I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my name during the course of my life.  Or I should say hate-love.  The dislike came first.

In elementary school, I was the only Evelyn.  Not just in my class or in my grade.  But in the whole school.

No one that age wants to stick out.  I would have given my eye teeth to be the fifth Carolyn in my grade instead of the one Evelyn.  (I didn’t love my teeth either pre-braces.)

The CVS incident didn’t help.  When I was 12, a friend called to me from the next aisle over while we were in CVS.  Her shouting my name prompted a silver-haired, wrinkled old woman to turn to me and say, “I didn’t know they were giving such old fashioned names to girls these days!  My name is Evelyn too.”

I smiled the best I could and got out of there fast.

I didn’t feel old fashioned and my name felt uncomfortable to me.  I knew I could change my name when I became 18, but had no idea what to change it to.

The tide turned in my latter teens.  Becoming somewhat nonconformist I began to like having a name that set me apart.

By the time I got married, I liked my first and last names enough to decide to keep them.  By then I had established a good reputation among my colleagues and wanted to build on that.

Just as I wavered about my name in my teens and flirted with the idea of changing it, it is common for Brands in Adolescence to consider changing their name.  When sales are off and momentum has stalled, it is tempting to think that a new name will jumpstart the business.

But a name change isn’t a quick fix.  Just ask BlackBerry.

State-of-the-art in the early 2000s, the BlackBerry device has seen sales and market share decline for a few years now.  Its brand reputation has suffered too.  BlackBerry owners are sometimes embarrassed to admit that they are still using the device.

Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry, announced in early 2013 that it was changing its name to BlackBerry and made the change official in July.  CEO Thorsten Heins is still trying to reverse the sales slide and to address product deficiencies though.

Name changes are expensive and need to have a strategic purpose for them to be worth the investment.

Here are some good reasons to change a company brand name:

  • To mark or signal a major change.  Major changes include mergers or new ownership.  When Pete Townshend, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon joined up with Roger Daltrey’s band The Detours, they changed the name to The Who. When Pepsi spun off Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut to a separate company, they named it Yum! Brands.
  • To simplify or shorten the name.  Apple Computer became Apple Inc., which both simplified the name and better reflected the company’s portfolio as it went beyond computing products.  Federal Express became FedEx.
  • To make the name easier to pronounce and remember.  Sometimes an affinity for an initial name yields to the reality that it is hard for the public to pronounce or remember.  Read the story of how Ms. And Mrs. changed its name to Pinch Productions after their company was misidentified on national television.
  • To facilitate recognition.  Facilitating recognition often means renaming your company after the product leading your success.  Roving Software changed its name to Constant Contact after its successful email software service.  This is what BlackBerry is trying to do.
  • To distance your company from an unfortunate situation.  Philip Morris became Altria to distance the company from controversy surrounding its cigarette brands.  Andersen Consulting became Accenture, a move that was initially criticized but proved smart later as its accounting side Arthur Andersen became embroiled in the Enron scandal. Kentucky Fried Chicken changed to KFC to escape fried-food associations, flak from questionable poultry practices and fees for using the Kentucky state name.

A name change alone will not improve your company’s business.  Coupled with good strategic planning and action, however, it can set your company up for future success.

As for my name, apparently its status has changed.  A few weeks ago I met someone at a birthday party who told me that his sister’s name was Evelyn, and that Evelyn was again among the most popular girls’ names for babies.

I was skeptical so I looked it up.  Evelyn is the number 13 girls’ name on one baby-name list for 2013 and number 27 on another.  Who knew?

I’ve sworn though that if I ever run into any of these newborn Evelyns several years down the line, I’ll just smile and say “I like your name.”

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