Building a brand into a household name can take years and all the requisite blood, sweat, and tears. So changing course midstream might seem like a surprising move--but it's one that's a lot more common than you think.

While the cost of a renaming effort, which often requires rebranding too, can range anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million, depending on the size of the business, companies do it all the time. Just look at FedEx’s Kinko’s brand, which became FedEx Office in 2008, or Sprint’s name change from United Telecom back in 1992.

Giant brands aren't the only ones looking to change their stripes. For smaller companies that have been around for years and watched sales diminish as the world changed around them, rebranding can be a matter of survival.

Consider the example of CallCopy. The Columbus, Ohio-based company first launched as a call-recording software provider in 2004. But in recent years, it started offering a complete suite of "work-force optimization" tools that still include call-recording software but also incorporate programs for managing employees, analyzing speech, and measuring on-the-job performance.

"What we found over time is that people associated us with that call-recording piece, and we didn’t want to be locked into that tiny box knowing that we had more breadth," says Keith Kress, director of marketing communications at the newly transformed Uptivity (formerly, CallCopy).

Miller Insurance Group of Jacksonville, Florida, also launched a recent (if reluctant) rebranding effort after expansion plans landed it in the crosshairs of a similarly named business. As the 11-year-old company fished around for new markets, it noticed that another insurance firm--Millers Mutual--was already present in the Northeast, with a trademarked name. That discovery, coupled with the desire to franchise its business model and to find a name useful in all 50 states, led Miller Insurance to test new brand concepts.

The effort wasn't without its hiccups, however. "Every name that makes sense has already been trademarked," says David Miller, the company’s founder and CEO.

Since he wanted an "all-American name," Miller rejected any suggestions that might have been derived from Latin or Greek, or sounded like a drug company, including Prostina and Viser. "They didn’t sound warm and accepting," Miller notes. The last name standing? Certainly nothing that sounds like a pill to pop: Brightway Insurance.

No matter the reason, renaming and a company's requisite rebranding efforts require patience and oftentimes some guidance.

Here are three tips from the company formerly known as CallCopy:

1. Revamp your tchotchkes.

CallCopy's process included some obvious changes: creating new business cards and employee shirts, as well as a different site branded with "formerly CallCopy" for at least three months. They would eventually lose the "formerly" rubric.

2. Test the waters.

Surveys also had to be conducted on what customers--as well as others in the industry--thought of the company and its new name.

3. Transition seamlessly.

Finally, once the company decided on Uptivity, it launched two parallel sites for each of the company's names. Those ran for a few months in order to optimize search engine results and make the transition smoother.

In the end, it cost a lot more than CallCopy wanted to pay both in terms of man-hours and dollars. All told, it took nine months, and "a very large investment," says Kress, who wouldn’t disclose the exact sum. "It would have been easier to stay CallCopy, but we would have been limited by the name," he adds.

Published on: Apr 24, 2014