Thursday, February 25

What's In A (Brand) Name?

A lot of work goes into naming a new brand - if you've ever done it and gotten it approved, then you know what I mean. Imagine changing a brand name once it's already in the market. Today Kate Sklar, a colleague of mine at the agency, gives a personal account.

What's your experience, Kate? Jim.

A name is the cornerstone of an identity. I’ve had a lot of names. There’s my full name, Kate Champagne Sklar. Then there’s the nickname my parents derived from my first two initials, KC. That quickly became C-A-S-E-Y in an effort to ease the jealousy I felt as other children sprawled their long, pretty names across notebook pages in cursive, while I had two measly letters. I soon changed the C to a K, making it K-A-S-EY. And finally at age 18, I decided to end the identity crisis and return to my roots. I would henceforth call myself just Kate.

But with my new (original) name came some serious confusion among those who knew me. “Kate” was a veritable stranger to, say, my grandparents and best friend. And “Kasey” to my new friends and colleagues like a clever stage name from a distant past.

Lately, a lot of brands are changing their names, as John Kelly wittily points out in a February 22 article on (

Spray 'n Wash, for example, is now called Resolve. Electrasol, the dishwashing soap, is now called Finish. In his article, Kelly observes the nature of this name-changing trend, which seems to be a movement away from more literal product names that tell us exactly what products do – and if we’re lucky, how to use them (thank you Playskool Sit 'n Spin!) – toward more sensorial names, with largely ambiguous meanings.

Surface cleaner Pledge was ahead of the curve – leading the way with brand names that told you absolutely nothing about what the product is and rather appealed to the emotion of the buyer, championing the, er, resolve, of the product to help you get the housework done.

Product name changes are a logical response to changing consumer needs, brand expectations and brand expansion. (Once Spray 'n Wash came out with the stick, the “Spray” no longer made sense.)

But what’s at stake when you change your name? Certainly, you risk losing some of your old consumers. Will they recognize the product by its new name (and assumed, new packaging)? Will they still trust it?

The fundamental issue is that a product with a new name is actually a new product - a product without a legacy, but one with, perhaps, a more vibrant future. Brands undergoing name changes will be challenged to maintain the trust and loyalty of old buyers while enticing the new ones they hope to gain.

To this day, one can identify the length of my relationships by that name which my acquaintances call me. “Kate”: new friend. “Kasey”: old friend, or even family. I’ll be honest. If my Facebook name didn’t come with a picture, I’d surely have half the Facebook friends I do now. People, I assure you, it’s still the same me! You just may not recognize the name.

- Kate Sklar from Lippe Taylor Brand Communications

1 comment:

  1. Just like when Puffy went from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy. He changed his name right after a weapons conviction... Brand reinvention maybe?

    Now it's just Diddy, I think.