Changing Your Company Name: The Good, The Bad and The Unnecessary
Wondering whether or not to change your company name? Several
reasons for doing this are legitimate. Other reasons should make
you stop and reconsider.
Most of the time, companies that come to my naming company
frantic to find a new name for their firm or for a product do so
because of legal problems. They've received a case-and-desist
letter, and it's cheaper and wiser to switch than to fight.
Even those who follow corporate name games probably don't
realize that Kentucky Fried Chicken falls into this category. In
1991, the company told the public that they were changing their
name to KFC because health-conscious consumers were shying away
from the word "fried." Since the name change coincided with the
introduction of several purportedly healthier menu items, this
In fact, however, in 1990 the state of Kentucky had trademarked
its name and created the requirement that any business using the
word Kentucky for business purposes would have to obtain
permission and pay licensing fees. Kentucky Fried Chicken took
umbrage at the idea of paying for a name they'd used since 1952.
Their negotiations with the state broke down, and they adopted
KFC as their new name.
The second most common impetus for an organizational name change
is a word in the name that's gone out of favor with the industry
or with the general public. For instance, the Massachusetts State
House is considering legislation to rename the Department of
Mental Retardation the Department of Developmental Disabilities,
in keeping with altered notions of appropriate labeling.
The same goes for company names that sound old-fashioned and out
of date. In 2009, a shop called Fotos and Film raises the issue
of whether or not they're in step with today's digital
The third good reason for changing your company name is that the
name no longer fits the services you perform and the goods you
sell. If you launched as Westfield Wire and now you make mainly
cables, renaming is indeed in order.
Likewise, geographical growth or relocations can render a
business name obsolete. If Gerard County Savings Bank expands
beyond Gerard County, it should put itself in line for a name
Got a name that people just can't remember or that they confuse
with your competitor? One company came to us for renaming because
even people who'd previously bought from them couldn't remember
whether they were, let's say, MyGrandPhotos.com (correct) or
YourGrandPhotos.com (the competitor). Renaming makes sense for
that situation, too.
If you're just plain tired of your name, however, forget about a
name change. It involves a lot of expense and effort to convince
the public to get on board with the new name. Don't go there for
frivolous, unnecessary reasons.
The final situation, mergers and acquisitions, which often prompt
renaming, depends on the situation. Restaurants that take over
from a disreputable or failing establishment do well to signal
their fresh start with both a name change and redecoration.
However, a company that was humming along fine before the change
of ownership should usually continue with the name they had
before. In business, longevity and consistency inspire
Marcia Yudkin is Head Stork of Named At Last, a company that
brainstorms creative business names, product names and tag lines
for clients. For a systematic process of coming up with an
appealing and effective name or tag line, download a free copy of
"19 Steps to the Perfect Company Name, Product Name or Tag Line"