Most people don’t know that my parents named me Christina. I changed my name to Téa in college (I’ll share why at the end of this post).
Yes, it’s my legal name. Believe me, the IRS, the DMV and every government office between Los Angeles and Portland can verify this fact. Most people also don’t know that my original business was Social Good Marketing, a full-service agency that catered to nonprofits and socially conscious companies. I invested a LOT of time and money in that brand — even going so far as to register the trademark with the US Dept of Trademarks and Patents. Two years later, I changed the name of my business to Social Good Consulting. I’d had enough of the agency model (providing done-for-you-services wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d thought it would be) and felt I needed to rebrand so my community would understand the difference. Five years later, I changed the name again. This time to Word Chef. I’d shifted my target market and wanted distance from being “the good girl” in my business community. Less than a year after that, my biz plans shifted slightly. Once I had clarity about where I wanted to go, I did a brand refresh. A minor adjustment to my Word Chef logo and that helped me feel more aligned with who I was and the story I wanted to tell about my business. Now, as 2013 comes to a close, an even bigger shift is here; one so large that it warrants a whole new name and website: StoryBistro.com. Obviously, things change. And not just for me. If you look around, you’ll notice most of your friends and colleagues changing and shifting, too. We’re human. It’s what we do. (Especially if we’re women.) But how do you know when you should change your name or just your hair-color? Yes, your brand is much more than the outward trappings of your logo and company name. But those things do help begin the conversation of who you are and what you offer – in both your prospective customer’s mind as well as your own. Having done both revamps and a rebrands several times now (for myself and my clients), I’ve learned a few things along the way. If you’re feeling the need to realign your inside with your outside, these considerations could help you decide which path to take and what to look out for along the way.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Spend Time & Money Re-Making Your Online Presence
1. How big is the gap between your current branding and where you’d like it to be? Has your mission and vision changed? Your business model? Your entire target market? Or is this just a minor tweak to your products and services? Can you continue to tell the same branding story with what you’ve already got? Or should you blow things up and start over completely? Most of the time (especially if you did a great job to begin with), your current branding can continue to do the job just fine. Remember: your customers don’t need you to have a bigger, better website or a new logo. Unless your site is broken or confusing, you might be better off leaving things as they are. A “simple” refresh to your logo can cost you upwards of more than $1000, if you factor in all the time and money you’ll spend to swap out the old with the new. And it’s not just your website that will need new images — every social media profile requires updating, too. And don’t forget things like business cards. Weigh your options carefully, bounce ideas off your mastermind buddies, and then own your decision. 2. How long has it been since you made the last change? In general, we humans don’t like change. If you’re constantly shifting gears or starting new projects (let’s say a new direction every 2-3 months), you’re not giving your audience enough time to process who you are now. Each additional change you make can disorient them and dilute your marketing efforts. Pace yourself. 3. Do you have existing brand equity? (In English, this means, Have you built up a solid reputation?) If people love you and know who you are, you have what’s called “brand equity.” Simply put, you don’t want to throw that out and start completely over without good reasons. In my case, I’ll build on the Word Chef brand by maintaining my food metaphors. And I’ll continue to use many of the elements I do now (like my caricatures and moniker) to help people know they’re talking with the same person. 4. Do you want/need to move existing content to a new site? Often, a rebrand also includes a new domain name. But moving vast amounts of existing content to a new site isn’t always the best choice. Think of all those links that will need 301 redirects. If your new site will feature the same types of content as the old one, moving the content might be worthwhile. But be prepared to lose some of your stats with the search engines — at least for a few months. And make sure you’ve got a web expert on-hand to help you during the process. 5. What kind of changes to your site do you want/need to make? A rebrand is the perfect opportunity to reorganize. Is this something you need to do? Have people told you that things are hard to find? Figure out how you want your site laid out before you start shopping for a new WordPress theme or web designer. You’ll make much better decisions if you’ve created a list of must-haves beforehand. The less customization a theme needs, the easier it will be for you to maintain your site going forward.
Tips for Successfully ReBranding Your Website
1. Talk about your process ahead of the launch. Besides losing out on a great PR opportunity, if you change things up without telling anyone, you run the risk of
pissing off confusing your existing audience. This is especially true if your website also functions as a membership site. People get used to a particular way of navigating, and if you move things around and don’t at least give people a heads up, you run the risk of making them feel unimportant or ignored. Think about your website like a virtual storefront. Customers come in and they know where to find things. If you move the products around on the shelves, it’s going to take them longer to find what they want. And if you never told them things were moving, they’ll think you don’t care about them or their valuable time. Instead, enlist your audience in the process by asking them to vote on new logos or color choices. When I was trying to decide on the new name (Story Bistro), I asked my Facebook pals which option they preferred: a Bistro or a Diner. The overwhelming response was Bistro. Help them see why the rebrand will benefit them. When you involve your tribe, they’ll have a greater sense of ownership — something you definitely want them to feel. It’s also a totally valid opportunity to have real conversations about what you do (marketing!) and why. This blog post is a perfect example of how to incorporate these kinds of conversations into what you’re already doing. 2. Keep an eagle eye on the technology. If you’re going to change anything — whether it’s the theme you’re using, your plugins, or the domain name of your site — there’s a pretty good chance there’ll be tech glitches. Remember to breathe. And then TEST. Open your new site in every browser (not just the one you use). Click on all the links to make sure they go where they’re supposed to go. Make sure your new, mobile responsive site actually is responsive. How does your site look and function on all those different devices? Pretend you’re your customer and try everything out. Sign up for your own email list. Buy your own products. Does it work? 3. Transition smoothly. Logos evolve yes, but they do so gradually, over time. (Take a look at the Pepsi logo timeline. The difference between their first logo and their current one is huge, but it didn’t get that way overnight.) If you look at any of the big corporate rebrands, you’ll notice they don’t usually abandon existing color schemes. Color is a powerful anchor in our minds. (Quick — what color is Starbucks’ logo?) and if you’ve got brand equity that you want to build on, it’s a good idea to aim for similarities in design elements. In my case, I’ve changed up the design of this site to match the one coming for Story Bistro. While the colors for Story Bistro are somewhat different, I am keeping orange. And the continuity of the theme from site to site will help people feel more “at home.” (Take a peek here to see what I mean.) 4. Don’t forget your social media outposts. Do you have a file where you’ve documented all the sites you’ve got profiles for? I thought so. Use this as an opportunity to document all of those accounts and what type of image files each requires. The next time you have to make changes, you can see at a glance what needs to be done. I’ve created a new Facebook page for Story Bistro, but will keep my existing Twitter account as-is. YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn will also need some updates. And then there’s Google+ — I’ll probably do that one last just because it’s so crazy. 5. Shorter is better. When you’re picking out a new name, remember that Google no longer gives as much SEO juice to descriptive domains (i.e., a website like portlandmarketing.com for a business that didn’t sport that same name, would get minus points). So find a domain that’s as close as possible to your actual business name. And keep that name as short as you can. Two word names are best. Two syllables are even better. If you can’t find an exact match for the domain name you want, consider using “the” or “your” in front of the name. Avoid hyphens as well as .net and .biz extensions, too.
Your Reasons Matter Most
“If we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others — for their use and to our detriment.”–Audre Lorde from the essay “Scratching the Surface”
Could I have kept Word Chef without creating a whole new brand? Of course. After all, I’m still in love with my food metaphors and probably always will be. And it definitely would’ve been easier to just change my tagline and go on with my day. But the evolution here is a big one for me. This is more than a simple shift in focus. Ultimately, I’m simplifying. Setting down all the traditional trappings of marketing. My goal is to focus on stories, plain and simple. This site has an enormous amount of content that talks about more than storytelling. There are posts about branding and market research, budgeting and strategy — none of which are bad things. They’re just topics I no longer want to talk about. So I’m setting them down. The new space will be one where we can tell each other stories, where I can help you tell your stories. The new name reminds me (and you) of this new focus. If I kept the same/old name, it would be too easy to fall into old habits and start talking about things in terms of “strategy” and “planning” and “ROI.” (Again, those aren’t bad, they’re just things I’d rather leave to someone else better suited for the job.) When I changed my name in college, it was for similar reasons. Up until that point, I’d been known as ‘Tina’ — often called ‘Tiny Tina’ in school. Christina was a name my parents gave me without much thought. They believed they were having a boy and only had a boy’s name picked out (Christopher). In her post-labor stupor, my mom thought she’d name me Utahna (where I was born). Thankfully, Grandma stepped in and suggested Christina. The older I got, the more that name didn’t feel like me. In college, I took several women’s studies classes and learned about the power of self-naming. There’s a long history of people changing their names in order to define themselves more fully. That’s what I wanted to do, too. Things had changed internally for me in a big way. I was newly divorced. I’d officially left the Mormon church. And I was in love with my English professor (a woman). I definitely wasn’t who I had been before! I thought things through and in the end, I chose Téa Del Alma Silvestre as my name. It’s Spanish for “torch light of the wild soul.” A much better reflection of who I felt I really was. It took awhile for my friends and family to get on board, but they stepped up. And I love them for it. What about you? Have you ever changed your business name (or your personal name)? How did the rebranding go for you? Share your tips or questions in a comment and let’s keep the conversation going. This post is part of the Word Carnival series of monthly blog posts. Click here to read more posts on this month’s topic, “100 Best Ways to Screw up Your Business Website,” written by other whip-smart entrepreneurs, marketing mavens, and small business owners.