Can You Rename A Company In A Day?

Yes, and this process will make it seem like a piece of cake.

What happens when a company outgrows its name? It’s kind of like walking around in someone else’s clothes: people get the wrong idea about who you are and what you stand for. And that’s not good for business.

So, how do you rename an entire organization in one day? Let’s use an example, because you know I love them.

The Challenge

Let’s say you’re my client, Holberg Financial, and your mission is to empower people to lead financially healthier lives. You work with progressive clients that recognize the power of financial independence and want to bring tools to their workforces. And the company’s founder, Joe Holberg, knows just how difficult building a financially equitable future can be: he found himself living in his car during college without access to money or financial skills.

That struggle compelled him to a year of service with AmeriCorps where he was dedicated to helping lower-income people start their own businesses and build a strong personal financial foundation. After Teach for America, Joe eventually went on to a fellowship at Google and then to start his own company: Holberg Financial.

So what happens when you no longer feel that your company name embodies your mission or your brand? Joe knew that Holberg Financial was so much more than his story, which is where this story begins.

The Process

Holberg Financial wanted a new name that felt aspirational (vs old and stodgy) as a way to better align with clientele and better embody the company, not just its CEO.

The answer was a collaborative, generative workshop. Our goal was to walk away with 3–5 options to consider for a new name and, equally as important, to make sure all team members had a voice and were able to contribute equally.

So how do you achieve all of this in just one day?

Get Organized

  • Identify your team. For this workshop, eight participants from different areas of the business and a board member joined to foster dialogue and contribute insights.
  • Use a digital tool like Mural to organize and visualize all the information the team shares. This part is critical because it allows the facilitator to publish the group’s ideas, as well as implement anonymous voting techniques and processes to eliminate potential power dynamics that may be at play.
  • Dig into the research. What do people who use the product love about it? What kind of words do they use to describe the product and service? Make sure you collect this information up front so you can dive into it in real time with the group.
  • Design your workshop. The workshop I hosted was a mashup of methods from a few sources — designed to get to the outcome we wanted: a new name for the company. Many of the methods we used were from the Brand Sprint toolkit but with a few twists based on the unique needs of the client.

The Workshop Agenda

  • In a one-day workshop, it’s critical to stick to the agenda and implement exercises you know will help accomplish what you set out to do. Be sure to bake in breaks and time for extra dialogue.
  • Insights: We started the day by reviewing the gathered insights. We gathered feedback and testimonials from customers and looked at the themes that were present in their feedback.
  • Aspirations: We discussed how we wanted our customers to feel. Emergent words were things like: relief, empowerment, excitement. These words were kernels of inspiration and helped the team begin to align around how the new brand should feel.
  • Spectrums: This is a Brand Sprint method that I love because it allows the team to discuss where they think the brand lands across difference spectrums (e.g., playful vs serious, or conventional vs rebellious). In the case of Holberg Financial, I had the team work independently, then called on each of them separately to help preserve the integrity of their independent opinions. During these types of sharing exercises, the order in which you call on people is important. Notice someone is shy, or quieter than others? Make it a point to have them share first. Have a CEO or persuasive personality in the room? Ask them to share last so they aren’t influencing the group.
  • What, How, Why: This method is another from the Brand Sprint playbook and originates with Simon Sinek, known for his postulation that you should always “start with why.” Again, with this method it’s important to think about who shares first. I had each team member write their answers down independently and then had them share out their thoughts. I captured their answers on the board and the CEO went last. He was the decider but everyone had a chance to weigh in. The CEO was committed to hearing all voices and making a choice inclusive of the team’s input.
  • Lunch + Inspiration Gathering: Lunch is a key activity on the agenda. Here’s how I framed up lunch and the next assignment on the agenda for this workshop:
  • “This” “Not That”: The This/Not That framework for sharing inspiration or for gathering input is something that I started using years ago. It’s so simple but incredibly effective. I used it as a way for team members to identify the brands and characteristics they wanted their own brand to embody. Equally as important, it allowed the team to align on what they don’t want the brand to be associated with. I had team members work on this independently and put their own thoughts together in a workspace in the Mural board. This allowed us to define areas of overlap amongst the team, and put some parameters in place before we got into ideation.
  • Ideation / Voting: We did several rounds of ideation together. The first was our “anything goes” round. I encouraged team members to put any and all ideas in the ring. If you’re looking to retain anonymity like I was, have participants submit their ideas to you directly via chat, then create digital sticky notes in the Mural board on their behalf. With each round of idea generation, we voted and then discussed. The result was that we got to a short list of name choices to consider.

The Outcome

When you identify the right tools and processes, a one-day session can work really hard for you and your objectives. By the end of my naming workshop with Holberg Financial, we produced several strong name options that the entire team felt excited about, including the finalist that became the brand’s official new name: Spring!

Not only did the session produce viable name options, it also allowed the participants to build equity in the company and its future. Equally as important, the company now has a new name and external appearance that better aligns with the mission and brand DNA. And that’s good for business.

I love hearing from you, so leave a comment below or send me a message. We can chat about workshops, Design Sprints, or the book you’re loving this month. For all other information, feel free to visit jackiecolburn.com.

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Jackie Colburn

Jackie Colburn

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Weekly resources for facilitators and leaders. Learn tips and methods to run better workshops, accelerate teams and uncover new ideas. www.jackiecolburn.com