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How to rename a store

There’s a lot of power in naming. Names can be anything from an expression of ownership to a predictor of future outcomes, encapsulating the essence of your brand in just a few words.

By Catherine Murray | September 20, 2018 | News

Navigating the local main street used to be a simple exercise. The location was fixed and shop names proudly stated the owner’s identity, along with an indication of the products they were peddling.

Fast forward to the present day, and business owners are grappling with bringing their store name into a world where consumers visit their store via a device to purchase items they’ve never touched. Those who enter a physical store are expecting a shopping experience they’ll remember for all the right reasons.

Naming your store is, really, all about you and your business – its story, its products and its purpose. It’s the who, what, where, how, and why of your business, and how you portray this in the marketplace is entirely up to you.

It can be a challenging, so working with the advice and knowledge of the experts provides valuable insights into choosing a name that truly reflects your business goals.

Reuben Woods and Melissa Woods, directors of Woods Agency.

What’s in a name?

There are three elements to a name, say Reuben Woods and Melissa Woods, directors of Woods Agency. These are the name itself, the descriptor, and the tagline. The descriptor explains what the business is or what it does: it can be functional or emotive, and helps to bring clarity and meaning to a new name.

“For a new business without a following or with a name where the meaning is not clear, a descriptor can really work in their favour,” Reuben Woods says.

He adds that a your business becomes more recognisable, builds loyalty and consumers understand what you do, you can eliminate the descriptor and/or the tagline and follow the likes of Apple, Nike and Hell.

It also pays to think about how much time people don’t have, Melissa Woods says: “The attention span of the average human is dwindling because of the way we’re demolishing media. For someone walking past a sign, it’s essential they look at it and ‘get it’, until you’re an Apple or Nike who have evolved into a recognised logo.”

Does your name need a descriptor to help explain it to customers, and make it clear what it represents?

The story behind the name

For a new business there is not only the challenge of coming up with a name, but also conveying a sense of authenticity and ethos in a business which, in reality, may be relatively young.

When you’re coming up with a name, Reuben Woods says, think about the position of your business in the market.

“Positioning is part of your marketing, and it’s where you can differentiate your business from your competitors. You can create a clear space with a name and really stand out.”

For example, with the Woods’ own business, the name Woods Agency was chosen after researching competitors and finding their names were creative and obscure names which matched the flavour of the businesses and what they were doing. In order to position themselves differently, the pair chose their surname, which offered credibility and history.

“In retail it’s all about service, so a name can really reflect the flavour of the business and the type of people your consumers are going to be interacting with,” Reuben Woods says.

In this sense, an online presence which supports the name is vital in establishing trust and authenticity, especially with a newly-established business.

“With online, if there isn’t enough depth to a business when you’re trying to find out who they are, there can be a lack of trust,” Melissa Woods says. “That’s why the ‘About Us’ page is really important. Whether the business is big or small, it’s about knowing there’s a real person and a real company.”

Some companies try to be obscure about who they are in a misguided attempt to appear bigger, Reuben Woods adds. Yet with the ability for consumers to do their own research online, it has the opposite effect, creating questions and distrust.

“You need to have a story,” he says. “Your story can tie with your business name, but it doesn’t necessarily have to, as long as you have a genuine, clear, and transparent story. If it does tie back to the name, then that’s fantastic.”

What is your story, and how can you use this history to build your name and your reputation?

Building solid foundations – George and Willy

The name George and Willy belies the effort that went into choosing a name to represent both the brand and its ethos. The duo behind the name, George Wilkins and Will McCallum, took several months to make a decision, with a game of paper, scissors, rock securing the naming order.

“We are both picky about design and branding,” explains Wilkins. “At the time of naming we thought for months about what we could call the business, and just couldn’t come up with anything we were sold on. Although it seems like it was the first thing that popped into our minds, it was almost the last option after we explored every other avenue.”

Wilkins says they didn’t want a name which was trying too hard to be something it’s not.

“The business is just George and Willy. With some names and trends where the words ‘company’ or ‘collective’ are at the end, and often those words are not necessary in the name at all.”

At the time George and Willy was established, Wilkins says, they were not exactly sure what products they would be selling, so the name allows for flexibility around the introduction of new product lines.

While he concedes that for SEO purposes a name such as ‘industrial clothing racks’ would give better reach, it wouldn’t be right for the brand or accurately reflect its products.

“If you are selling one particular product, you ideally want the name to explain what it is, but it won’t work if you want to sell a range of items in different categories.”

As for linking the founders’ names to the business, as time goes on the two are becoming more independent.

“‘Us’ and ‘the brand’ are getting separated in people’s eyes, and potentially people do not realise that George and Willy are actual people and the founders.”

The design of the font and the logo also has a part to play in the success of a name, Wilkins says.

“I like it when an engineering company has a solid font that is bold and sums up who they are and what they do. A lot of names get too complicated; a bit like job titles which get carried away using a lot of words that don’t need to be there, confusing people. That can also happen with business names.”

Have you taken time to consider the obvious when selecting a name for your business?

The name George and Willy belies the effort that went into choosing a name to represent both the brand and its ethos. The duo behind the name, George Wilkins and Will McCallum, took several months to make a decision, with a game of paper, scissors, rock securing the naming order.

“We are both picky about design and branding,” explains Wilkins. “At the time of naming we thought for months about what we could call the business, and just couldn’t come up with anything we were sold on. Although it seems like it was the first thing that popped into our minds, it was almost the last option after we explored every other avenue.”

Wilkins says they didn’t want a name which was trying too hard to be something it’s not.

“The business is just George and Willy. With some names and trends where the words ‘company’ or ‘collective’ are at the end, and often those words are not necessary in the name at all.”

At the time George and Willy was established, Wilkins says, they were not exactly sure what products they would be selling, so the name allows for flexibility around the introduction of new product lines.

While he concedes that for SEO purposes a name such as ‘industrial clothing racks’ would give better reach, it wouldn’t be right for the brand or accurately reflect its products.

“If you are selling one particular product, you ideally want the name to explain what it is, but it won’t work if you want to sell a range of items in different categories.”

As for linking the founders’ names to the business, as time goes on the two are becoming more independent.

“‘Us’ and ‘the brand’ are getting separated in people’s eyes, and potentially people do not realise that George and Willy are actual people and the founders.”

The design of the font and the logo also has a part to play in the success of a name, Wilkins says.

“I like it when an engineering company has a solid font that is bold and sums up who they are and what they do. A lot of names get too complicated; a bit like job titles which get carried away using a lot of words that don’t need to be there, confusing people. That can also happen with business names.”

Have you taken time to consider the obvious when selecting a name for your business?

Names in the digital era

In bygone days, retailers needed a name and a physical shop to put it on. Travelling forward several decades, the shop front can be 100 percent online or across a combination of channels.

Your brand now has to work harder than it did 10 years ago, says Aimee Stewart, managing director of digital marketing and retail consultancy business Connect Plus.

“Technology, the influence of Millennial customers, and decreasing brand loyalty call for new rules on how a company, product, or service should select its name. The thinking now is – is it easy to spell, easy to pronounce, easy to remember, and are people able to process it quickly, even on mobile screens?”

The digital rules for branding mean a business’s name should also be its web address and social media handles, Stewart says. In addition, the increasing use of search and voice recognition features mean a business needs to consider if the name is easy to spell and easy to pronounce.

“Choosing a name people can remember and say will bring in more traffic which in turn translates to higher revenues. If not, your target audience may not be able to find you and will go to your competitor instead.”

Does your business name look the way it sounds, and is it easy to spell and pronounce?

Instant shopping in a digital age

The introduction of Instagram Shopping offers another purchasing channel, and a further opportunity to embed your store’s name in the minds of consumers. It’s wise to have a look around online, and see how your name as a hashtag is behaving.

“Google the hashtags which may come up with your business name,” Melissa Woods suggests. “As well as your own brand name, start to build a bank of hashtags for your business and claim your space.”

It pays also to check the hashtags you are using for your name and brand are appropriate and represent the way you want to talk about your business and your products, she says.

Does your business name work well online, and have you taken steps to secure its digital identity?

Jude Burnside, founder and managing director of Not Socks.

Crowdsourcing opinions – Not Socks

Jude Burnside, founder and managing director of Not Socks, took a novel approach to choosing a name for her online gift store. Prior to the opening of the store nine years ago she conducted a survey around the buying behaviour of people purchasing gifts online using Survey Monkey, posting a link to the survey on Facebook. Engagement was high, and the responses gathered from a few thousand people helped to shape the business and understand the pain points of online shopping.

“We asked what was the least liked gift to give and receive,” Burnside says. “Socks came out on top, the reason being that, especially for men, it’s the gift of ‘I don’t know what to get him, I’ll just get him socks’. The whole point of the new business was to have a range of products which were fun, fresh and thoughtful – and socks just didn’t fit into that category.”

The name captures what Not Socks is there for – gifts which are a bit different, unique, unusual and with a strong men’s category which offers more than just socks. Burnside tested the name out in person, asking opinions and gathering feedback. The name Not Socks also a makes a good topic for conversation; people either ‘get it’ and think it’s clever, or if they don’t, it’s a talking point, she says.

Online ranking was another consideration when selecting the name, an important element of establishing the Not Socks brand as New Zealand’s number one online gift store.

“If we called ourselves ‘Great Gifts’, then it would have been quite difficult to rank for that,” Burnside explains. “But because we were ‘Not Socks’ we ranked really well and quite quickly. For SEO purposes we originally called ourselves ‘Not Socks Gifts’, but after a while we dropped the ‘gifts’, as it was too many syllables and too long for people to remember.”

The correct spelling of ‘socks’ was significant in establishing the business as an New Zealand company, Burnside says, and another way to differentiate from other online gift retailers.

“We still get people asking if socks is spelt sox,” she explains. “To use ‘socks’ was a good decision because it’s one of the things making people aware we’re a New Zealand company. It’s really important people know when they’re buying online that they are buying from a New Zealand retailer, especially in social media where you can’t see the domain name.”

Getting your name right

There are a number of different approaches to selecting a name which works best for you and your business goals, says Matt Kennedy-Good, manager at Business.govt.nz. A name is a crucial part of your brand, he says, helping you to stand out and distinguish yourself in a busy marketplace, so you want it to be memorable, unique, roll off the tongue, and perhaps tell people what you do.

A good brainstorming session helps to list the words you want people to associate with your business, and the products you provide.

“During this process it’s a good idea to check how the different possible names are already being used,” Kennedy-Good says. “For example, is a website already registered using the name in markets you are interested in? Is the brand protected with a trade mark? It’s really important you do your research, especially before you invest significant time and money in your brand.”

To help with this process, Business.govt.nz offers a free tool called OneCheck. This can check the availability of a name as a business name, a trade mark, a web domain, and as a social media name. The tool also provides information on the next steps to take to protect your new business name.

Have you done your research to find out if you’re able to use your new business name across multiple channels and markets?

Reinventing your name

There are two reasons a retailer might decide to rebrand, says Reuben Woods. It’s either because there is a specific business need, or there has been a business acquisition. He says renaming an existing business is a lot harder than creating a name for a new business, especially if there is a an extensive customer following and loyalty.

“There is a lot to think about, as renaming often creates confusion, especially in a customer’s mind. There’s a new educational story that has to be told, and the customer  needs to be re-educated through the different touchpoints.”

The ability to find a business online is affected when domain names and SEO no longer match what customers are expecting.

“Business owners spend a lot of investment driving traffic to their website with SEO, and if you don’t take the right approach when you rename, you can lose all of that investment – and that’s sales,” Reuben Woods cautions.

Online content exists as part of a library which is getting bigger and bigger, Melissa Woods says, so it’s necessary for your renamed business to connect and tie into the existing digital story.

“With renaming, there needs to be the discussion around how are we going to market it and push it out and how are going to explain what’s happened? You need to create some new content.”

How does renaming your business affect its story, and have you created a logical way for customers to find you online and recognise your new name? Have you thought about SEO and how the change is going to affect your search engine rankings?

Creating a vision

Lizzi Whaley, chief executive of commercial design and fit-out specialist Spaceworks, says her company is often part of the naming process in cases when a client has a retail concept or an idea of a product they want to sell but hasn’t yet decided what to call it.

Visually, the name needs to be identifiable, Whaley says, which means the font needs to suit the name and its purpose.

“The product is still the hero and the transaction is still making the sale, so the name and the brand needs to enhance and support, not take over.”

Some name and signage elements to check are:

  • Can people read it?
  • Can it be read from a distance?
  • Is it too long, meaning the font needs to be smaller?
  • Is it in colours which can easily be seen?
  • Does it translate well to clothing tags, price tags, shopping bags and other visual marketing collateral?

Cost factors into the equation as well. Generally the longer the name, the more expensive it is, particularly when illuminated signs are used, Whaley says. Consideration also needs to be given for how a name can be adapted to different signage options, such as under verandah and tavern signs, and the restrictions around signage in malls.

A name which can be adapted into a logo or motif offers an additional way to enhance the retail surrounds.

“A logo gives a decorative start point,” Whaley says. “It reiterates and tells the brand story throughout the environment, and while it’s not critical, a logo can add interest.”

Logos can be used in a wallpaper in changing rooms, be incorporated into the shop front glazing, or a large, more abstract version of it used on panelling or the service counter, suggests Whaley.

However you decide to represent your name in your store’s fitout, Whaley says it’s critical consumers remember your brand.

“You want people to go – ah, that’s where I am. If you can make the name simple, easy, and reflective of the brand, people will remember. Too complex and they won’t.”

Does your name stand out and capture attention?

Protecting your investment

The process of deciding a name for your store may be long and winding, taking multiple twists and turns, until the perfect name is found. Yet there is one aspect of naming you really do need to get right.

“The biggest thing is making sure your name is legally defensible,” Reuben Woods says. “While people think it’s extremely expensive to do, it’s not. You need to do it right from the start.”

Woods says it’s essential to seek legal advice when creating a name, as Woods Agency does when they’re working with a business on naming or rebranding.

Once you have the perfect name, it’s important to protect it, Business.govt.nz’s Matt Kennedy-Good says.

The steps are:

  • Registering the business name.
  • Registering the domain name.
  • Getting started on registering the name as a trademark.
  • Creating social media usernames.

The registered business name can be different to the trading name (the name you use publicly), which means you can register one name as a company while trading under another. While you can use anything for your trading name, make sure you don’t infringe on any trademarks or use restricted words.

Have you received legal advice on the use of your preferred store name?

Destination unknown

Engaging some foresight means your store name will grow with your business, rather than becoming unsuitable later on down the track. Melissa Woods advises retailers not to be constrained by thinking they ‘only’ live in a small town, they ‘only’ live in New Zealand, and that their business is ‘only’ going to go so far.

“Have blue sky thinking. While it’s never been cheaper to be in business, to find customers and get sales, it’s also cluttered with so many retailers. There are going to be shifts and changes and to adapt, retailers need to be clever. Know you have a unique product you want to sell and why; with authentic selling you will always be searched for.”

Ready to change your store's name right here and now? Great! We've put together a comedy store name generator for your amusement. 

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 757 August / September 2018

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