How to Get Your Rename Done Right (and Not Mess It Up)

Renaming your organization can be one of the most challenging, significant, and scary things your brand may ever go through. Whether your old name has grown obsolete through business shifts, mergers, acquisitions, competitors, or lack of engagement, odds are you’re considering a renaming because of significant pressures — internal or external. It’s good to not take this lightly. You’re entering a process where you risk losing recognition, you’ll need to invest in the rename and rebrand as well as launching and marketing the new name, and lots of people will have opinions and not be shy about expressing them.

So why would anyone even consider a rename given all of this?

Well, it’s also a really exciting opportunity. Beyond just addressing pain points or limitations of the current name, a rename and rebrand can inject new energy into your brand, mobilize your supporters, and help you reach new audiences. It can bring a modern look and feel to your brand, which doesn’t just impact your marketing and creative; staff, partners, and leadership will feel this new energy; they can rally behind the new name and brand; it can be the start of a concrete shift in thinking and culture.

And the good news? Lots of organizations do it, every day. And lots of agencies, like Beyond Definition, can help you navigate this process. After leading other clients through this, here’s some of the [hard-earned] lessons we would pass on to you.

1. Mobilize

Gaining buy-in to any rebrand, but especially when it includes renaming, is critical. From your board, to your leaders, to your marketing and creative team, you’ll need to get stakeholders involved, starting at the very top. Beyond getting your senior decision-makers involved, you want to make sure all of your stakeholders have their voices heard through research and discovery. Create a transparent process and bring in your team throughout. It’s a big effort that will impact their day-to-day for a while, so rally the team and you can do great things.

2. Create

Coming up with a new name is an incredibly daunting, but exciting, task. You need a name that is recognizable and memorable, but also unique. It needs to tell a story: whether it’s to define who you are, what you stand for, or what you do (or some combination of those). It also needs to be relevant and practical: easy to pronounce, to type and write, and to be used in all the different contexts you’ll need it to. You’re going to be seeing a lot of this name, and you want to make sure it works.

This creative process, and all of the boxes you need to check, are why it’s important to have a good process in place to ideate, refine, and decide on a name. A process can help you define your parameters, articulate your narrative, think outside of the box, and arrive at the best concept for you.

3. Sell

This is where your work to mobilize returns to you. Once a name concepts (or, hopefully, concept) is chosen, you have to be very strategic about how you get it approved and finalized. This is where you start to build the momentum that not only gets the name implemented, but really unlocks the possibilities for your team, culture, and brand to rally behind it.

Transparency, again, is key. Knowing when to bring in which stakeholders, and how, will ensure success. We spend a good deal of time with our clients strategizing about this. From top to bottom, everyone at your organization will have a reaction and opinion to the name. Education, training, and support will help them visualize where the name fits in to your larger brand. One tip? You may want to consider combining the name concept with creative assets when you begin selling it to key stakeholders: whether a tagline, type, color, or messaging, building out the supporting brand will help show them how the name will be brought to life. Remember: your brand is so much more than a name, or a logo, or a tagline. It’s a set of experiences that create perceptions, memories, and understanding with each member of your audience.

4. Unveil

You get one chance to unveil your name to your team, so do it right. Combining it with a new visual identity, that support your greater brand strategy, will help get your staff and members excited. The more you can invest in this moment, the better. After all, you never get a second chance at a first impression.

There is an important caveat here: you can’t please everyone. How often do we give our staff or members a free forum to tear apart your current name? Can you imagine how much worse the criticism of your current name and brand would be when you bring in the power of groupthink? There’s some unspoken challenge when you unveil creative work to find every flaw, and guess what? You can find one with anything! Give people time: they’ll come around. That brings us to our next point…

5. Launch

Just like with your internal team, you get one chance to launch your brand to the whole wide world. You would do yourself, your team, and your brand a disservice to phone it in now. The greatest opportunity with a new name, or a new brand, is to create renewed engagement and tell a new story. Make the most of the opportunity.

What does that look like? First, understanding your audiences: who they are, where you reach them, and why they should care (all of which you should know by this point; name and brand MUST be driven by this insight and strategy). We’re able to leverage our discovery and research from the beginning of the process here to understand the right message, channel, and tactic to reach your audiences, and this is where you really begin to build out the brand with creative designed for your targets.

Hopefully throughout the process, you’ve involved your key stakeholders, brand ambassadors, and opinion influencers. Now the goal is to equip them and expand their ranks, with training, resources, and touchpoints.

6. Build

Your brand will shift and evolve as you build it out and launch it. New stories will emerge, messages that resonate will rise to the top. Your visual identity will shift as you experiment and push the envelope. What was once a logo and a few assets will become an entire visual language and system. The launch campaign is a great way to begin exploring this. It’s a process that will continue throughout the lifecycle of your brand. It’s why it’s so important to build a brand strategy and framework that lasts: a foundation that can grow, pivot, and evolve through the years and based on the need, while remaining relevant, true, and recognizable.

Naming can be daunting, but it can be a huge opportunity that pays dividends for decades to come.

Alex Blair's headshot

Alex Blair

Alex has more than a decade of experience working with global corporations, start-ups, associations, and nonprofits to craft strategies, build brands, and create change. As Director of Brand Strategy, Alex leads clients through discovery, brand strategy, and bringing a brand to life for audiences.

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