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Billy Bob and Hilda contemplate renaming their fishing company

Name changing is a fairly regular event for businesses, especially when they are in their early iterations. That’s perfectly understandable and perfectly fine too, if you ask me.

One word of warning, when you arrive at the end of the process, once you do get a name that makes sense and explains to people what it is you do, stick with it! But until then, don’t feel restricted.

It’s an expensive business building brands, and you cannot substitute time served-ness for a brand in terms of establishing it within the public consciousness, so on the basis you’ll have years to establish it, you can take some time to get it right.

Having said that it’s also a pretty regular occurrence for people to change the essence of their business in the early days, as well as the name.

When someone spots a gap in a market or an un-served need, they launch a business to meet that need. However, early experiences in the market often indicate that the business itself was aimed slightly incorrectly, or more likely , would benefit from a slight realignment of priorities.

So the business changes, sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes more dramatically. But you’ll find lots of people running businesses that started out as something else entirely. It’s not often these days that a business arrives fully formed in the world and stays like that from then on.

Of course, it’s also the case that we get too attached to what’s basically a simple task – naming our companies. Its something that’s far too close to us for us to be able to have any kind of objective view of.

There is a great book you could look at for a few tips if you are so minded. It’s called ‘the 22 immutable laws of branding’, and while its been around a few year now, it cover off stuff like type face and colours too. Its by Al Reis, something of a giant in the marketing pantheon, who wrote another famous book called Positioning – The Battle for your mind. It’s really easy to read as well

There are broadly two type of names – those that are descriptive: ‘Natalie’s Bakery Support Company’ for instance, and then there is the ‘Consignia’ approach, where the name doesn’t really mean anything to anyone, but can become the brand itself – like ‘Apple’ for a more successful example!

Don’t be afraid to be boring and descriptive – it can help when people are looking for you, and this approach of course, also has SEO benefits as well. There is nothing wrong with saying exactly what you are trying to achieve for your customers, be that cost leadership or genuine differentiation, in the name of your business. And certainly consider it as part of the website URL and the keyword strategy.

So in short – try not to put too much effort into it. Unless it’s going to be backed by a massive ad campaign, most people aren’t likely to get to hear of it anyway – not until they are looking at using your services. And most won’t care what you are called – until they have need for your product or service.

It needs to be fit for purpose of course, and most likely either ‘do what it says on the tin’, or at least not offend anyone if its misconstrued. And try not to go for a name that’s too long.

Even more importantly, also have a thought as to what company positioning statement might be. This is the associated text that stands alongside your name, and actually does the job of telling your customers what to expect when dealing with you. In in a way a name can’t.

It’s like the description that goes with your company name. And its usually the first opportunity people have to understand what you are all about. For instance, my current employers South West Wales Media, have a newspaper that’s name is the ‘South Wales Evening Post‘, and the strap line or positioning statement is ‘Wales largest selling Newspaper’.

Positioning statements should ideally make a claim. The biggest or the best or the fastest or whatever. (The ideal position is to be the FIRST!)

Tony’s Auto’s – The First Company in Wales with computer aided diagnostics’ is an example. Or the first place to come, or the first place to look for something.

Cheapest is always good – Best is excellent, but be careful here – it’s important to make a quantifiable claim. Not from any legal perspective as such – more from the perspective that people have to believe your positioning statement! It no good claiming to be the best at something and then having such a slim definition of what it is you are best at that no one would recognise it as a ‘value’ in the first place.

‘Fastest’ is good, ‘newest’ can be powerful, ‘most trusted’, ‘respected’ are all good ones.

Please, please avoid positioning statements that don’t mean anything. They may be clever or creative, but they don’t tell me anything, they need to stand for something.

Here some examples from real life ads:

The Rocking Chair – Pine and Oak furniture. This is OK – but doesn’t claim to be the best at anything. It’s entirely descriptive.

Property Buyer: The fastest way to sell your property – excellent! Really claims a leadership, and its one that’s valuable to the prospective client too

Panda Motors: Delivering quality with value for money since 1986 – This has potential. Car dealers come and go, so one that has been around for a long time is clearly trust worthy – which is important. Delivering quality and value are too bland though. What quality? Top quality? Best quality? And value is often in the eye of the beholder. Would most customers agree that a motor dealer has value at the heart of their offering? Not sure…

Unison: The public service union – this is one of those that’s clever, but doesn’t tell me anything. I know it’s the public service union. What does it stand for? Poor – especially as its likely to have cost a fortune!

Rapid Solicitors: An ISO 9001 Quality Assured firm –well, this is a great message – but does anyone know what it means? Also terminally boring!

I could go on for hours on this subject! And believe it or not there are many businesses out there that don’t have a positioning statement at all! – A real missed trick.

There you go – I hope that is useful for you. What do you think? DO you have a favourite positioning statement? Or have you changed the name of your business?

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