New name must be more than just a moniker

Renaming an agency involves so much more than just thinking up a new name, printing up new business cards, and changing the Web site, say agency execs at firms that have recently gone through the process.

Renaming an agency involves so much more than just thinking up a new name, printing up new business cards, and changing the Web site, say agency execs at firms that have recently gone through the process.

Coming up with a new name requires an evaluation of just what the mission and objectives of the firm are, explains Huard Smith, EVP of Virilion, previously known as Mindshare Interactive Campaigns. His firm's former name had frequently been confused with a WPP company with a similar name, and there were a number of other companies in the marketing and advertising worlds with similar monikers.

A small team, consisting of Smith and leaders of the agency's creative and editorial teams, consulted with both clients and employees to better grasp just how core values - such as being inspiring, a leader, and a provider of bold ideas for clients - could translate into a new name, logo, and brand identity.

The end result, Virilion, is an amalgamation of Latin and English that means "Green lion." It refers to a stage in the medieval mythical art of alchemy, which uses animals to represent the different stages of turning base metals into gold.

The need for a site URL that was not already taken prompted the decision to look for non-English names, Smith notes.

"It became clear that English is pretty much taken," Smith adds. "Depending on who their owners are, those sites can be expensive."

Jeff Mascott, MD of Adfero Group, formerly called Rightclick Strategies - which had outgrown its original focus on Republican-centered online work - says his firm also understood the need for a name that could be easily obtained for online use, plus represented the broader values of the organization. Calling a company something like "Innovative Strategies" is just too bland and obvious, he notes. Thus the decision - made with input from staff and clients - to go with the Latin word "adfero," which means to "bring or carry news" as well as "execute or bring something to bear."

Changing business cards and voice mail seems mundane, Mascott admits, but there are so many of these tasks that some are easily overlooked. His firm ran a contest asking staff to think of as many such changes as possible. Collectively, they thought of more than 500; the contest winner (who received an iPod) came up with over 150. Adfero then devoted the typically less-busy month of December to finishing all these tasks as quickly as possible. At approximately the same time, the firm announced the new name.

Agency execs say that making sure everyone remembers the new name takes time, but that sponsoring conferences or local events helps reinforce the news. Elizabeth Shea, president and CEO of SpeakerBox - known as SheaHedges Group until co-founder Kristi Hedges left the firm - says that along with giving clients advance warning of the new name, her firm did earned media outreach, advertising, and search engine optimization.

"We still do twice as much [promotion] as we used to do to make sure the new name is out there," Hedges says. "I think it takes a full year before you can eliminate the traces of the old firm."

Key points:

  • Renaming a firm requires evaluating its core mission and abilities
  • Make changes to sites, letterheads, voice mail, and other identifiers as quickly as possible
  • Reinforcement of the new name includes event sponsorship, advertising, media outreach, and SEO

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