“If you confuse, you lose.” That’s the one-liner that StoryBrand beats into the brains of their followers.
And it’s spot-on.
If people don’t understand what you do and, more importantly, how you benefit them, then you’ll be lost in the crowd—despite your excellent service, competent, friendly staff, competitive advantages, and so on.
That’s why successful business hinges upon successful branding.
What Is A Brand?
But what is a brand? The Dictionary of Brand says that a brand is “a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organization.”
Your brand is not your logo, your service, or your people. It’s the gut feeling your target client has about your business.
What Is A Brand Name?
Your brand name is simply the name of your product, service, and/or company. In our case, our brand name is our company name (“Digital Skyrocket”).
And your company name is probably your brand name, too.
The (Real) Reason I Wrote This Post
I started this company in the summer of 2014. It was just me and it was only a side gig. It wasn’t meant to be a career shift—it was intended to be the supplement to my youth pastor salary that my family needed.
Even so, I wanted to do it well. But what to call it? If you’ve ever tried to name a business, you know the struggle is real. I polled friends, considered competitors, and, of course, put thesaurus.com to work. Finally, I decided to call it “SEO Skyrocket.”
And it made sense because I was planning to build websites that would rank highly on Google. Search engine optimization (SEO). High rankings. The businesses I was targeting need that. It was perfect.
Or so I thought.
A few years later, Brandon Davis, one of the (now 2 other co-equal) shareholders in our company, said, “This SEO Skyrocket name is killing me—it has to go.”
This was totally shocking to me because I had never considered that we had a brand name problem. I was immediately overwhelmed.
Did he not know:
(1) How many hours I spent agonizing over that name?
(2) That I got TONS of input before choosing it?
(3) That I quite literally lost sleep over it?
(4) That I chose it with the utmost care?
(5) How much work it would be to change it?
I wrote this post because I have been there. And I know the “I think I might vomit” feeling that happens at the thought of changing your brand name.
I also know the “now I’m actually going to vomit” feeling of going through with it.
But more on that later.
Connecting Brand Names to Branding
Despite my visceral internal reaction, I played it cool (I think) when Brandon said that our brand name “has to go.”
“What bothers you about the name?”, I posited.
“It’s too narrow and our target client doesn’t understand it.”
“Dude,” I began, “service company owners know what SEO is—they get calls about it all the time.”
He said, “It’s not that our target doesn’t know what SEO is—it’s that they don’t know that we do anything else. At its core, our company builds websites. But our brand name says we’re a search engine optimization agency. It says, “Have your website built by someone else. And hire another company to make sure it generates leads effectively. Then, we’ll SEO it.”
Almost immediately, my mind went to all the calls I had received over the years from businesses wanting us to search engine optimize websites that some other company built.
But that’s never been what we do.
We have always done the whole thing—content strategy, web design, search engine optimization (SEO), and conversion rate optimization (CRO). Even in the beginning, I never wanted to sell those services a la carte. “All of them or none of them” was my intent from day 1.
But the brand name (again, “SEO Skyrocket”) suggested to our target that we only provide one piece of the puzzle. That’s the “gut feeling” (brand) our brand name gave.
So, we changed it.
Doing so was a TON of work, but, hey, “if you confuse, you lose.” And we’re not into losing.
Should You Change Your Brand Name?
First, if you’re reading this, it suggests that you want what’s best for your business—even if it’s hard. And you should be genuinely encouraged by that. Really.
Next, you should know that lots of businesses have successfully changed their names. For example, Pepsi is no longer “Brad’s Drink” and Best Buy is no longer “Sound of Music.” Obviously, it can be done well.
But is it for you? If you’re considering a brand name change, these 9 questions should make the answer pretty clear:
(1) Does your brand name limit you to just one aspect of what you do (e.g. if Harley Davidson Motor Company wasn’t the household name it now is, you could easily assume that they only manufacture motors)?
(2) Does your brand name suggest that you do more than you do? For example, Lafayette Roofing & General Contractors appears to be a pretty standard roofing company. But their name says they’re also “general contractors.” While that may be technically true, it’s confusing. Why? Because when most people hear “general contractor,” they hear “a person who builds homes, offices, etc.,” not “someone who installs gutters and vinyl siding.”
(3) Does your brand name suggest that you do something that’s not even close to what you actually do (e.g. “BackRub” sounds like a day spa, not the company that we now know as Google!)?
(4) Is your brand name so generic that it’s utterly forgettable (e.g. Joe’s Law Firm, Bill’s Plumbing)?
(5) Is your brand name connected to something negative (e.g. it’s named after a man who later became a sex offender)?
(6) Does your brand name include words that are needlessly off-putting (e.g. Amigone Funeral Home, Pee Cola, Smokescreen by Philip Morris, Toyota Previa where a “previa” is a dangerous pregnancy complication, Stubbs Prosthetics & Orthotics)?
(8) Is your brand name a keyword that you’ll never rank for on Google (e.g. Norwood Homes & Land, which people know as “NHL”)?
(9) Does your brand name include words that most people can’t spell or pronounce (e.g. Libeert—formerly ISIS Chocolates!)?
(10) Is your brand name ridiculously long (e.g. Sony is (thankfully) no longer “Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Company”)?
If you answered yes to some of these questions, then a name change may be right for you.
When You Shouldn’t Change Your Brand Name
All of that said, not every brand name needs to be changed. if you didn’t answer “Yes” to the questions above and the desire to change your name boils down to, “‘you’re bored and want something new,” then don’t do it. Too much goes into a brand name (and the process of changing one) to ditch it on a whim. If your target knows it, understands it, and it’s otherwise working for you, then hang onto it—and allocate the time, energy, and resources you just saved to more effectively market the brand (and brand name) you already have.
What advice did we leave out? Let us know in the comments.