last week was considering a name change. Although he said he didn’t think it was worth doing any market research on the name because of the nature of his business, it felt more like he didn’t want to research because he didn’t really care what anyone else thought about the name. Hopefully that attitude doesn’t carry over to his business dealings with customers in other aspects as well.

For companies who do care about their business and product name, I’ve compiled a few points to consider:

Alpha: Where will your business fall in an on-line directory or the phone book? Depending on the nature of your business, if your services are selected and purchased from listings, there may be a definite advantage being first.

Translations: What does the name mean when it is translated into another language? Tri-lingual packaging is very common for companies doing business with large retailers that have North American warehouses. At a minimum, check out the meaning in Spanish and French. There are many funny (sad funny, not funny funny) stories of marketing managers who picked names that didn’t translate well. For instance, Bacardi concocted a fruity drink with the name “Pavian” to suggest French chic, but “pavian” means baboon in German.

Connote vs Denote: You’ll want to explore all angles of a name. What the name officially means compared to how people use it may be two different things. What’s the meaning to other people?

Stakeholder’s opinions: Everyone will have an opinion about the name, but some opinions count more than others. Who are the other people who count: Customers, potential customers, consumers, potential consumers, vendors, employees, shareholders, and yes, the spouse of the owner.

Geographic: Make sure it’s not too limiting. For example, a business in Cleveland may name their company “North Coast Consulting” ( in reference to Lake Erie and pride in the region), but when the company tries to market outside of the area, the meaning of the name is lost and even with an explanation, less understood.

Make sure it is:

  • Easy to spell
  • Easy to pronounce
  • Easy to understand over the phone
  • An available URL
  • Available to trademark as a business name
  • Not too generic - so it’s easier to move up in the search engines and easier to trademark

If you are naming a business or a category (as opposed to a product), you’ll want to make sure that the name is broad enough to act as an umbrella to all your future products.

After you have the name you think you want to use, you should do the market research needed to get the key stakeholders’ input for the product positioning, naming and tag line. Formal market research is a better solution than just casually asking a few friends because selecting a name usually has a long lasting impact.