What's in a Name?

Lately, it seems like a lot of brands are changing names. But what's in a name? As it turns out, a lot. With the recent Tribune rebrand to Tronc – and the internet's response – I can't help but think about what goes into every branding and naming process.

Doing anything completely new is supposed to be scary. That’s the glory of the unknown. In the business world, that often times means launching or relaunching a new company, product or idea. In the startup era of today, thousands of companies launch without too many people batting an eye, but when it comes to large, established brands, there’s always a little extra danger.

Changing an existing brand that is well known by the public means having to perform in front of millions of judges. The crown jewel of challenges is fully rebranding – new name, new look, new you. For most companies it’s an important step in staying relevant as the market and people’s tastes change. Because of that, I try my best to (publicly) stay positive about rebrands. On the other end of that new name and logo is a team of people making tough decisions.

Diana Budds covered the topic of criticism for FastCo in "The Precarious State of Logo Design." And her words stretch beyond logo design:

Designers and clients are understandably spooked. In private, some designers speak of clients who refuse daring work. In public, they gently rue the armchair critiques that undermine months, sometimes years, of work.

But as the public, we only see the finished results. And it makes us all critics. Knowing how much time, money and energy went into the decision leads us all to ask the same question:

If this is what they picked, what did they pass on?  

That’s an important question to ask all the way through the rebranding process. At a certain point along the way, it’s natural to spin your collective wheels a bit. And that’s fine. But you can’t get stuck. If decisions are made to simply finish the time-consuming process of changing your brand, you'll never get the best results. Even if you as a creative, marketing manager or CMO may not be focused on worrying about what other people will think, no one wants to be mocked. And public shame is one of Twitter’s specialties.

How will people make fun of this – and for how long?

If your brand is big enough, you can't avoid a little resistance to change. So expect people to make fun of your new name or logo – it’s going to happen. You might as well make it difficult for them. A small percentage of every rebranding process should be trying to make fun of what you're working on. If you don't spend time thinking through this unconventional question, you'll spend time wondering "Why didn't I think of that?" later. Or you might even be forced answer news articles like Is ‘Tronc’ The Worst Corporate Brand Name Name Ever? Take the time to think of the jokes your 12-year-old self would make. If they hold true for your new name, it's an opportunity to make changes.