Any time you give something a new name, it’s a big deal. While naming a company is very different from naming a pet or your first-born child, it still feels close to home because, ideally, you’re looking for a moniker that speaks to the very heart of how you do business.
In 2018, we successfully rebranded ourselves from Ascension Insurance to Relation Insurance Services. If you’re considering renaming your firm, here are seven things we learned that you should think about to help ensure a successful rollout with your team that will extend to clients and into the larger business community.
Involve the right people from the beginning. First, create a naming committee comprised of folks from all levels and facets of your business. Consider leveraging outside consultants where appropriate for support so the internal team can remain focused on the day-to-day business. New names also can create distractions and/or concerns for employees speculating about an ownership change. You can mitigate this by prepping the leadership team with key talking points and anticipated FAQs.
Know where you are so you can show the team where you want to go. Conduct an audit of company names already in use in your industry or tangential to your industry to help explain to employees where your current name fits in the ecosystem and why it needs to change. A helpful exercise is to plot out which company names in the industry are descriptive and which get turned into acronyms. Look at which names are constructed or invented and how many evocative names are out there.
Don’t be emotional about picking a new name. As you begin the process of reviewing potential names, strong feelings will likely surface, but remember: naming a company has to be strategic. To keep emotions to a minimum, establish the following guidelines for evaluating potential names:
- No one else should be able to lay claim to it in your vertical
- It has to distinguish you from competitors in the industry
- It needs to complement your brand positioning
- It has to be memorable, easy to say and spell, and look good on signage and marketing materials.
Take the time to get it right and push on. In order to find something that hits all of your criteria, you’ll need to construct or invent a name or find one that isn’t likely to be used in your vertical. Wherever you land, the new name will probably require some courage and vision to bring it to life. For us, at the core of every aspect of how we do business is our relationship and partnership to our clients. Once we landed on “Relation,” it became obvious that we needed to be bold enough to put that front and center on everything we did. We also knew that not everyone would buy into the new name at first, and we built that into our rollout plan.
Use internal influencers to help get the rest of the team on board. Identify groups of influencers within your organization who can be brand champions and brand ambassadors. The brand champions should be folks in leadership positions at each business unit who can help answer questions and address concerns locally while championing the brand to employees who may be attached to the old name/messaging. Gain their buy-in before the rest of the company.
The brand ambassadors should be associates in each office who can be continuously responsible for upholding the new brand standards at each office and making sure everyone has what they need. They can also be the first line of defense, letting leadership know of any minor issues before they escalate.
Keep the momentum and excitement building. Employees are influenced by leadership. All the way up until your external launch, your executive team should be demonstrably united and excited about the name change. Consider facilitating town halls, speaking one-on-one with any detractors, sending out regular progress emails to the whole company, and including updates on regular all-colleague calls. Drip-releasing branded collateral materials and merchandise also helps to build excitement leading up to the hard launch.
Don’t stop internal communications after launch day. After launch day, continue to send out weekly (or daily, if needed) email updates for housekeeping items. Consider devoting monthly all-colleague and sales team calls to give big-picture updates on branding and solicit ideas for new content and thought leadership. It’s also important to fold the branding into your employee experience initiatives for recruitment and onboarding, health and wellness, and employee engagement. Our national sales meeting happened to come hot on the heels of the launch, which gave us an additional opportunity to build pride in the new brand and begin a collaboration between marketing and sales on a new, comprehensive collateral system.
Changing your name can either generate a lot of interest in your work or make it harder for people to remember exactly who you are and how to find you. Your employees are the ones who can help set your firm apart from your competitors. Start from the inside out with them and let them build your advantage!
Natalie Zensius is senior vice president for marketing communications at Relation Insurance Services. email@example.com