You’ve decided to change your brand name, and you’re tempted to grab some sticky notes and crack open a thesaurus. Those tools will come in handy…but not yet.

It’s important to define what a good (new) name must accomplish. Otherwise, how will you know when you’ve found the right one?

Here are six steps for setting helpful naming parameters.

Step 1: Remind yourself why you’re changing your name.

We’ve previously discussed good reasons to change your brand name. It’s important to determine these at the outset. Be sure to keep these in mind throughout the process and have your justification statement in your back pocket for your brand rollout too. Your employees and customers will want to know what spurred this foundational shift.

Your justification statement might sound something like this, “We are moving to a 100% meat-free line-up of convenient frozen appetizers. So, we’re changing our name to shed old associations and reflect our commitment to plant-based, sustainable foods and lifestyles.”

Step 2: Determine which part(s) of your name need to change.
You may not need to throw out your entire name. An update to your descriptor (the modifier that follows your primary name) may be enough. If that’s the case, commit to what will stay and what will go — before you go any further. For example, if your current modifier is too specific, too general, or generally misleading, you may want to change it.

Step 3: Research your brand family tree.
If you’re from a big family, your name probably follows a pattern. Your parents picked a thematic or linguistic lane and stuck with it. Famous siblings like the bohemian Phoenixes (Jodean, River, Rain, Joaquin, Liberty, and Summer) and the K-happy Kardashians come to mind. It’s no wonder Rob’s an outlier.

Brand names can be like family names. If there’s a pattern and you want everyone to remain close and harmonious, you’ll want to stick with it when naming (or renaming) your brand or parts of your brand family. Nike sneaker  names — Air, Zoom, Fly, Blazer, Superfly, Vapor — are good examples of patterned naming.

Step 4: Write your brand manifesto.
We’ve also covered the importance of communicating what you believe and how that impacts your operations — both internally and externally. If your brand doesn’t currently have a manifesto (also sometimes called a creed), take a moment to fill in these blanks: “We believe in __________, and that’s why we ___________.”  Your answers could help guide your search for a name. 

Apartment Therapy is a great example of a name full of meaningful promise. Here’s how they describe themselves: “We believe that home is at the root of everything that really matters. With that in mind, we carry our reader through the entire journey, from finding a home to feeling at home.”

Step 5: Know what you want your (new) name to convey.
It can be helpful to pick one or two actions or feelings you’d like your brand name to convey. When naming Pivot (circa 2006, before it became a buzzword), I wanted to communicate change and forward motion. Much more famous examples include Amazon (big/different/everything from a-to-z) and Nike (victory). 

It’s also worth noting that Amazon and Nike weren’t the first names of those companies. They were Cadabra and Blue Ribbon Sports, respectively. Even the biggest companies on the planet have changed their names.

Step 6: Remember who will care about your name.
Your new name may need to do some heavy lifting — clearing up confusion, introducing a revamped product or service, reassuring team members after a merger, the list goes on. As you embark on your naming exercises, don’t forget who your name is for and how they’ll use it.  Maybe it needs to tell people exactly who you are or what you do. Maybe it needs to leave room for you to grow and evolve. Maybe it’s packed with meaning, inviting people to join your mission.

Some of the best brand names have become verbs — think Swiffer and Google. They’ve entered our everyday language so successfully because they knew that everyday people, not product engineers, were the core audience. The names are short, fun, and quirky; a great way to make technical innovations accessible to the rest of us.

Your name is valuable. We know that the decision to change your brand name doesn’t come lightly or without risk. With proper strategy, planning, and reintroduction to the market, the benefits of a name change can outweigh the costs.


Ready for an effective name? Let's discuss.