Your first idea is rarely the best one you are going to be able to come up with. This is especially true when it comes to names, which are an essential part of your brand. Your name should reflect your business, but companies don't always get it right.

Companies aren't the only ones who find themselves having to change their name for one reason or another, however. In exploring the wonderful world of name-changing brands, we've discovered some fantastic examples from the worlds of music and movies, too, that we just had to share with you all.


Movies

Movies

In cinema, the most common name change is found in the use of a working title, which is essentially a way of disguising the project you are actually filming to avoid unwanted attention. Probably the most famous working title of all time is 'Blue Harvest', which was the original name for Return of the Jedi.

But George Lucas is far from the only one to use a working title. Director James Cameron used 'Planet Ice' to hide the fact that he was working on Titanic and they have also been used for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ('Incident on 57th Street') and Back to the Future II ('Paradox') in a similar way to avoid public hysteria around the projects.

It is also surprisingly common for actors to change their names, including Michael Caine (Maurice Micklethwaite), Whoopi Goldberg (Caryn Johnson) and Ben Kingsley (Krishna Pandit). In most cases, the name change takes place when an actor is struggling in the early stages of their career; the hope is that the rebrand that comes with the alteration will help them secure more roles. It certainly worked for these three.


Music

Music

Not to be left behind, musicians are also partial to changing their names to boost their marketability. Many of today's biggest names have done this, from Eminem (Marshall Mathers III) to Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Germanotta) and from Bruno Mars (Peter Gene Hernandex) to Aloe Blacc (Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III).

The current generation aren't the first to use a name change to create, establish and build a brand, either. In fact, it is likely down to the success of the likes of Elvis Costello (Declan Patrick McManus) and Fred Astaire (Frederic Austerlitz) that musicians are being advised to make their names more marketable.

With that in mind, let's have a wee quiz! See if you can match up the band name on the left to their former name on the right. There are some classics here!

Destiny's ChildFree Beer
Green DayGirls Tyme
NirvanaPen Cap Crew
Linkin ParkSmile
Red Hot Chili PeppersXero
Barenaked LadiesSweet Children
QueenTony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem

Show Answers »

In each of these name changes, there is a clearly established pattern. Whilst the changes take place for different reasons, the names aren't anywhere near as strong or suitable as their replacements (although - who doesn't love Free Beer?!). It appears that bands are being advised to improve their names so that they can become more marketable as recording artists.


Companies

Companies

As a business that knows the importance of a great brand identity, we know this is the section you've all been waiting for.

Can you imagine a world where Google is called Backrub? Or Amazon is actually called Cadabra?

Whilst it is hard to imagine these companies achieving the same levels of success with their original names, they are far from the only culprits. For example, Yahoo (Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web), Pepsi (Brad's Drink) and Subway (Pete's Super Submarines) all went through a learning phase before changing their names to make them simpler, more recognisable and much better for marketing the products themselves.

If you are based in the UK, you will probably remember that Kellogg's briefly decided to rename their popular Coco Pops product 'Choco Crispies' in 1998. The idea made business sense: it meant that the brand would be consistent across Europe. However, after a backlash from consumers, Kellogg's quickly saw the idea was so unpopular that it wouldn't be sustainable, and it ended up returning to the original moniker less than a year later.


What Can We Learn from These Mistakes?

There are a few key lessons to be learned from these brand naming errors.

  1. Using your first name as part of your brand isn't something that big businesses do well (in fact we struggled to find a great exception).
  2. If you underestimate just how much your customers love your name, you may end up regretting the decision to change it.
  3. The modern needs of securing domain names, social media profiles and ensuring your name is ready for international trading can simply add to the confusion about what it takes to select a great name.

During our research, we've discovered that companies are far from the only brands to change their names. Nor are they the only entities to get these decisions completely wrong and inadvertently create whole new issues for themselves. So it is important not to make such decisions lightly and to treat them as a strategic part of the plans for your brand as a whole.