What’s in a name? Well, it could be everything, if you are a small business. Take the company Pinch Provisions, for example. This company, created by Georgette Kaplan and her two daughters, Stephanie and Jamie, was previously called MS. & Mrs. Their company makes packaged items containing “emergency essentials” for women, such as breath freshener, earring backs, and blotting tissues. During a showcase on “The View” in December of 2008, the company name was mispronounced as “MR. and Mrs.” The company’s founders immediately knew that this was going to be a problem, which was proven by how often people called it “Mr.” instead of “Ms.”
Mispronunciation is not the only reason that a name change may be necessary for a business. If you are the new owner of a previously owned small business, or if there is a negative association with your company name, it may be time to consider a renaming. One company with an unintentional negative association was Blackwater Worldwide. In 2008, five Blackwater guards were indicted on manslaughter and weapons charges in connection with the killing and injuring of unarmed civilians in Iraq. The company quickly changed their name to Xe services, and then Academi later when they changed ownership.
Ira Kalb, a marketing professor at the University of California’s Marshall School of Business, said that the name change of a business shouldn’t “destroy all the positive brand equity that has been built up over the years.” It’s important to not alienate loyal customers.
The name of a company should always portray the concept of the business. For example, the Kaplan’s business, Pinch Provisions, is as catchy as their old name, and still appropriate. The old one got across that the product was for women, and the new name is a play on the phrase “in a pinch” while still relating to women.
Famous businesses that have changed their names include Nissan, I.B.M, and Google. They were previously named Datsun, the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, and BackRub, respectively. Renaming companies can have a huge impact on retaining customers and giving the business a fresh or different look.
One last example of how name changes affect a business, is a restaurant outside of St. Louis called Patrick’s Restaurant & Sports Bar. This was actually the original name, but it went through a few changes over the years. In 2006 it was named Pujols after the baseball star Albert Pujols. The name stuck until the baseball player left the Cardinals to play for the Angels. It was then called the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame Bar and Grill, which confused customers because it sounded like a museum. So finally, the restaurant’s owner Patrick Hanon restored his business to its original name, and says that business is back, and customers are no longer confused.
LaPorte, Nicole “If the Name Gets in the Way, Change It” NYTimes.com. 8/27/2012 (8/4/2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/business/renaming-a-company-can-be-smart-prototype.html?_r=2&ref=smallbusiness