5 Factors to Consider When Launching a Company Name

By Mark Skoultchi

May 24, 2012

At Catchword, we talk a lot about name creation, but you might also be curious about what happens after you end up with “The One.” Considering all the work that went into coming up with your names, you probably hope that the tough stuff is over. The answer is yes: the roughest part is over, but you’re not done. Not quite.

Just as your creative process should be methodical and rigorous, you should also follow a clearly defined process and timeline for adopting that name you’ve worked so hard for.  Beware: the logistics of launching a new company name (or renaming) are more numerous and complex than you think. You have lots more on your to-do list – more i’s to dot and t’s to cross – than for launching a product or service name. And if you’re confused about the differences between company and product naming, take a look here.

But don’t sweat it too much because we’ve summarized the 5 major areas you’ll want to think about, along with the nitty-gritty details that go with them.

1. First, the legal stuff 
(and some administrative odds and ends) 

First things first.  Your top priority is to have your lawyer file an application for trademark registration to the almighty U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You’ll also want to do this for any foreign countries you plan to launch your name in. After you’ve done this, file for a name change with your  Secretary of State and any proper city/county authorities. Also talk to your tax lawyer to review any possible filing issues related to your name change (Subsidiaries? Divisions? Sister companies?). Oh, and don’t forget to update your bank accounts, checks, and other financial paperwork while you’re at it.

2. Defining yourself in the marketplace 
(marketing and identity)

Now that you’ve got some legal firepower for your name, it’s time to think about how your name will assert itself in the marketplace: where it lives in the competitive landscape – and where it will fit into your brand’s overall identity. Think of it as how your name will play with others (namely, graphic design/look & feel). How it will tell your story. Remember that you always want to begin (and hopefully finish!) name creation before identity design.

First and foremost, set up a plan and timeline for how to phase out the old name, if you’re renaming. For example, what kind of transitional copy will you use (“NewCo…formerly known as OldCo.”)? And of course, decide when you actually want to introduce the new name and visual identity.

Before the visuals, consider if your name will need a tagline or descriptor. If it’s suggestive, arbitrary, or abstract, you’ll most likely need a tagline or descriptor, so your audience is better informed about what your company does. If your name is more descriptive, you might still want an evocative tagline to engage your customer. Think of it as it invitation to your audience, a chance to get them interested in what you have to offer.

Now on to the pretty stuff for your peepers. You’ll want to audit how your logo appears in all of your communications. Talk to some graphic designer folks (or even a whole team, if you have the budget) about creating or refreshing your logo and other visual elements of your identity. Ideally, the same design team will be build a cohesive visual ecosystem complete with all the bells and whistles — biz cards, letterhead, envelopes, brochures, pamphlets, marketing collateral, and most importantly, your website (since that’s the first place most of your audience will go).

3. Letting others in on the big secret 
(internal communications)

Now it’s time to let others in your company in on the secret. You’ll need to figure out the best way to announce the name internally. Get your internal team to brainstorm ideas, which could include an email from the CEO/President. How about a special employee get-together? Or other special event? Maybe an internal blog posting – which could be an ideal forum for discussing tough questions that might arise?

Next you’ll want to think about the actual announcement itself. You could enlist the help of a word-minded employee to write and refine the content.  When it’s time to announce the new name and identity internally (oh, and be sure to do it before taking it to the public), be ready to hand out shiny new biz cards at the announcement – or very soon thereafter. You could also get employees on-board by giving out fun swag (hats, T-shirts, bottles, USB flash drives, Post-It notes, etc.), with the new name and identity prominently displayed, of course.

Work with your HR peeps to familiarize your employees with the new name. Make sure they understand the reason for the change, as it’s absolutely essential for them to buy-in to the name. This is a chance to energize your company to rally around your new identity – but the story you tell them should be compelling and consistent. Also, remember that not everyone in the company will agree with or like the name change (hey, change is hard!). Take the time to identify those who speak out and address their concerns and questions fairly and squarely. If you can, ask them to take an active role in the announcement as a way of engaging them.

4. Loud and proud: taking the name public 
(external communications)

OK, now that you’ve told everyone on the inside, it’s time to spill the beans on a larger scale. Just as you created an internal communication plan to announce the name change, make a similar one for customers, analysts, partner companies, investors, and other key external audiences.

You might consider a two-tiered announcement, starting with an “early” one for your most valued partners, investors, and analysts. For a high-touch approach, you could even call your closest customers and inform them personally and field any questions they may have. Use your internal announcement as a model for the “official” press release that will announce your name – loud and proud! – to the media and the world. Make sure to include clear and compelling rationale for the new name and how it supports your company’s vision (don’t be shy about mentioning your naming agency too, if you used one).

Along with the press release, you could send a letter or postcard to your larger pool of customers and partners, announcing the new name (something along the lines of “we’d like to announce our new identity…same great company, now with a new name). You could also write a targeted letter to customers, explaining what the name change means for them – and providing answers to specific questions they might have (“so….will my service contract be affected?”).

And of course, don’t forget to create a page on your company website – or link to the press release – with the announcement and rationale behind the new name.

5. Technologically speaking…
(domains, emails, and such)

Last  but not certainly least, you’ll want to take care of all things technologically speaking, namely emails and domain issues. After all, it’s most likely that most people will find you on the web, so you’ll want to pay extra attention here. First, register the new domain name with your company’s registrar, whether it’s Network Solutions, GoDaddy, Register.com, or somebody else. Don’t forget to also register close alternatives and possible misspellings, so they automatically redirect to the new site (you want to make sure that people who can’t spell find you too).  Update your website domain and content, so it reflects your new identity, and forward your old domain to your new domain of course.

In terms of email, update your addresses to reflect the new domain name, and make sure to automatically forward all emails sent to legacy addresses. Don’t forget to update those email signatures too.

And so there you have it. That’s “all” you need to think about when launching a new company name. Phew. It ain’t no small task, but a good name, properly launched, will sail far and on fair winds.

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