New name, new challenges: how to successfully pull off a rebrand with a name change

New name, new challenges: how to successfully pull off a rebrand with a name change


Kavya Paul

If your firm is rebranding, chances are good that you may also be planning a name change. Maybe your firm is involved in a merger or a spinoff. Perhaps you’re contending with legal issues that necessitate a new name. Or it could simply be that your firm needs to reposition itself in the market. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: A new name brings additional complexity to the brand change process.

In order to successfully rebrand your firm with a new name, you’ll need to coordinate a larger number of dependencies and stakeholders. You’ll have to tend to the legal and regulatory ramifications of your new name. And you’ll need to consider ways to recapture any brand equity tied up with your firm’s old name. All of this will require more: more budget, more coordination, more details.

The only thing you may have less of? Time. Because the truth is that a rebrand involving a name change is often more urgent. The need to transition to the new identity is more pressing. And your organization’s tolerance for legacy branding is likely to be much lower.

If all this has your heart racing, take a pause. Deep breath. Here’s what you need to know to create a bulletproof rebranding plan — name change and all.

How to plan for a rebrand with a name change

As we’ve already established, rebranding with a name change is much more challenging than a standard brand refresh. But with a little forethought and the right planning, you can ensure it all goes off without a hitch. Use the following tips to get started in the right direction.

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Put together the right team

A name change means you’ll inevitably need heavier engagement from a greater number of internal stakeholders. Make sure your internal rebranding team includes the following players, and that they tend to the following name-change-specific tasks such as:

  • Legal: trademarks, DBAs, and legal entity filings
  • Finance and Accounting: tax IDs, payment, and payroll systems
  • Procurement: contracts with vendors, suppliers, partners, and insurance policies
  • Regulatory: trade and registration forms, agreements, permits (e.g. signage), and regulatory reporting

In particular, you’ll want to get your legal and regulatory teams involved as soon as possible so that they can secure your new business name in all jurisdictions. They can also identify which assets, such as invoices and labels, can’t be revealed until the entity change is completed.

Remember, when it comes to a rebrand with a name change, the interdependencies will be numerous. If your individual workgroups are accustomed to working in silos, then you’ll need to be assertive in making sure those silos are broken down, at least for the duration of the rebrand. Hold regular rebranding team meetings to stay on top of each team’s progress and the status of interdependencies.

Craft a comprehensive rebranding plan

Any marketer worth their salt understands the benefits of a strong marketing strategy. And any rebrand deserves a strong rebranding strategy. But with so many more details to manage, your name change rebrand will flounder without a comprehensive plan to back it up. Your rebranding plan should carefully map out all risks, leads times, and interdependencies, as well as roles and responsibilities.

For example, in order to rebrand your signage, you’ll need to:

  • Take inventory of all branded signage and determine what, if anything, you want to change in terms of placement, quality, and number of signs.
  • Gain legal clearance on your new name and legal entity filings.
  • Design new signs and get the necessary approvals.
  • Solicit quotes from vendors and select the right partner to manufacture the signs.
  • Secure the necessary permits to install the signs.
  • Install the signs with minimal disruption to business.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

It simply can’t be overstated: good communication in the event of a name change is absolutely critical to a seamless rebrand. This includes both internal and external communication.

Your internal staff will likely have an emotional response to a rebrand that involves a name change. They may have strong feelings (positive or negative) about the new name, and your job is to be proactive and have a plan to foster acceptance of the new brand.

Depending on their relationship with your existing brand, your customers may react just as strongly to your firm’s new identity. If you have any concerns about how your new brand will be received, you may need to find a way to ease your market gently into the transition. Just as importantly, if you don’t communicate well, your customers could become confused. For example, consider a utility company that is changing its name. If the utility doesn’t communicate proactively and intentionally, its customers will be disoriented and frustrated when they suddenly receive a bill from a company whose name they aren’t familiar with.

Expect to spend more on your rebrand — and secure the funding now

A rebrand with a name change generally costs more money. This is true for a couple of reasons, including:

  • Rebrands that involve a name change often have a higher level of urgency. Converting branded assets at a faster rate generally means higher budgets in the short term.
  • The scope of assets tends to be much larger. So much more needs to change, from your products and packaging to your stock ticker, lobbying fees, and vehicle DOT number.

In order to get buy-in from your executive leadership team, you’ll need to be realistic about the funding requirements. It may help to divide your overall estimate into MVP/critical needs and tasks that can reasonably be put on a slower timeline.

Loop the right people in at the right time

If your name change is currently confidential but you need to start planning for the rebrand right away, then you have an added challenge. In this case, you must figure out how to engage workgroups on a need-to-know basis.

Of course, you’ll want to keep the new name under wraps as long as you can, but you need to start involving the right people early enough to meet your launch timeline. Keep in mind that different workgroups will need different lead times to get things done. For example, as your consumer-facing website will likely be a major priority, you may need to provide “mock” logos that carry the right shape and dimensions (but not the new name) to your IT team so they can get started with development and testing. Some items on the to-do list will take longer than others. Make sure you are aware of what needs to happen — and when. Involving the right people at the right time will be key.

Consider the impact on your existing brand equity

If your firm’s new name is very different than your old one, you stand to lose brand equity as you transition away from your old identity. Of course, if you are rebranding as a way to repair your reputation, then that’s an intended consequence. But if that’s not the case for you, then you’ll need to create and implement a migration strategy. For example, your website traffic may plummet by 30-50% if you change your firm’s name and domain without thoughtful planning.

Whatever you do, make sure your customers, partners, and employees are all in on the change in a timely manner. Communication is key, as are strong brand guidelines and policies. With the right plan in place, you can preserve much of your existing brand value — and build on it as you launch your new brand.

Rebranding with a name change is a daunting task. And if you don’t get it right, you risk undermining the value of your rebrand. The good news? With careful planning and attention to detail—and the right rebrand implementation partner—a seamless rebrand is within reach.