When To Admit Your Name Isn’t Giving You Enough: Making The Tough Call to Rename Your Business

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If naming your business is hard, renaming is even harder. Surrendering that customer awareness and brand equity may seem counterproductive, but if your name isn’t giving you enough, it’s a vital call. 

Before you can make such a decision you need to understand the power of a great name. Only then can you identify what you’re missing out on with an inadequate name.

A good name maximizes revenue and reduces costs in several ways: 

  • It attracts new customers, lowering the cost of customer acquisition (CAC).
  • It keeps old customers coming back for more, boosting customer lifetime value (CLV).
  • It tells everyone what your business does, kickstarting the customer journey.
  • It’s memorable and creates buzz, reducing marketing costs or improving the impact of your spend.

A bad name, on the other hand:

  • Sends customers to competitors with better names.
  • Makes you forgettable, and requires a constant fight for customer awareness.
  • Could put you at risk of a moral backlash as times change.
  • Costs you lost revenue every day.

A name impacts the relationship with customers and investors alike: 77% of consumers use brand name to guide a purchase, and 82% of investors consider name recognition when deciding where to invest.

At Atom, we have over a decade of experience naming businesses, and it came to the point where we needed to take our own advice: our name was good, but as the business evolved it was no longer great. Here are the lessons from my renaming journey.

Naming Fundamentals: Our Journey to Becoming Atom

With Atom, we spent years building a strong brand identity around our first name Squadhelp. This name emphasized the initial crowdsourcing core of our platform and connected with our customers who needed an experienced guide for their brand choices.

Over a decade, however, our model changed. We’ve always been committed to pursuing cutting-edge solutions to our customers’ problems, and were quick to integrate AI and technological advances across our services. Crowdsourced naming services remain part of our business, but we now offer a range of fundamental services that provide the building blocks for new businesses. We needed a new name to fit, and chose Atom: where everything starts.

I can’t pretend it was an easy choice. We had built a loyal following as Squadhelp and substantial brand equity. But we couldn’t ignore the signs: it was time for a change.  

Five Moments to Admit Your Name is Not Enough 

With the evolution of your brand identity:

Success can lead in unexpected directions and sometimes see brand identity outgrowing your initial name. You should constantly assess whether your name aligns with your current and future identity, regardless of the past. Outgrowing a name might limit your ability to make an impact with new customers, while a new name can encompass your new identity and become the pillar of further expansion.

Musk’s high-profile renaming of Twitter to X aligned with his vision for the future of the brand: microblogging would be just one small part of the “everything” app that X stands for. Twitter would no longer cut it.

With a pivot:

If your initial idea hasn’t had the impact you hoped for, consider a startup pivot: your business has undoubtedly created other sources of value. It might be secondary features of your platform, or the insight into other problems your customers require a solution to. In any case, a startup pivot may require a new name to match a change of direction.

When the metrics say so:

There are several key metrics that every startup should track, including CAC (the cost of acquiring new customers), customer engagement scores and customer retention rates. These metrics can provide vital information about the success of your name. If customers aren’t returning without incentives and they’re getting harder to acquire even as your business grows, your name may not be pulling its weight in the fight for your market share.

When you can’t ignore the negative associations:

Sometimes your business model hasn’t moved on, but the world around you has. As cultural assumptions and name connotations move, a name can become outdated. In these circumstances, it’s important to protect your reputation proactively. A name change provides an opportunity to face past mistakes head-on and gain cultural capital with an attentive, value-driven audience.

In recent years, Aunt Jemima’s high-profile rebrand to Pearl Milling Company and the Cleveland baseball side’s switch to Guardians have illustrated the necessity of a tactical name change.

When your ambition requires it:

Sometimes, the name you have isn’t keeping up with what you’re building. You might have settled for a longer or less memorable name in the early stages of your startup, not then knowing the huge potential for your idea. A new name can position you at the forefront of your industry and signal your ambitions for your brand.

In our case, becoming Atom is a step towards our potential. As Atom, we can build a brand that aligns with who we are, and embark on a journey to becoming a B2B household name.

Wrapping Up

Changing your name is not a choice to take lightly, but you can make the decision a little easier. By knowing the circumstances that demand it, the metrics that indicate it and the potential that a new name may bring you can choose confidently and invest in a daring decision for your brand.

At Atom, we knew that the strength of our old name had run its course. It created a strong connection with our early customers, but as we expanded we had a new audience who needed more. We were driven by ambition for our brand: by choosing a four-character name and acquiring the matching ultra-premium domain, we’re leading by example and building a powerful platform for future growth. 

When it’s time, you must make the bold choice for your startup too.

Grant Polachek
Grant is Vice President, Growth and Product at Atom.com, 3x Inc 5000 company, the world's #1 business naming platform, and an ecosystem of startup services. He's a branding geek, oh, and a black belt martial artist.

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