Is Your Brand a Name Changer?

Man in a business suit wearing a blank name tag sticker

Shortening or abbreviating your brand name has become a growing trend over the last few years. While it may seem like an excellent way to add a fresh take on your branding, it may not necessarily make sense from a strategic perspective.

What’s in a name?

While it’s not unheard of for a company to change its name, it is rare that its for the right reason. Your target market is much more tolerant of visual identity, messaging and even product focus changes. A name change however is often a game changer, and not the kind you’re anticipating.

Initial Reactions

The biggest trend over the last couple of years has been the need to abbreviate or use initials for brand names. This can be attributed to the rise of social media platforms like twitter with character length caps, and the continued popularity of texting and messaging shorthand. O.co, JCP, and even KFC are all recent examples of companies making the switch. KFC tapped into a nickname the market was already using while allowing them to de-emphasize the “Fried” aspect of their name. On the other hand, Overstock.com learned that you can’t nickname yourself without backlash when they tried to adopt the O.co moniker last year. In fact, months after pushing out the name with new marketing materials, including the naming of O.co Coliseum, the company backed off of the name stating that the market just wasn’t ready for the change. Without careful research into your audience’s attitude about the name, you may end up losing them all together. Just like parents adopting the same vernacular as their teens, you’ll sound like a poseur.

Short Shelf Life

Times and markets change. It’s inevitable, and you may very well find yourself in a position that makes your name seem obsolete. The truth is, if your brand has had success over the years, your name no longer has a literal meaning, so why change it. It represents a feeling, or ideally a lifestyle. Founded in 1921, Radio Shack originally sold equipment for ham radio, and the name is the term for a small, wooden structure that housed a ship’s radio equipment. Realizing that they sell electronics, and not so much radio equipment, in 2009 they began marketing themselves as The Shack. The market reacted negatively, and The Shack quickly became Radio Shack once again.

Similarly in 2009, Pizza Hut briefly changed its name to The Hut to reflect the new focus on pasta offerings. While the marketing of the new name came and went, there is still a store front with “The Hut” sign near my office that demonstrates the confidence they had in making that move. Have confidence in your original name, even if it is representative of what you do or sell, and remember that your name is just a label for the feelings your market associates with your brand.

The hard truth about your name is that your audience controls it. They will pronounce it as they see fit, and more importantly, they will create nicknames for your company. Forcing a new name on your customers won’t bring you any more success than cramming bad products down their throats.

To learn more about common mistakes in naming, be sure to check out “That’s My Name. Don’t Wear It Out.”

Leave a Reply