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Why Your Business's Name Doesn't Matter as Much as You Think

October 31, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229708

In our company and among our super loyal customers, we love to joke about how many times our skincare line S.W. Basics has reinvented itself. We’re like Prince except we haven’t really earned it. Aside from evolving our packaging, branding and labels a dozen times in less than four years, we’ve also gone through a name change…more than once. Let me just sum up this whole article by saying I don’t recommend it.

But let’s say you don’t have a choice. Back in 2007, I had launched Sprout Wellness as a nutrition, fitness and wellness organization. Its focus was to empower people through free or low-cost do-it-yourself workshops. I didn’t know this would lead to a skincare line, so we’ll cut me some slack for the first change, which was moving it to Sprout Skincare. Also, this was pretty painless. A year into rocking that name, we received the dreaded cease-and-desist letter.

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Sprout is basically as popular a word as, well, Prince. So, getting the letter wasn't a big shock. But it was no less daunting. The letter came during the holidays and alloted a cushion period to sell through our old inventory. After that, we were given 30 days to transition our labels and website. The same week the letter arrived, we were in the process of hand-making a wholesale order for almost 4,000 products, had a video shoot scheduled for our studio (featuring a whole lot of “Sprout” collateral), and we found out we were going to be in Oprah’s Magazine… as Sprout. Of course. The next 30 days were an insanely stressful blur, but we made it happen. 

Though it was obviously a bear to deal with, I think we’re better off now. We didn’t feel the name Sprout was right from the beginning. It was unsophisticated, had too many implications, and people always thought we put alfalfa sprouts in our skincare (um, no we do not).

While you may not be forced to change your name (you may just feel it’s time to go in a new direction), the process is still the same. Here is exactly what we did to transition:

Act fast. If you are worried about the name of your company, make the decision to switch sooner rather than later. The beauty of a startup is while you may think everyone already knows who you are, actually no one knows who you are. Most people will never know Sprout Skincare ever existed. The longer you wait the harder it is -- it’s like moving a big ship instead of a tiny speedboat.

Hire professionals. They know what they’re doing better than you do. Also they’re less attached to your company and will be able to see what risks are worth it. We spent probably ten to twenty insanely difficult hours brainstorming with our branding agency.

TRADEMARK right now. Don’t even finish reading this. If you have a name you like, go find it. You can look it up here. Then go get the domain name, which I believe is even more important these days. And don’t forget about your social media handles! Do all of this before you launch anything, ever.

Tell a positive story about the change. This is the first time I’ve even publically discussed the cease-and-desist letter. On our site we talked about how it was time to grow up, how much we had developed as a brand and how excited we were for the change. That was true, except we skipped the part about how stressful it was.

Related: How to Become Your Company's Storyteller

Don’t tell people before you launch. Seriously don’t. If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about. You don’t talk about your baby’s name either. Every single person will tell you what’s wrong with it. They do not know your business like you do (or like the professional you hired does or like your lawyer does). Don’t talk to people about an unhatched idea and expect them to just get it.

Understand that people will get on board. If you have a great product and you believe in it, things will keep running smoothly. Even if you’re huge already. Aside from the stress and cost of changing everything, for us it’s been business as usual. In fact, right after being in Oprah's magazine, and in our first month as S.W. Basics we were in Vogue. If you don’t believe me you could always stalk Prince through the years and see if he seems any less cool, ever.

What are other tips you have for rebranding? Let us know in the comments below.