How often does your company (or product) name ignite the sales process?

If your answer ranges from “seldom” to “never,” it may be time to re-think and re-name.

The process may seem daunting, but companies change names all the time, for one of two reasons: you want to, or you have to.

“You have to change” is straightforward – you merged, and you’d like to pretend it’s a marriage of equals, not one firm obliterating the other. Or maybe you unwisely chose a name (Mac & Donald’s Hamburgers?) that provoked an ominous letter from an apparently carnivorous attorney. Oops.

But “you want to change” is more strategic. Maybe you outgrew your old name or capabilities or technology. “Wisconsin Wacky Widgets” seemed like a swell idea, until you branched out to Iowa and one or more Dakotas. “ihop” means pancakes, which depresses after-lunch sales. The name “_______ Financial Advisors” will never engage prospects, or be remembered, because it sounds like the other 13,493 “_______ Financial Advisors.”

Often a company needs a new name because there was no budget for professional branding when the company began; naming was a DIY effort. So, when it becomes time for a fresh start, where should you begin?

Follow the Hippocratic Oath that every doctor swears to, which begins: first do no harm.  You have brand equity in your current name, after all. Don’t throw it away. The prudent strategy is to must approach change in an evolutionary-not-revolutionary way. First, reassure your own people, then customers, then prospects, then (maybe, eventually) the general public that you are changing/improving your identity.

That reassurance must take place in three stages: we are going to change for these good reasons; we are changing for these good reasons; we have changed for these good reasons.

But … change to what? How can you assess the value of the new name? What criteria can you apply to be sure you’ve multiplied your value?

The experts at Killian Branding offer “16 Rules of Renaming” to stimulate and challenge your thinking. BTW, when they renamed our company, they aced all 16! You can explore how well your current name measures up at … but here’s a sneak peek at the first three rules:

Your name should stimulate questions. It’s far better to provoke questions than to answer them. It’s especially unproductive to answer them all – you want to start a dialog, not discourage it. Memorable trumps merely clear; functional is forgettable. The best answer to the objection “your name doesn’t completely explain what you do” is “Good!”


Dignity is overrated. Your brand name must never be “conventional” “expected” or “ordinary.” Making sure you don’t offend is a sure way to be ignored. To get your name noticed, it can’t blend in with the wallpaper. Your best prospect is loyal to and spending money on your competitor. You can’t disrupt that relationship without a disruptive identity.


Make it easy to spell.  This is a crucial rule of thumb: can you tell someone your web address over the phone – once – and have it remembered clearly? Tough test! To pass, it helps to avoid dots, asterisks, non-standard spellings or puns. Especially avoid hyphens and underscores. You absolutely don’t want to tell your next 10,000 callers, “that’s o-u-r-hyphen-n-a-m-e-dot-com.”


This article was contributed by Bob Killian, founder and CEO of Killian Branding, whose agency created my brand name, logo and website.


Is your name holding you back? Ask me about it at or talk to Killian Branding, renaming experts, at

[themecolor]Dave Baney is the founder and CEO of 55 Questions, LLC and author of “The 3×5 Coach: A Practical Guide to Coaching Your Team for Greater Results and Happier People”, which is now available in Paperback or a Kindle version at[/themecolor]


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