3 Tips for Rebranding: Changing your Business Name

changing your business name

I love names. I’m fascinated by human names, pet names, city names, building names, all kinds of names, including business names. I think about names a lot, which means I also think about what to name a business, and changing your business name.

The only reason I haven’t written about changing your business name is because it highlights the fact that I don’t actually love the name of my own business. Also, the reason I chose it is decidedly stupid. (I’ll get into that)

The name you choose for your business is personal and a matter of taste. It’s also strategic, and subject to a whole list of best practices. 

The reason I finally decided to write about names is because of a survey that emerged this week about what I would consider one of the most disastrous rebrands of the information age. Any guesses?

X Misses the Mark

Two of his children are called Ex and Exa, so I guess it’s no surprise that Elon Musk named his other baby, the platform formerly known as Twitter, X. You’d think that would cause confusion during family dinner conversations, no?

The reason the Twitter rebrand is a disaster is because it isn’t a rebrand. It’s a surprise name change. Like many of Musk’s decisions regarding his new social platform, the name change seemed to come out of nowhere, for no good reason.

Now, a Harris survey shows that Gen Z refuses to call it anything but Twitter. What are you supposed to call Tweets? X-cerpts? 

To do a proper rebrand, you need to bring your audience along for the journey. Your audience should feel like the name change is a foregone conclusion, a move they understand and embrace.

However, people get attached to the status quo, so creating a successful rebrand journey is hard. Furthermore, in order to adjust to a big change like a new name, research shows customers expect equally big changes to what the company is offering. By this metric, it’s tough for X to justify the name change.

Tip #1: if you’re going to change the name of your business, test it out first to make sure the audience understands and embraces the change.   

Changing Your Business Name Like Wilder Institute 

The Calgary Zoo decided to undertake a something of a rebrand by naming its foundation The Wilder Institute. I suspect that ultimately the entire organization will become the Wilder Institute. The name change has been slow, occurring over a number of weeks and months.

It makes sense to the audience. Those who support the institution know that it’s much more than a zoo, which is a word/ concept that sometimes has negative connotations. It’s a world-class conservation and research institution, so the Wilder Institute’s audience eagerly embraced the new name.

The Wilder Institute did not just announce one day that the foundation’s name would be changing. It launched an extensive publicity campaign using billboard/ bus shelter ads, as well as a media campaign explaining the change. Even people not all that familiar with the zoo and its foundation would have no problem following the logic of the rebrand.

Tip #2: If you decide to change your business name, make sure your audience gets lots of notice and lots of explanation to help them adjust.

My Own Business Name

I don’t love the name of my business, Create That. The reason I chose it came before I had lost my enthusiasm for social media.

At the time I started my business, I had a verified Twitter account that incorporated the name of the TV station I was working at. I had several thousand followers, and my hope was to keep the account, the blue checkmark (Had I but known how worthless THOSE would turn out to be…) and the followers by transitioning my handle, @CTVBridget, over to my new business. 

I tried to come up with a business name that would still fit this handle. Ultimately I came up with Create That Vision. But then, my old boss asked me to change my handle anyway. By that time, I’d already registered my business as Create That Communications, and it’s been with me for 7 years. 

I’ve thought many times about changing it to something clearer that rolls off the tongue better, but there is another element of rebranding that stops me every time.

Research shows that when a business rebrands, customers expect related changes and improvements. If they get the sense that it’s just change for change’s sake, it feels inauthentic. 

As you probably know, I believe maintaining authenticity is the best way to connect with your audience and keep them loyal. Because the rest of my business is not changing, the name is not changing either. 

Whatever failings Create That has as a name, it’s certainly authentic. My clients ask for something, and I Create That something. I mean, it’s at least accurate, right?

Tip #3: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If your business is going well and there isn’t a specific reason to change the name, don’t do it just because you wish you’d chosen something different.