NameChangers Podcast

How to Change A Company Name Smoothly | NameChangers Episode 12

By April 24, 2020 April 25th, 2020 No Comments

Maybe your business’s name is just not doing it for you anymore. Your message is evolving, but the name is being left behind. However, you are afraid to change it because you don’t want to confuse your customers. What should you do? We have three examples of varying sizes of brands that have changed their name. Find out more on this episode of NameChangers!

Transcription:

When I started my first year of college, I was asked to join a band. Still fresh from our teenage angst we dubbed ourselves “A Stand to Stay Alive” and wrote some rather aggressive songs.

As the years went by our sound begin to evolve to be a bit more positive I guess you could say.

-song clip-

With a lighter sound, we felt our name no longer fit. To be honest, we didn’t have much of a following. It was just our college friends and our mom’s. We felt as if we didn’t have to do too much work educating our few fans in the name change, but we decided for the next few shows we would include “formerly A Stand to Stay Alive” in parentheses next to our new name. Facebook, which was easily the most used social media at the time allows you to change your name on your page one time while keeping everything else the same. We made some member changes and decided on the name “Hero to Human” based on the quote from one of our favorite bands, The Wonder Years. “Growing up means watching my heroes turn human in front of me.” We decided to really buckle down and start playing shows and getting our name out there.

About a year-and-a-half later, our sounded had shifted again for a more emotional sound.

-song clip-

And although the name could fit the music, we noticed a large amount of bands in our genre playing the shows we wanted to play,  playing with the bands we want to play with that had the word “hero” in their name. “Hometown Heroes”, “Hall of Heroes”, “Me vs. Hero”. We had no way to really stand out and we knew we would fall through the cracks. Due to this, yet again, we needed a name change. The only problem is we had amassed more of a following. Kids from around the country started listening to music and buying our merchandise and we were not allowed to change your Facebook page name again.

What can we do? We had to decide if it was more important to keep our name to not confuse our fans or change it to a more stand out option. After much back-and-forth, we made a decision. We renamed our band “Sharp Sleeves” and created a new Facebook page, website, Twitter, etc. We spent three months prior to the official change posting on our social media accounts that we will change our name and to please go like our new pages. We re-released some songs under our new moniker. We made sure for the next three months our show flyers would say “formally Hero to Human” in parentheses, just like last time. We then decided to message all of our fans individually who had liked our pages to tell him about the change.

Honestly, we lost a chunk of our likes on social media. However, it wasn’t that negative. It did help us to essentially start over and be able to find a group of people who really wanted to interact with us and it made our engagement go way up. The band broke up in 2015, but I’m proud of what we did. Now that I work with businesses. I use some of these lessons to help them rebrand but it can be tough depending on your size and space. So what should you do? I’m James Doherty and this is NameChangers.

All right, so let’s shift from the story of a band that never really left the East Coast of the United States to a global, automobile power house.

In 1914, the Kaishinsha Motor Company of Japan introduce their first car, the “DAT”, that represented the first letter of each surname of the company’s investors. In 1925, the company was renamed to simply “DAT Motors”. In the 1930s, they started manufacturing smaller cars and named them “Son of DAT” which became “DATSON” d-a-t-s-o-n. A few years later, they changed it to “Datsun” to honor the Rising Sun on the Japanese flag. Meanwhile, in 1928, the holding company eventually named Nissan was founded. They purchased many companies, including Tabata casting which eventually merged with DAT Motors. Nissan and Datsun dominated in Japan and decided to expand to broader World Markets. They begin selling in the US in 1958.

They had the smaller cars branded as Datson, and the large trucks branded as Nissan, and they were met with moderate success. But then, in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, American started searching for strong, small, fuel-efficient vehicle and Datson was ready to answer the call. The brand and became well-known and well-loved. By 1983, American purchases of Datsun cars accounted for 20% of Nissan’s total 13 billion dollars in sales.

But suddenly, in 1981, Nissan decided to begin the process of rebranding all Datson on cars back to Nissan. Nissan said decision is that they wanted to unify all of their brands, which makes sense, I mean they do a lot more than make cars. They make forklifts, yachts, even rockets. By having them all into the Nissan moniker, it would link it on back to one entity.

But to rebrand such a well-known and beloved name, that takes a lot of work and a lot of money. They marked the three-year period of 1982, ‘83 and ‘84 to be the time for a full-blown name change campaign. Starting a few years before, they started putting Nissan in small letters under Datsun or Datsun by Nissan to begin gaining some name recognition.

They needed to change the signs of over 1,100 Datsun dealerships which end up costing about 3 million dollars. They also spent 200 million dollars on their “the name is Nissan” ad campaign. They also lost 20 million on the Datsun ads that were made but never used. All in all Nissan spent roughly 500 million dollars on the rebranding campaign and a poll 5 years later showed that Datsun was still more known the Nissan.

But, time seems to heal all, and Datsun became a faded memory to those who knew it, and not known at all to people born in the late ‘80s and after.

Alright, so we talked about a small band and a global powerhouse, let’s meet in the middle somewhere. How about a Bay Area Tech startup? 

I spoke to Ed Yu, the founder and CEO of StrongSalt, which was formerly named OverNest. Founded in 2015, their mission is to help protect data through strong encryption. Here’s Ed explaining the idea behind the name OverNest. 

Ed: Well OverNest initially came about because what I wanted to do was be able to search and protect data and I thought the most important day that you actually need to protect are the things steer to your heart. And so we figured Nest probably makes sense because Nest is, you know, your home and you obviously care about your nest egg. You care about your nest egg, you care about your nest. And with over, the idea was, some of it was thinking you kind of protect over, look over, search over so we thought “hey OverNest”, and also at a time, honestly speaking, even though I never play the game, at the time I was a Blizzard fan so OverWatch at a time had just started so I thought, “Hey, ‘Over’ sounds cool” so let me just do OverNest.”

James: They released their first product in 2016 named “Gitzero”, but during their next project, they realized  maybe a bigger change should happen.

Ed: Actually we spent a year or more, actually a year and a half working with the D.O.D. (Department of Defense) at a time. And then afterwards, that’s actually when StrongSalt really got started because after we finished the project for the DOD what we realized is that a lot of the technology we develop has a much more general use case. So we thought “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we did a better version of this and release it to the public so the whole world can benefit from the technology we develop?”. 

So, we said “hey let’s do that, but let’s try a different name because we already used GitZero for the previous product. So we have this trend, so let’s separate the company name from the project name, so that’s when I started StrongSalt, so I developed the name StrongSalt and that’s where it all started.

James: So where did the name StrongSalt come from?

Ed: So “Salt” interestingly, I know most people know what salt is, but in cryptography and that’s where encryption and description, that kind of things, in cryptography, “salt” actually had a special meaning. It’s something that makes your hashing or the way you do encryption much more secure then if you don’t use salt, interesting. So we thought hey it would be nice if we use something that people in the industry would know what we are talking about, but at the same time it has some meaning to people. So that’s why we started using “salt”. Obviously, “salt” because it’s such a simple four letter [word], it’s almost impossible to get a domain name and at the same time it’s being used almost everywhere else. And there’s a lot of companies that use salt as part of their name. So we need to either get a suffix or a prefix. And since Salt starts with “S”, it would be nice to use a prefix that also starts with “s”, so I came up with I looked at “StrangeSalt”, I look at “SmartSalt” just go through a different. Eventually I said you know what, let’s do something simple, just call it “StrongSalt”. And  just “strong” sounds cool because you have encryption, you have cryptography, that makes something strong and that’s the word we stuck with “StrongSalt”

James: They’re in an interesting slow transition right now. The company’s legal name is “OverNest” right now but they are doing business as “StrongSalt”. This is known as a “trade name”. An example of this is the glasses startup Warby Parker. Their company’s legal name is JAND Inc. But, Ed doesn’t really sweat the name change at al.

Ed: You just tell them. They say just tell them “Hey, we are now known as ‘StrongSalt’, and you can still use the previous email address it will reroute to the new address, but from now, this point on, I am going to tell everyone else that our company name is called “StrongSalt” and it’s very simple, people accept it.

I think it has to do with budget  and how many customers you have. We being a startup it’s actually easy cuz people kind of give us leeway for these kinds of things when if you are an established company you kind of have to, you have a lot more customers. and so, but to be honest “DBA” doing business as, is actually a really simple process and I think they could just do it and then they just have that as an additional name and as they start doing more marketing start giving people more awareness of the new name it probably can be spontaneous, it probably doesn’t really have to be “hey from this point on if you call us this name and it will never work, I think that would be a much better gradual change for others.

James: His advice really boils down to keeping it simple and not overthinking it too much. Let’s see if we can combine these examples into a nice simple steps.

Step 1: Communicate to your customers about your change starting as early as possible. You can do this by announcing on your website right on the front page, through traditional ads, email campaigns, and also having publications writing about your rebranding number.

Number 2:  Make sure to keep everything from your old name intact: your old domain needs to redirect your new one,  your email address needs to redirect to your new one.

Number 3: Time heals all. If there is confusion right now, as your company continues under your new name, people will adapt. 

And finally, try doing this only once. Changing your name multiple times is really going to bug customers and it’s going to make your brand look bad. 

With all these tips have a happy and smooth rebranding.

NameChangers is made in association with NameStormers, a naming agency in Austin, TX. Find out more about them at NameStormers.com. Special hanks this week to Ed Yu. You can find out more about their company at StrongSalt.com. If you like what you hear, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, it really helps people find us. I’m James Doherty we’ll see you next time.

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