Are there any names of people (first names in particular) that give you a warm feeling? And are there any that give you a chill? You don't need to answer these questions because for sure there will be some names that have lovely associations and some that do not.
If names of people cause us to think differently about them, you can see how it is likely that company names could also affect our emotions. Some company names will feel good and some will not. In effect, we are talking about brands and their impact. However, we are focusing on a specific aspect of brands which is the name itself.
Think about how we name companies. Companies used to have descriptive names. We talked about Imperial Chemical Industries and The Aluminum Company of America. This is now so unfashionable. We can’t live with these descriptive monikers and their names have been changed to ICI, Alcoa or any other collection of initials that simply don't excite us.
We should also think about the way we change our company names with gay abandon. We spend ages creating a name to make it memorable and with personality and then someone in marketing decides to freshen things up and change things. But when we do so, how much are we giving away? How much are we changing our persona? How dangerous is it to change a name which has meaning?
Acquisition is an obvious occasion when a name change may be necessary. But there are few occasions beyond this when it is to be recommended. Imagine you changed your name tomorrow. How would it change people's reactions to you? Some will continue using your old name because they simply can't get used to your new one.
It used to be said that the only time you should change a company name is if the company and its name has a bad smell. Andersen Consulting was associated with Arthur Andersen (the accounting company) and felt it couldn't live with the name after the Enron scandal. It quite reasonably wanted a new identity and successfully changed to Accenture.
Name changes don’t always work. In the UK, the Royal Mail tried changing its name when it became a private company. In 2001 it rebranded as Consignia at a cost of £1.5 million and a year later it cost £1 million to change back again. Customers and the public couldn't live with the rebrand.
Names are so important. Remember Herbie, the famous Volkswagen Beetle which was the star of a number of movies in the late 60s. Of course you don't, it is well before your time. However, it isn't so unusual to name your car. In fact a survey carried out by the UK vehicle licensing authority found that nearly 30% of people have named their car. We are not talking about giving it a set of initials, we're talking about proper names like Doris, Dave, Henry, Betsy and Bumble. Once the car has a name it has a personality. With a personality, there is an opportunity to love it more.
Isn't that what we want for our companies?