Changing your Company Name — a Checklist

by Chris Brown on Friday, September 7, 2007

Changing a company name often takes time. Don’t forget all the little details when you make the switch. Everyone remembers to design a new logo and print new stationery, but it’s all those little details that “getcha!”

Here’s a checklist to help. Although this doesn’t include everything, maybe it will include something you haven’t thought of yet! I’m sure that there is at least 10 other things not listed. Let me know what you think I’m forgetting, too.

  • Change the name on the automatic answering telephone.
  • Ask each employee to re record their voicemail if they use the company name
  • Change the name on the logo of the web site
  • Update all the pages on the website
  • Get the domain for the new name and redirect the old site.
  • Leave a “trail” in the meta tag description and keyword of the old name
  • Have a transition on the return address of the envelopes so you don’t lose your cash flow when your customers throw away your invoices.
  • Make it into a celebration so the old time employees have closure.
  • Write a press release and post it on your website explaining why.
  • Update your listings in directories: especially Thomas Net
  • Post a press release on PRWeb, PRNewswire and the like.
  • Send a letter to all your customers: current, former and potential.
  • Make sure all the employees know, especially the ones off site.
  • Send a letter and email to all your vendors too.
  • Order a new sign for out front
  • Get a trinket: mousepads, tshirts, pens, baseball caps as appropriate

By planning the name change, not just making a half-hearted switch, you’ll have a more successful transition.

Who has done it well? Cingular to AT&T? Kaufmann’s to Macy’s? ____fill in the blank____ — Who has messed up…tell me!

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Robyn McMaster, PhD September 8, 2007 at 12:59 am

Just curious, Chris, are you considering a name change?

Chris Brown September 8, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Robyn:
No, not for my company but we are currently working with two different clients who are in the midst of the process.
Chris

Andrew September 15, 2007 at 9:31 pm

Chris: As you know, the university where I work is in the throes of a name change, which takes effect on Jan. 1. Trying to manage that effort on a campuswide scale has been a very good (but sometimes harsh) lesson in branding and change management. The list you’ve come up with is a good start. One item that applies to universities is changing the revered “alma mater” song. For our campus, the line “UM-Rolla, MSM, alma mater” must be altered before next May’s commencement.

You asked about who has managed a name change well and who hasn’t. I’ll agree with you about the Cingular-to-AT&T change, but that was more of a merger of two brands than a complete renaming.

As for who is doing it not-so-well, I give you Exhibit A (with props to Snark Hunting).

Andrew Careaga
higher ed marketing

Also director of communications for the University of Missouri-Rolla (soon to be Missouri University of Science and Technology)

P.S. – We’ll soon be announcing the Missouri S&T logo on our campus’ Name Change Conversations blog.

Connie Zimmermann March 17, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Thanks so much for the great tips. My company is not changing names, but another company with which I am associated, is, after 10 years with the original name. I realize that there are going to be scores of little things to do, but your list has been a big help. Now I am going to do a web search for “the pitfalls in changing your company name!”

Chris Brown March 19, 2009 at 7:27 am

Connie:
If you find more things that should be added to the list, please let me know. I did a checklist for moving a company and found that when my business associates moved, the checklist helped them too.
thanks!
Chris

Aech April 7, 2009 at 11:44 am

What is the legal procedure to change company legal name in MO? Will this require a change in EIN also?

Chris Brown April 8, 2009 at 5:34 am

Hi Aech:

I am not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice. I do know that some companies change their name for marketing purposes as a “dba” which stands for “doing business as”. That means the checks, bank accounts would have the official name on the check. DBA names are more like branding nicknames. Maybe like Coke. Coca-cola. You need to ask a lawyer!! Thanks,
Chris

Joe July 31, 2009 at 9:04 am

My partners and I are discussing the possibility of changing our business name. My company was incorporated in 2001 and I have 2 partners, who happen to be siblings. I approached them recently and asked for my name, we’ll use Jones, to become part of the company name we’ll say their last name is Thomas. The name “Thomas Search”, Inc. was adopted originally because my partner had already been operating under that name before he came to his sister and I to become partners and incorporate. The change I proposed was “Thomas & Jones” Search, Inc. My company is a small document filing and retrieval company. We do property research for Title Insurance underwriters and assist companies with their due diligence processes.

We are currently considering trademarking our name “Thomas Search, Inc.” because we found another company with the same name. They are an India based company with an entertainment search application for cell phones. I felt this was a good time to consider adding my name to the company to reflect ownership of our company. My partner’s concerns are that this would hurt our business due to client perception, would cause a lot of administrative headaches and the cost involved would be high. I agree that administratively this would cause a lot of work; however, I disagree with them about this hurting our business for the following reasons:

1. Our present client base knows who I am and know that I am a partner. We would explain to our clients that the change is being done to reflect the ownership of the company and also to distance ourselves from the media application.

2. Any new clients would have no impression of our company name until they found us.

3. I have been a partner in this company since the very beginning and run our NY City office, the most profitable office we have. We have 1 office in San Francisco (run by a partner, the sister) and 1 office in Los Angeles (run by a manager). The third partner (the company founder) lives and works in Georgia and he follows up on accounts payable, paying bills, etc.

Any insight or advise would be greatly appreciated thank you very much for your time. Have a good day!

Chris Brown August 3, 2009 at 7:07 am

Thanks for your question…
I always have a bit of trouble with a company that names itself for the principals… partly because as you add and change people and partners the name either changes with the firm… or stays the same.

Are you naming the business for you/partners’ or for the clients’ convenience? What about having something of the services in the name. Do you have an exit strategy for your business?

I guess I end up asking more questions than offering answers, but I think you have to think about the goals for your business. A business with someone’s name or names is a personal decision.

Lana Sajdi September 29, 2009 at 4:57 am

I have changed our company’s logo and am finding a hard time developing a letter to our clients. I need help in forming such a letter since i don’t know what it should contain. Does it have to have the reasons why we/ve done that and the perception that we have of the new logo? Or should the letter be for information only? We are an international independent and integrated consulting engineering company.
Thanks

Wanda November 11, 2009 at 10:55 pm

I am in the process of buying a business that has had the same name in the same location for about 15 yrs. Only problem is that there are several other businesses in Canada with the same name (it was once a franchise) I guess the business didnt do well so each individual continued on with the same name selling each individuals own taste. Right now this business is not associated with a website or web address. I am thinking of putting the business on line and have an online store as part of this business. Im sure once this happens and people try to find us online they will probly find all the other business with the same name as well…this will not work well with what I have planned to do with the business in the next few years.

I guess my question is what are the pros & cons of changing a business name once it has been established for that amount of time (even if its not established online)?

John January 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Is it possible to keep same company name when changing company from LLC to INC?

Chris Brown January 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

John:
I think so, I did. I wanted to because I went from a sole proprietor to incorporated but it was still the same business. I live in Ohio and had to file a form as the old company telling the new company it was okay to use the similar name. My lawyer did the form filing.

Check with your lawyer!

And thanks for reading the blog and commenting.
Chris

Daniel October 6, 2010 at 11:35 am

I am a new Intern at Futurcorp which is a banana puree exporter in Ecuador that primarily export to Europe. I am working as an Intern in the Marketing Department and have been given the task to come up with a solution to the companies branding issues. The problem the company is having is that Owner doesn’t like the name of the company since it does not indicate what the company does, but this brand is know by all our clients and has been in the market since 1998. Their is a sister company that was create to fix some custom issues called BanaPuree S.A. that the owner likes the name but is not as well know as Futurcorp since the company was established in 2007. Another huge issue with BanaPuree is that it is just an exporter and does not have the same licenses that Futurcorp has which has causes some issues for clients. Chris that one part I have to research what to do with the companies name.

The other part is with the company’s products name. What I understand is that Since the company start in 1998 they create the product name RoyalPuree and had used it for several years. until 2003 when they were sued by Proctor and Gamble. Since Proctor has a retail food product brand called Royal as well. They won that suit and Futurcorp has stop using Royal. Then Futurcorp created BanaStar to replace RoyalPuree, but it is not used with all our clients and not much forces has been put behind the name. Recently Futurcorp has started to fight for Royal again saying that the word Royal comes from the Latin word for Royalty which is a generic word. So I also have been given the task to see if it is futurcorp best interest to pursue fighting to get back RoyalPuree or just create a new brand or start backing BanaStar heavily.

Chris I have never handle a project like this and I know you are an expert in branding issues. I thought you might be able to guide in the right direction in what to do or how to get started. I have been doing SWOT analysis and pro and cons of each type of scenario but that’s about it. I don’t know if you know some type of risk assessment that I should do. Any ideas or thoughts will really help.

Thank you,

Daniel

vickie dickson October 11, 2010 at 7:48 am

I am researching changing the name of my retail shop.
The current name (which I’ve hated since the day I purchased it 9.5 years ago!) is Little Specialty Shop.

It no longer reflects what we do/who we are … and it drives me crazy! I find it to be tacky ….. and our written/spoken image does not match what you see when you walk in the store.

As many people call the shop by my name as by a version of LSS so I’m looking at going with my name – funky font – new logo – etc. I have had “experts” tell me NO NEVER DOn’t do it! but I’m at the point of thinking that I’ll gain more than I’ll lose as the current name is simply not appealing at all????//

What a big decision!!!

Chris Brown October 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Daniel —

All good questions that deserve much thought and direction. The name of a business and a brand can make or break a company. It is surprising to me that such an important decision is placed into the hands of the newest employee with very little direction.

While I could definitely provide key insights to this project, it’s not fair to my paying clients that I post this for free. Please contact me at 330-656-9793 or via email if you’d like to retain my company’s services to guide you in this challenge.

Chris Brown
Owner & President of Marketing Resources & Results, Inc.

Maysaa Najjar March 2, 2011 at 1:53 am

Hello,
I work in and advertising agencyin United Arab Emirates. We ahve changed our name lately and we are in the thinking process of approaching our clients with the new name.
Our new name explains that we are now a full fledge agency and ready at all times. And our clients like to have tangeable ideas.
Please let me know your thoughts.

Thnak you,
Maysaa Najjar

Chris Brown March 3, 2011 at 6:31 am

Hi Maysaa:
Naming can be tricky. I believe that you have to know and understand the feelings and perceptions of the target market first. A couple of other things are very important: being able to pronounce it and people understand it. being able to spell it. being able to get search enginer ranking for the words as well as the url being available. I am interested to find out your client’s reactions, please let me know!
Chris

Colin MacPhail May 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hi Chris,

We’re looking at the possibility of changing our organization’s name, because basically, the name does not make sense, especially in the Region that we work.

However, I want to be able to research our target markets to see if our proposed name is better than our existing one.

Do you have any recommendations on how to do this?

Chris Brown May 13, 2011 at 6:14 am

Every so often I get a post like yours and I suggest you search my blog for phrases like rebranding or refresh. Actually providing the information on the steps to a rebranding is part of a workbook that I’m developing, so check back periodically. I’ll be sure to announce it here.
Thanks!!

Jack July 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Hi Chris,

I have resently sold my business. it is in a small industry and the name has an excellent reputation world wide. The new owner has empolied a trusted person to take the company to a new level and this person wants to completely change the name to a unknown name in the industry in the first three months. A name change was expected in the future, but a gradual change makes sense to me.

After meeting one of my overseas client the new owner was told “everybody in Colombia knows the name”.

My question is should the new name be introduced in a maner as “A ‘new name’ company” (in a supscript) and let the client have time to get used to the change, or a quick full name change, and if a slow change how long should this take?

Thank you very much.

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