By Ron Owens

Capitol Communicator ad agencies neglect their peopleOne of the most popular games played by business people these days is agency / corporate name changing. Mergers, acquisitions, new principals, new services, new products and changing markets account for much of that activity. Some agency / corporate name changes are necessary; many are advisable; a few are deplorable.

No change is painless, and all are costly. Thus, it behooves management to proceed carefully and with great scrutiny. And because the greatest impact will be on the firm’s marketplace, the people responsible for advertising, public relations and sales must be key figures in the name-change process right from gleam-in-the-eye stage.

Account management, marketing, sales, PR and advertising managers are the ones who will be affected most. They have to live with the new name and either profit from it or perish, if it’s a mistake.

The questions are: Is the name change necessary or desirable? What are the agency / corporate objectives? What will be gained from the new name, or lost by the continued use of the old one? Companies that have spent millions of dollars on advertising to establish and increase awareness, enhancement and recognition of their name will understandably think twice before destroying it in some fell swoop. Agencies also have built equity and established solid brand awareness over time and their management teams should weigh carefully and judiciously the name change in terms of gain and/or loss.

A common reason for changing the name of a small business is the arrival of new ownership. In the case of ad agencies, law firms, brokerage houses, the change is often dictated by a substantial market value in the name of a new owner or partner who has a strong following.

If you’re going to change the agency or corporate name, the only way to do it is to “bite the bullet” and get it over with. You must evaluate the risks and difficulties, the temporary confusion and losses in certain market areas and the costs. If, after that evaluation, the answer is still “Go,” then go!

A firm decision doesn’t imply that the change must take place overnight. Usually, a transition is necessary, and here is where most difficulties occur. Top management makes the decision to change but does not insist on a program for properly timed transitional stages. Chief executives are apt to wait and see what effect each stage of the change produces. They don’t realize that the object of the multi-stage approach is to have no effect, that is, to create as little disturbance as possible in the marketplace.

A worthy objective in selecting a name is to make it descriptive of the firm’s activities or products. That, of course, could give a diversified company or agency a name a paragraph long. It could also box you in, say five or ten years from now, when your services, product line or markets or both have expanded or changed. But for most agencies and companies, that is the best starting point. Another approach is to legitimize the agency or company’s nickname.

Far more important than the name chosen, however, is how you merchandise it to the public. No name will sell itself unless you’re lucky enough to have a service or brand that brings the name along with it. Without such an advantage, the new name is in the hands of account management, marketing services and advertising people. Part of your job is to make their job as easy as possible.

Ron Owens is the co-founder & principal, LMO Advertising. Ron’s background includes VP, Bozell Worldwide; VP, TMP Worldwide; Governor, 4A’s; Vice Chair, AAF; Committee Chair, ANA and Past President, Ad Club of Metropolitan Washington, DC. His present firm, Ron Owens & Associates, specializes in market development, branding, and diversity & inclusion. Ron can be reached via

Photo: Brett Jordan, Unsplash

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