Company Naming Changes 2006



Over 1900 company naming changes occurred in America last year. The company naming changes that make the news are really only the tip of the iceberg, such as the buzz generated internationally by Apple Computer's name change to Apple, Inc. in January 2007. Computers are no longer Apple's sole focus, as the company is now all about "converged consumer devices," including mobile phones and entertainment. Apple's was a classic case of outgrowing its name, a category that accounts for 10% of the corporate name changes for 2006.

Parents and kids around the world probably nodded in approval when little-known Binney & Smith changed their name to reflect its best selling brand, Crayola on January 1, 2007. This name now means more than just crayons, having extended to MP3 players, executive pens and even bottled water (Crayola Color Coolerz). Sometimes, using your best-selling brand name as your corporate moniker just makes good sense, especially when virtually every person in the U.S. has used your product before the age of five. This type of change accounted for 5% of name changes in 2006.

Streamlining a large corporate brand name can bring some discomfort among those prone to nostalgia, however. February 2007 saw the end of the Federated Department Stores name, which was changed to the Macy's Group, the brand name under which the company has swallowed up many other beloved names from the past, including Marshall Field's. In this case Federated built on its strongest name and streamlined its branding under that banner.

Naming Changes are Hard

Researching name changes can tell us a lot about where companies are going. A company that goes so far as to actually change its name is moving in a new direction, sending a signal out to its stakeholders that its identity has changed and the world should take note. Often, more thought and effort has gone into the name change than into the original name as few entrepreneurs have knowledge of trends in the naming field.

Consider FIND/SVP, Inc. the nation's only single-source provider of customized business research and analysis which recently changed its name to Guideline, Inc. Chairman and CEO, David Walke, said, "Our new name more accurately represents our complete suite of products and services," but in reality, the name is easier to remember, and ultimately much more closely associated with the company's business. This change represents a much more memorable name.

Why Companies Make Name Changes

Researchers at Strategic Name Development, a naming company in Minneapolis, Minnesota, are interested in the reasons that motivate a company to change its name. While there were over 1900 name changes last year, there were not 1900 reasons for these changes. After wading through numerous online news sites, corporate reports and press release statements, SND boiled these name changes down to nine primary reasons, which are explored below.

It should be noted from the outset that over a third of the companies who changed names did so after a merger or acquisition, or what might be called "Dog Eat Dog." When one company merges with another, a name change is usually in order for both legal reasons and to communicate to stakeholders the company's new identity and scope. A merger or acquisition can be a difficult transition time, but it can also be a new lease on life for those involved.

2006 Company Name Change Categories

Dog Eat Dog (34%)

The biggest reason for a company naming change is the result of a merger or acquisition. In March 2007, publishing giant Warner Books announced its planned name change to Grand Central Publishing to coincide with its acquisition by Hachette Livre of France. This meant that the company was forced to change its name by 2011 as it was leaving the Time Warner group. It helped, of course, that the company's new location is close to Grand Central Station in New York City.

This was big news in the publishing industry, but not as big as January's news to the telecommunications industry that AT&T had decided to do away with the beloved Cingular brand name. The Cingular name had been built up to the tune of $4 billion, and would cost AT&T easily $2 billion in communication costs to fully rebrand.

Too Big or Too Little (29%)

Companies that change names to be a better reflection of their current operation make up the second largest group of name changes. Such changes occur when businesses want consumers and investors to get a better idea of who they are and what they're doing.

When Doc Hollywood Studios Inc. changed its name to Hollywood Studios International, it was leaving behind a name trapped in the last century as well as reflecting the company's overseas interests. Hollywood Studios planned to open offices in London, Paris and Sao Paulo, which are locations where "Doc Hollywood" does not have much resonance.

When Time Warner's America Online changed its name to AOL it was a signal to consumers (most of whom called it AOL anyway) that the company meant more than dial-up, the service America Online was most known for. It also made it easier for the company to grow outside of America and introduce a "new generation of web services."

But doing away with a well-loved company name is not always a matter of sending out a press release. In 1991 Kentucky Fried Chicken switched to KFC in an effort to distance the restaurant chain from the word "fried," but gradually has begun to reintroduce the Kentucky Fried Chicken name once again on buckets of chicken and other communication media. The brand name simply had too much resonance and tradition with consumers to be done away with.

Build on the Brand (Building on a Strong Brand) (5%)

Sometimes a company offers one brand that is such a winner that it takes over the entire focus of the company — including its name. This is the case with ABC Sports and ESPN, where the company recently took the significant step of ditching the ABC Sports brand, re-launching as "ESPN on ABC."

Why the change? According to George Bodenheimer, Co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks and President of ESPN, Inc. and ESPN on ABC, "…people like ESPN, and we're expanding their opportunity to view it."

However, in today's marketing-savvy world, the timing of the change is not insignificant as the cache of this brand is certainly at its peak with the all-important 18-34 year old demographic, and the name change was instituted on September 2nd, opening night of the 2006 college football season.

Quick Makeover (14%)

Consider the case of IT juggernaut Computer Associates, now known as CA. CA recently went on a spending spree, resulting in the acquisition of a number of companies, including Netegrity Inc., Concord Communications Inc. and PestPatrol Inc., among others.

These acquisitions naturally boosted the company's service offering, but also presented an image problem: CA needed a strategically executed solution to retain brand equity and minimize customer confusion caused by the mass of additional services. The easiest and quickest way to accommodate this need for change (in addition to siginificantly altering its logo and visual branding) was creating the "backronym," CA. This slight modification indicates the company wanted to have its name, and change it too.

When Citigroup changed its name to Citi earlier this year (and changed the red umbrella logo to a red arc) it was trying to offer customers a more user-friendly, memorable name. One of its first orders of business was to rename the Mets ballpark Citi Field. Renaming the company was an effort to create a brand name that could cover its myriad of interests, including Citi Smith Barney, Citi Investment Research and Citi Private Bank. "Citi" is just easier.

U-Turn (8%)

Companies often decide on a completely new business venture, and changing their name is a necessary part of the process. For instance, when Worldwide Canning and Distribution Inc. changed its focus completely to become the Global Diamond Exchange, Inc., this was a true "u-turn" where the company abandoned its old direction and took a completely different track.

The u-turn is not always so dramatic. Health-IT World made a more subtle change when they moved from digital technology assessment to digital technology training, hence the name change to Digital HealthCare and Productivity.

User-Friendly Naming (4%)

The most effective names are often easy to remember and easy to pronounce. Autobahn International recently found this was the case. According to CEO Antonio Finamore, the name change to Moto Auto Group was easier to brand and simpler to remember than Autobahn International, a name that can be difficult to spell and often awkward to pronounce outside of German and English speaking countries. Mr. Finamore stated, "After extensive research with focus groups, the name Moto Auto Group, derived from an Italian word meaning motion or movement, was selected as the name best suited to our line of business."

Buying Into the Club (3%)

Sometimes a bigger company buys into a smaller company to use its name, in many cases for the sole purpose of getting listed on the NYSE. Following the Enron collapse and other recent financial scandals, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was introduced in 2002. As a result, many companies struggle with the stringent requirements needed to go public. A simpler route can be to purchase a company that is already listed, and then make additional filings to alter its course of business.

Century Pacific Financial Corporation did just that. Existing as a "shell" company with minimal assets or operations, Century Pacific sought to acquire a publicly traded company and continue its business operations. Century Pacific acquired not one, but two high-end apparel companies: Versatile Entertainment, Inc., whose brand name was People's Liberation and Bella Rose, LLC, whose brand name was William Rast.

The corporate actions that followed were a name change and reverse stock split. This mission was accomplished in January 2006 with Century Pacific's name change to People's Liberation, Inc., adopting Versatile's brand name, and a 1 for 9.25 reverse split of the company's common stock. People's Liberation, Inc. now designs and markets high-end men's and women's apparel under the brand names People's Liberation and William Rast.

Rebuild, Restructure and Rename (2%)

Car rental king Avis, the country's largest general-use rental vehicle operator, recently underwent significant restructuring. Its lesser-known parent company, Cendent Corp., sold three of its four core divisions (real estate, Realogy; hospitality, Wyndham Worldwide; and travel distribution, Travelport).

Subsequent to this considerable restructuring, Cendant's board decided to capitalize on the high brand awareness of its remaining subsidiary, Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC (comprised of the Avis and Budget brands) by changing its name to Avis Budget Group, Inc. in August 2006.

Spinning Off Into The Unknown (1%)

One of the most recent high profile spin-offs was the January 2006 reversal of the 1999 merger between Viacom and CBS. The companies are seeking to regain market value by now offering investors the choice between two entities: one focusing on broadcast television, CBS Corp., and the other on cable networks, Viacom, Inc. In alignment with this split, major radio broadcasting group Infinity Broadcasting was renamed CBS Radio.

Another media heavyweight, Clear Channel Communications Inc. experienced the spin off of its subsidiary CCE Spinco, Inc. This separate, publicly traded company now holds substantially all of Clear Channel's live entertainment business. Following this spin off, CCE Spinco announced a name change in January 2006 to Live Nation, Inc. following a merger with Live Nation, its wholly owned subsidiary.

Company Naming Change Trends

As Green As It Gets

Tracking name changes also tells us about corporate fashion trends. For instance, last year green company names began sprouting up, illustrating that companies are getting the idea that building green into their company name is en vogue. Concerns about global warming and worries about natural resources have prompted energy companies in particular to turn a greener face to the world, and company naming is reflecting this.

KFx Inc., which recently changed its name to Evergreen Energy Inc., and Radiant Technology Corp., which switched to GreenBridge Technology, Inc., are examples of companies moving toward names that are more environmentally conscious.

New environmental regulations in the U.S. and Europe have also put investors on the lookout for green companies that are unlikely to get in trouble down the line. The Social Investment Forum, for instance, notes that mutual fund assets "meeting social responsibility criteria" have grown from $12 billion in 1995 to $178 billion in 2005. With laws getting tighter and investors getting more sustainability-conscious, a green company name is starting to be a fashion "do" in the corporate world.

Companies That Got the Memo

Former Company Name   New Company Name
Radiant Technology Corp.  →  GreenBridge Technology, Inc.
Safer Residence Corp.  →  Solar Enertech Corp.
Legend Investment Corp.  →  GiraSolar, Inc.
Boss Minerals, Inc.  →  Pure Biofuels Corp.
Diversified Multimedia  →  Bamboo Technology
Victor Industries, Inc. (NV)  →  Ethos Environmental, Inc.
Whole Living, Inc.  →  ForeverGreen Worldwide Corp.
U.S. Power Systems, Inc.  →  Premier Organic Farms Group, Inc.

East Side Story

Researchers also discovered a trend toward Asia-inclusive naming. Numerous U.S.-based companies are changing their names to reflect their business interests in Asia, or in some cases, their interest in doing business in Asia.

These names ran the gamut from energy companies, to financial houses to technology companies. Bonus America Worldwide's switch to Asia Global Holdings Corporation and Comet Technologies' switch to China Sky One Medical, Inc. to "reflect its new line of business" illustrate this trend.

American companies are also trying to present a greener face to China, fully aware of the country's acute desire to clean up its act environmentally. In Spring 2006, Chinese officials made solar and clean coal technologies priorities for investment in China's seemingly endless energy needs. The Renewable Energy Law passed on January 1, 2006, and China's agreement with the European Union to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning plants supported these priorities.

Hurley Exploration's change to China Clean Energy Inc. after its acquisition of that company shows companies are willing to put their name — and their money — behind the initiative for a greener China.

Companies that Got the Memo:

Former Company Name   New Company Name
Permission Marketing Solutions, Inc.  →  Pacific Asia China Energy Inc.
Morning Star Holdings, Inc.  →  China Gold Corp.
AVL Global Inc.  →  China Northwest Biotech Corp.
Ezcomm Enterprises, Inc.  →  Eugene Science, Inc.
Moving Bytes, Inc.  →  China International Enterprises Corp.
Baker Communications, Inc.  →  China Adnet Enterprises, Inc.
M-GAB Development Corp.  →  China Agro Sciences Corp.
TS Electronics, Incl  →  China Pharma Holdings, Inc.
Goldtech Mining Corp.  →  China Industrial Waste Management, Inc.
Citisource, Inc.  →  China Shuangii Cement Corp.
Agronix, Inc.  →  China Yingxia International Inc.
BonusAmerica Worldwide  →  Asia Global Holdings Corp.
Comet Technologies, Inc.  →  China Sky One Medical, Inc.
MAX Internet Communications, Inc.  →  China Health Management Corp.
Diversified Financial Resources Corp.  →  China Fruits Corp.
Evolve One, Inc.  →  China Direct, Inc.
Techedge, Inc.  →  China Biopharma, Inc.
Hurley Exploration, Inc.  →  China Clean Energy, Inc.
Crescott Inc.  →  China Career Builder Corp.
Crawford Lake Mining Inc.  →  China VoIP & Digital Telecom Inc.
Sports Source, Inc.  →  New Oriental Energy & Chemical Corp.
Xact Aid, Inc.  →  China Premium Lifestyle
Intercell International  →  NewMarket China, Inc.
Jalate Ltd.  →  Asia Telecom Ltd.

A Brand New World

Companies evolve, and as their interests expand, their names have to grow along with them.

Outback Steak House's name change to OSI Restaurant Partners, Inc. provides the company a less resonant name (especially for those who like Outback's steaks), but according to Bill Allen, CEO of OSI, the new name "properly reflects" the company's business interests and the "growing contribution and importance of our other brands." These brands include the Bonefish Grill and Fleming's franchises, among others. What was once just a small restaurant chain expanded its offering, its brands and its reach; the name had to follow suit.

The same sort of change occurred when one of the U.S. shoemakers, Rocky Shoes and Boots, Inc., changed its name to Rocky Brands, Inc. to "better reflect" its expanded offerings and the range of brand names under its wing. This range of brands includes Durango, Dickies, newly acquired Michelin Footwear and Zumfoot. This former shoe company expanded, and their new name nicely reflected this.

Business interests get narrower, as well. When AllStar Systems, Inc. changed its name to I-Sector Corp., they reflected the simple fact that they no longer sold "systems" at all, according to James Long, President and CEO of the renamed company. They were now an information company, and their company name change showed this.

Often the change is subtle. PanAmerican Bancorps's change to Sun American Bancorp coincided with its new strategic focus on the sunny part of the USA: South Florida.

Companies that Broadened

Former Company Name   New Company Name
Yellow Roadway Corporation  →  YRC Worldwide, Inc.
Speed Transportation  →  Speed Global Services
Apache Motor Corp.  →  Transnational Automotive Group, Inc.
Pacific Alliance Ventures Ltd.  →  Eurasia Energy Ltd.
Autobahn International, Inc.  →  Global Developments, Inc.
Integrated Performance Systems, Inc.  →  Global Innovation Corp.
Mercator Partners Acqusition Corp.  →  Global Telecom & Technology Inc.
Watson Wyatt & Company Holdings  →  Watson Wyatt Worldwide, Inc.
Doc Hollywood Studios Inc.  →  Hollywood Studios International
PTS, Inc.  →  PTS Global Capital
Rocky Shoes and Boots, Inc.  →  Rocky Brands, Inc.

Companies that Narrowed

Former Company Name   New Company Name
Washington State University College of Business and Economics  →  College of Business
Summus, Inc.  →  Oasys Mobile, Inc.
MegaMania Interactive, Inc.  →  Latin Television, Inc.
American Stellar Energy, Inc.  →  Tara Gold Resources Corp.
BAS Consulting, Inc.  →  Aida Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Equity Retirement Distributors Ltd.  →  Infinity Mining Corp.
AllStar Systems, Inc.  →  I-Sector Corp.
PanAmerican Bancorp  →  Sun American Bancorp
Coastal Services Group, Inc.  →  Unique Pizza and Subs Corp.
Mobilestream, Inc.  →  Mobilestream Oil, Inc.

Terms of Endearment

Can a name be more user-friendly? Just ask InterBusiness Bank in California, who changed their name (including the headquarters, loan center and five branch locations) to TomatoBank, N.A. last year. The name was chosen because "It is an attractive brand name that brings to mind images of growth, multi-culture and health, all characteristics that represent who we are and what we strive to achieve. But most importantly, it is a brand that is recognizable and hard to forget. If there can be an Apple Computer – why not a Tomatobank? Try to forget it. You can't!" said Chairman and CEO Dr. Stephen Liu.

They might also wind up appealing to a whole lot of tomato growers; according to the USDA, California is the leading producer of tomatoes in the U.S. California accounts for nearly all of the U.S. processing tomato output (95%), and nearly two-thirds of U.S. fresh-market tomato output when paired with Florida.

Similarly, Washington Mutual changed its name to WaMu purely because the name is catchier and less formal. People have called the bank "WaMu" for years: why not show that the bank is listening? When it comes to names that stakeholders care about, short, simple, and easy to remember names often rule the day.

Companies that Got the Memo

Former Company Name   New Company Name
Washington Mutual  →  WaMu
Popstar Communications Inc.  →  Peopleline, Inc.
InterBusiness Bank  →  TomatoBank, N.A.
Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii  →  The Kahala
Washington State University College of Business and Economics  →  College of Business
Bimini Mortgage Management, Inc.  →  Opteum, Inc.
iGillot Research  →  iGR
Affordable Telecommunications Technology Corp.  →  Buzz Technologies, Inc.
America Online  →  AOL
Citigroup  →  Citi
Leica Microsystems Semiconductor Equipment Division  →  Vistec Semiconductor
First National Bank and Trust Company of the Treasure Coast  →  Seacoast National Bank
adidas-Salomon AG  →  adidas AG
Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau  →  VisitPittsburgh
Outdoor Life Network (OLN)  →  Versus (VS)
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection  →  Cal Fire

Companies that Missed the Memo

Former Company Name   New Company Name
Regenera Ltd.  →  Advanced Ocular Systems, Ltd.
American Century Bond Fund  →  American Century California Tax-Free Bond Fund
FI Group, Inc.  →  Five Star Investment Services
Hayes Plus  →  Independent Medical Expert Consulting Services, Inc.
Equitex, Inc.  →  Hydrogen Power International, Inc.
Cortech, Inc.  →  Kent International Holdings, Inc.
Wheaton Village  →  Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center
GE Silicone  →  Momentive Performance Materials, Inc.
GMA  →  Muller Martini Mailroom Systems, Inc.
BioMag  →  Biomagnetics Diagnostics Corporation
Wayne County Speedway  →  Federated Auto Parts Wayne County Speedway
Parker & Waichman, LLP  →  Parker, Waichman, Alonso, Mark LLP
The A Consulting Team, Inc.  →  Helios & Matheson North America, Inc.
Center for Business Research  →  Center for Competitiveness and Prosperity Research

Much Ado About Nothing

While more than three out of every four company naming changes were complete overhauls, a full 23% of changes were little tweaks. Changes like these may not seem significant at first glance, but a variety of reasons can lurk behind a company toying with its name.

Fourteen percent of name changes occurred when a company tinkered with what it already had. When Yellow Road Corporation changed to YRC Worldwide, and Petroleum Helicopters changed to PHI, Inc., we saw companies trying to hold on to their past name, while shortening it.

One of the biggest tinkering jobs of 2006, of course, occurred when Computer Associates changed to CA. Slightly modifying a name often indicates that a company wants to have its name and change it, too.

Nine percent of corporate name changes last year showed evidence of tweaking. Here, the name is simply adjusted. Witness Neurotech Pharmaceuticals going to Neuro-Hitech Pharmaceuticals, or Holmes Herbs going to the more credible sounding Holmes Biopharma.

Former Company Name   New Company Name
Watson Wyatt & Company Holdings  →  Watson Wyatt Worldwide, Inc.
Neurotech Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  →  Neuro-Hitech Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Computer Associates International, Inc.  →  CA, Inc.
Doc Hollywoood Studios, Inc.  →  Hollywood Studios International
Rocky Shoes & Boots, Inc.  →  Rocky Brands, Inc.
Holmes Herbs, Inc.  →  Holmes Biopharma, Inc.
Petrosun Drilling, Inc.  →  Petrosun Inc.
Identrus  →  IdenTrust
CytoCorp, Inc.  →  CytoCore, Inc.
Amerada Hess Corp.  →  Hess Corporation
adidas-Salomon AG  →  adidas AG
Casual Male Big & Tall  →  Casual Male XL
Sun Bowl  →  Brut Sun Bowl
ABC Sports  →  ESPN on ABC
Citigroup  →  Citi
Yellow Roadway Corporation  →  YRC Worldwide
Petroleum Helicopters, Inc.  →  PHI, Inc.
Intelasys Corporation  →  IntellaSys Corporation

Company Naming Changes 2006: Greatest Hits

3 Best
America Online  →  AOL
Citigroup  →  Citi
Outdoor Life Network  →  Versus (VS)
10 Wackiest
National Auto Credit, Inc.  →  iDNA, Inc.
Hot Dogma  →  Franktuary
Zonagen  →  Repros Therapeutics Inc.
InterBusiness Bank  →  TomatoBank, N.A.
International Sports and Media Group, Inc.  →  US Farms, Inc.
AdultSexToy-Superstore  →  DeepMemories
TaxSmart, Inc.  →  ClientWhys, Inc.
Himeko Chicken  →  Teri & Yaki
Oxford Ventures, Inc.  →  Uluru, Inc.
Coffaro Family Products, Inc.  →, Inc.
10 Most High Profile
America Online  →  AOL
Marshall Field's, Filene's, Kaufmann's  →  Macy's
ABC Sports  →  ESPN on ABC
Citigroup  →  Citi
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim  →  Anaheim Ducks
Cingular  →  AT&T
Computer Associates  →  CA
Viacom  →  CBS
adidas-Salomon AG  →  adidas AG
Vivendi Universal  →  Vivendi
4 Most User-Friendly
Washington Mutual  →  WaMu
National Mental Health Association  →  Mental Health America
Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau  →  VisitPittsburgh
AFMN  →  Motion Picture Group, Inc.
8 Most Politically Correct
Florida Leisure Communities  →  Florida Lifestyle Communities
Marin Breast Cancer Watch  →  Zero Breast Cancer
National Center for the Employment of the Disabled  →  Ready One Industries
Casual Male Big and Tall  →  Casual Male XL
Radiant Technology Corp.  →  GreenBridge Technology, Inc.
Pregnancy Resource Center  →  Care Net of Cadillac
Center for Minority Educational Affairs  →  Center for Multicultural Equity and Access
Susan G. Komen Foundation  →  Susan G. Komen for the Cure