Topic: Branding

How Can I Do A Smooth Company Name Change

Posted by rgriffith on 125 Points
How should we best communicate a name change for an industrial electrical components manufacturer? Does anyone have experience with corporate name changes? Are there any articles, books, out there that might help us avoid pitfalls?

We have a list of the positive reasons for making this change, and have tried to think through any potential negatives (e.g. that we are under new management, or were bought out, neither of which are true).

Some background: Insul-8 is a combination of two smaller companies:

- "Insul-8 Corporation" - inventor of an insulated 8-shaped conductor bar used to power overhead cranes (hence the name "Insul-8")

- "Industrial Electric Reels" (IER) - a pioneer of cable reeling devices.

Both companies became good product innovators and good at serving their specialized markets.

In 1975 a French company bought both companies, but ran them under the separate Insul-8 and IER names. In 1997 everything was merged and branded under the Insul-8 name. Insul-8 has good brand awareness within the factory crane industry, and to a lesser extent in electrical distribution. Insul-8 has subsidiaries in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and UK.

Insul-8 has long been part of the parent company's "Conductic Division" - which also includes several other electrification companies around the world. "Conductic Division" appears on the current logo, but in fine print below INSUL-8.

The industrial electrification business has become increasingly global. The parent company now wants to switch to a worldwide corporate name for all "Conductic" companies and gradually move away from the local names (except possibly as product brands). The new name will be in large print, and "Insul-8" will be below in smaller print, at least for a while. So the Insul-8 name will not be gone instantly.

Any advice you could provide to help us make this a smooth transition would be much appreciated!
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  • Posted by Chris Blackman on Accepted
    Sounds like you have a big task on your hands.

    Looking for Insul-8 and Conductic on the internet it is crystal clear that it is absolutely high time your organisation did something:

  • to increase it's searchability,

  • to simplify and clarify its corporate and brand structures; and,

  • to make it a lot easier for prospects to find out who you are, and what you can do for them.

    You must map out your transition from a multi-nationally-represented, highly-fragmented organisation, to one which has a consistent brand-image globally.

    Here's a brief list of "must-do's".
    1. Create an exhaustive inventory of every piece of marketing material showing any of the brand names to be consolidated under the new umbrella brand.

    2. Don't forget items like websites, materials on distributor websites, building signage, external advertising, consumables in stationery cupboards, brochures, vehicles. uniforms, promotional give-aways, product packaging, etc.

    3. If this is a large range of items, you might want to create a "war room" in which you place samples of all the collateral items you can get you hands on, arranged around the walls, grouped by the country or product manager responsible for each group. Where it's impossible to get the item, make a large list of everything else that belongs with that group and put it up next to the physical items.

    4. Make sure you capture that whole list into a spreadsheet or some document on your computer so you can start to manage the process.

    5. Now look at the magnitude of your ask, not in terms of number of items, but in terms of the migration from the existing brand images to the new brand image. How many different brandings are there right now? Can you envisage customers making the connection between the old image they currently buy, know and trust, and the new branding proposed? Why, or why not?

    6. If the "leap of faith" seems too big to expect the customer to make, do you need an interim branding position, or a brand migration path to help them make the transition from disparate existing brands to one new collective brand? (For an example, look at the PAL dog food brand migration to Pedigree. Kraft took eight years and several steps to move the branding over so their consumers, or rather, the people who bought for the consumers (dogs don't shop!) would stay with them every step of the way. The change was imperceptible, and now the brand is globally uniform.

    7. Map out your own brand migration path, if it's to be more than a straight "step change" and develop a timetable for doing it. Make it longer rather than shorter, because you need to allow time for the interim brandings to settle in the customers mind. Ideally customers will have become used to any interim brand and forgotten its forbears before you make another adjustment (You may not need to go this far).

    8. Create a project plan for transitioning all the collateral from old to new brand imagery in conjunction with all the product/regional/division managers involved. Make the timetable realistic because it is preferable by far to have a single switch-over date, than to have some elements of the business straggling behind because they could not keep up with their more aggressive siblings.

    9. Plan your PR launch well ahead of the cut-over date, and make sure you have plenty of time to explain all the changes to all key stakeholders (employees, suppliers, shareholders, as well as CUSTOMERS!)

    This is a very simplified overview of what needs to be done. If you want more help, contact me via my profile.

    BTW when you fix the websites, couple of bits of minutiae: You might want to get the two Australian distributors swapped around on the map, and de-Francify the spellings!

    Good luck.

  • Posted by mgoodman on Accepted
    You need to decide where you want to end up. You probably want a recognizable company name and at least two individual brand names. Define for yourself what you'd like the structure to be in, say, 5 years.

    Then see how many iterations you need to get from where you are today to where you want to be in 5 years. If you think it can all be done at one time (i.e., change now to the 5-year goal) without confusing customers, then do it. Otherwise, make 2 or 3 smaller changes that will each be more evolutionary and maintain some level of familiarity and comfort for customers.

    We've been involved in several re-naming and consolidation plans, and each one is different. If your end-user customers are the same in both/all segments, the change is easier, of course, though you still might want to maintain the individual brand names for quite a while, based on what you've said.

    There are no books or articles that I know of that really lay out the issues and discuss the "how to" elements of this kind of change. It helps if you have the counsel of someone who has been through this before, though, as it's important to have a very clear game plan and timetable, and it's not usually obvious when you're too close to the situation.
  • Posted by wnelson on Accepted
    I have been involved in MANY name changes, having been bought and sold four times in my career. My companies handled it fairly badly! The best practices in the industrial industry have been those companies who accomplished it in phases with respect to documentation and advertisement - first having the old big, new small, then, the new big, the old small, and then phasing out the old. What I mean by "big" and "small" is the level of emphasis each name gets. Even business cards and stationery phase this way between names. This process took a year to a 18 months. This occurred all the while that the utilized press releases to reinforce the name change and lots of trade magazine articles to remind everyone in every breath that the company was changing names. As the other's have implied, this process has to be planned out very well with a schedule and all aspect of the plan must be executed, including material purge with the wrong name information.

    Hope this helps!

  • Posted by ReadCopy on Accepted
    All great advice above, and the pitfall suggested by Whet is the biggest issue that you will come across.

    You must get the buying of all senior managers and staff. On the day of the transition, they must start to see that business is different in some way.
    I was involved in a merger, and all the staff were left a simple jigsaw on their desk with a glossy a4 bi-fold leaflet explaining the new business and the changes.
    The jigsaw has the new logo and some values of the new business.

    Overall it was a success, because of this gift, everyone
    felt part of the new business, they felt included and felt the fun and excitement.

    You have a great task ahead of you, good luck.
  • Posted by rgriffith on Author
    Thanks to you all for the insights! I compiled the materials list as suggested by ChrisB. It is is amazing to see just how many things are affected. It will be a big job to keep track all this stuff and create new versions. The tip by Whet and supported by AndrewS about emphasizing the positive aspects and making sure everyone is on board is valuable. We are meeting with the complete staff tomorrow and this will be the message, along with emphasizing where we want to be in 5 years as suggested by mgoodman. Lastly, I did read the dialog related to the "Rebranding Dos and Don'ts" and read the linked documents, as suggested by Thinkmor. Again, my thanks to you all.

    Rod Griffith - Insul-8 Corp Omaha, NE
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