If not for one critical decision made in 1997, we'd all be checking our "bmail" accounts and saying creepy things like, "I'm not sure... Let me backrub that and get back to you."
Yes, Google went by the name BackRub in its first year of existence, before founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the current name.
It's hard to imagine a world where we lace up our Blue Ribbon Sports running shoes (instead of our Nikes), stop for lunch at Pete's Super Submarines (instead of Subway), and then enjoy a refreshing Brad's Drink (instead of a Pepsi) later that afternoon.
Those are famous cases of company name changes that worked. But there are just as many examples of rebranding failures—from Pizza Hut's and RadioShack's attempts to be known as The Hut and The Shack, respectively, to embattled insurance company AIG's switch to "Chartis Inc." for a while, and then switch back.
A complete brand reinvention is no small feat. And though I can think of six good reasons (see below) to attempt a companywide makeover, there are far more reasons not to.
If your target audience recognizes you, knows who you are, and understands what you do—and your reputation is still intact with a name that still well represents your business—that's a great case for leaving well enough alone.
If, on the other hand, one or more of the following six situations applies to you, it might be worth sacrificing some brand equity—temporarily—for a change to a new name and identity.
1. You've outgrown your name
Take the first step (it's free).
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