Another Company Name Change… Cue the Eye Roll

A collage of "Hello my name is..." stickersOne of the greatest ironies about getting older is that despite the whispers of life experience and wisdom through which we can better take life’s drama with a grain of salt, and to view it with the perspective and acceptance that prevent our heads from exploding on a daily basis, there is one troubling reality: new situations to replace them… which still hold the power to make our heads explode.

To me, a recent bugaboo has been company name changes.

A few weeks ago, my partner and I received an email from a company we deal with, announcing their name change. Frankly, it wasn’t a big change. They just dropped a few letters from the end of their name.

I felt empathy for the poor employees having to drop everything to update all of their forms, templates and signature blocks, at a time when their plates were probably already full. It brought back memories of a position I have been in more times than I wanted to recall.

I sometimes wonder if it’s just me who thinks that company names seem to be changing at a faster pace than before.

But the evidence speaks for itself when watching a vintage episode of “The Price is Right” on YouTube and noticing that many company names that were household names in the 1970s have completely disappeared.

I have to admit that remembering names is not my strongest attribute.

It’s not that my memory is any weaker than anyone else’s. Over the span of my three decade career, my brain has had to retain, without exaggeration, thousands of names of colleagues and clients. But when you add the factor of team names that changed regularly, thanks to reorganizations every few years, is it any wonder that my mental Rolodex is exhausted?

It’s gotten to the point that even now, when writing fiction, I’m finding myself challenged in remembering the names of my secondary characters. I have to keep checking my cast list, or else risk breaking continuity and having a character’s spouse mysteriously change names throughout the story.

What concerns me is that with company names changing at the speed of sound, I fear losing track of businesses I enjoy dealing with.

Am I now supposed to remember their old name, new name, then another new name, how long ago the names changed as well as the ever-changing landmarks around it?

For example (a fictitious example for illustrative purposes only):

“You know, it’s one of the stores next to the Wendy’s… But it’s not a Wendy’s anymore, it’s a Starbucks.”
“You mean the mall with the sushi place?”
“It used to be a sushi place, but that’s now a vaping store.”
“Are you sure we’re talking about the same mall in the west end?”
“West end? No, sorry. I meant the south end.”

At the risk of sounding like an old man (yes, friends, I hear you yelling “but you are an old man!”) I confess, certain name changes make no sense to me. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

When did a company name, backed by years of good service, strong performance and gold-standard reputation suddenly become a disposable commodity?

When I see popular and highly recognizable company names disappear in favour of shorter, snappier names or just initials, to me it trivializes and diminishes the work of those who shed blood, sweat and tears to earn the name and reputation.

A long-standing corporate name can stand for history, experience, consistency and staying power.

To me, a name change can seem like a snub or a lack of respect for those qualities. I wonder if the executives making that call are undervaluing and underestimating their own history.

However, there are a few scenarios where I think a name change is appropriate:

For example, if a company chooses to change course in terms of products or services. Whether they are pivoting, streamlining or altering business lines, a name change may indeed be needed if it no longer reflects their strategic direction.

Also, if a new company or a recently renamed company is the process of self-correcting when a name choice isn’t working out or causing confusion, that makes sense to me as well.
However, communication is key when that happens.

If I only deal with a company every few years (like for durable goods), if they change names, how am I to know that it is the same company when the new name offers no hint of an association to the former one?

If they wish to maintain a competitive advantage with clients, shouldn’t their website mention the name change and keep it pinned for all to see, for years to come?

While I completely understand the principle of freshening up a brand, to me a good name is sacred. Company names, as well as their logos, should be revered and protected.

Please… don’t dismiss them, don’t hide them… honour them! The company worked too hard for these to be tossed aside.

But if a company absolutely must, the focus of a comprehensive transition strategy should be to find a happy medium that appeals to a new audience while keeping close ties to the former audience?

That way, former customers who may know the company under a different name can follow the company through its branding change, and maintain close ties to a company it knows, loves and wishes to continue to support.

While I may not be an expert in corporate branding, shouldn’t brand loyalty and recognition across all generations be the strategic goal of any rebranding exercise?

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,

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