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Brand Focus: Choosing a Company Name

Last week, Tronc, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune and nine other U.S. newspapers, announced that it was changing its name back to the Tribune Publishing Co. after two years with a much-derided corporate moniker, according to a Chicago Tribune news story.

Tronc is short for Tribune Online Content. The name was ridiculed by many, including potential new owner, biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, who currently owns 25% of Tronc stock and multiple other newspapers. He is quoted as saying that he can’t stand the Tronc name.

I can’t say I blame him. The word makes me think of the movie, "Tron." It certainly does not give any indication that the company is a newspaper publisher and provider of online content.

More Than Just a Name

Quite often, companies today choose a "coined" name -- most often a word that is a combination of words or an abbreviation of words (as in the case of Tronc). The challenge is these coined names are often confusing and difficult to remember. Sometimes they are ridiculed (also the case with Tronc).

In explaining its new name, Accenture wrote in the announcement press release that “Accenture is a coined word that connotes putting an accent or emphasis on the future, just as the firm focuses on helping its clients create their future.”

Part of the reason rebranding is so daunting is because it requires considerable time, effort and investment to develop the name and logo, and then to legally clear them from a trademark perspective. Once approved, it will be time to focus on educating current customers, partners, future customers, employees, reporters, analysts and the general public about the new name - especially if the meaning is not immediately clear or easy to remember. Such education takes time and repetition.

Choosing a Company Name Can Be Challenging and Costly

Choosing a company name is not easy. The upfront development and the long-term implementation and transition costs can be expensive depending upon how it's handled. Multiple sources estimate that most businesses (not in the realm of Fortune 500, of course) can generally expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 up to $150,000 for rebranding, depending upon the size of the business, the scope of physical assets and legal changes required with a name change, and the type and cost of resources utilized.

On the extreme high end of a costly rebranding example, when Andersen Consulting rebranded itself as Accenture after it separated from Arthur Andersen, the $35+ billion global management consulting and professional services firm reportedly spent over $100 million on the rebranding, according to an article written by a U.K. business magazine.

Interestingly, at the same time Accenture was busy working on its new name, I was working at Arthur Andersen. As the head of marketing for the Outsourcing practice, I was assigned to a brand task force along with the marketing leaders for Arthur Andersen’s other core business practices. The nine of us were tasked to review and provide input on the new logo options developed by a U.K. brand identify firm.

In preparing for the final separation from Andersen Consulting, Arthur Andersen also had to change its value proposition. It would no longer be the world’s largest professional services firm upon losing AC's revenues and head count. Our brand task force was also involved in reviewing the new positioning and messaging. Once that was complete, I spearheaded team development of a new marketing plan for Arthur Andersen’s largest business division, Assurance and Business Advisory. It was all very exciting.

Over the years I have worked on other brand initiatives, learning many new facets along the way. I have received marketing and PR industry awards for some of the branding work I have been involved with for 1010 Marketing clients and for some of my previous employers.

In 2015, I had the opportunity to name a company all on my own following the acquisition of PacketVideo, a digital media connectivity software company owned by NTT DOCOMO, the largest mobile carrier in Japan. The new owner tasked me as the new head of marketing to create a new company name and brand identity. Fortunately, the new name I developed, Lynx Technology, and the new branding were very well received both internally and externally. (Read about the goals and methodology:

Closing Thoughts

It takes time and money to create brand recognition and to develop understanding with clear brand messaging and positioning (another important brand component).

Accenture did an excellent job with its rebranding, creating tremendous awareness and recognition of the new name on a global basis.

While not all companies have the resources or the need to do this on such a grand scale, there are many lessons and insights to be followed to make the process more manageable and more affordable for smaller companies in need of a new name.

If your startup is looking to create a compelling company name or if you are a SMB company in need of a brand or compelling value proposition refresh, let's talk. I have "been there, done that" branding work with great results and for a very reasonable price in comparison to others.

Janice Cain, MBA provides Strategic Marketing, Branding and Public Relations counsel and deliverables to 1010 Marketing clients. To learn how Janice can elevate your marketing and communications results to raise your company's market profile, attract more customers, and drive more sales, call 858-999-7419 or send an email at Follow her on Twitter, @JaniceCain_1010.

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