Both Research in Motion and YouSendIt changed their name this week. I’ve been a (free) user of YouSendIt for sometime so I received the notice from their CEO about the change. The “notice” took the form of a chatty and upbeat email explaining how the new name was taking them on a new path. I’m sure this all sounds good but I’m not really sure why they changed the name and didn’t immediately recognize value in their new name, Hightail. The value of the name change for RIM on the other hand was instantly recognizable: the makers of Blackberrys are now going to be called Blackberry.
Organization and product naming is tough work. There are lots of reasons to select a name and even more reasons not to change them after you’ve selected one.
In most cases, once you choose a name you’re stuck with it for life so selecting something that is descriptive and connotes the right emotion is key. If what you do isn’t immediately recognizable from your name, then you may choose to include a tagline or image to convey the message. But as there will not always be space for that image, sometimes it makes more sense to get the “what you do” into the name the first time. (Besides, coming up with taglines can be such tough work that it may not be smart to hold up the naming of your company or product while waiting on the tag.)
If you’re an internet business, finding a name for which an obvious domain is available is also critical. The dwindling availability of domains combined with the focus on something that is short and catchy has given rise to all sorts of new and invented vocabulary (I say with a nod to our friends at Qiigo).
The biggest reason NOT to change is name is because of the brand and loyalty you’ve created the to name you started with. (Think New Coke. How well did that work out for them?)