A few years ago our company was at an identity crossroads. Known at the time as The Dallas Flea, we were finally ready to take the leap and bring our pop up events to other markets but we felt that our name might not jive in, say, Houston (shocker). The name also didn’t jive with longterm avenues we wanted to test from e-commerce to small biz conferences and podcasts.
It was obvious: We needed to rebrand, starting with a new name and logo (an updated website and Style Guide also followed). At the time, I had an interior design business and one of my clients owned a marketing firm that took us under its wing and held our hands during the extensive process.
For Flea Style — a name I settled on quite quickly — we rebranded at the perfect time. We were still a small, adaptable company that could take the stomach punch that comes with such an overhaul no matter how small you are (enter marketing efforts to train people about your new name, filing for a new EIN, changing every single bank account detail, ordering new business cards, giving your website a huge clean sweep, etc.). We also weren’t too heavily invested in the name so financially our company could also handle the change.
Although our rebranding was fairly smooth because we were in such good hands (we definitely recommend hiring professional help with rebranding; it’s worth every single penny for long term success), we definitely hit some bumps in the road. The biggest one was that we found out late into the process that Fleastyle (our initial name choice) was taken and we had to put a space between the words. We found this out so late in our rebranding journey that we already had a logo and decided to keep the words scrunched together instead of changing them with a space although our legal name is Flea Style.
For us, the change was 100-percent necessary to grow — and quickly accepted, although some long term vendors and shoppers still slip and call us The Dallas Flea or “the Flea” here and there. We put big marketing efforts behind the news from fliers, a simultaneous website overhaul and new Instagram account to exciting announcements starting with our Houston expansion (which helped us explain the decision quite easily).
Since our rebranding we’ve been asked many times about the process and how to do it effectively both from an execution and financial standpoint. I have mixed feelings about it and always caution on how big of a deal it can be (sometimes it can literally make or break a brand). To help people out in this position, we decided to call in the experts — this time our beloved attorney Amanda Montgomery — to speak on the topic and help anybody out that is curious about or undergoing the process.
How do you know it’s the right time to rebrand?
Everyone will have a separate reason for rebranding, but it’s safe to say if your brand name is no longer an accurate representation of who you are (and what you sell), then it’s time to reconsider your brand’s name, look, and mission.Timing is definitely important. You have to ask yourself where you are in your business and if this big change is going to work without wholly disrupting your calendar and active contracts, such as upcoming partnerships, collaborative efforts and promotions. (Read your contracts closely, you may have agreed not to alter or modify your brand for the duration of the agreement.) If you’re strictly an e-commerce operation, re-branding may not affect as many variables and you may have more control of the narrative of your rebranding through social media and the redesign of your website. If you’ve got a brick-and-mortar (and a very loyal customer base) you need to consider how this will play out with not only replacement of signage, branded inventory, hang tags, shopping bags, business cards, etc., but also how new and old customers will find you and perceive the change.
As far as selecting a new name/brand, what are some key things to keep in mind?
You should absolutely do your research, have creative sessions with your team and work with reputable branding professionals. While your attorney is not typically sitting next to you as you hash out your ideas, it’s important to loop them in periodically as you make progress. If you’ve created a list of names, your attorney can do a quick trademark search onuspto.gov. If you’re going to change your entity name and amend your corporate filing within your state, you should ask your attorney to conduct a business entity search within your state to ensure that name is available. It would be soul-crushing to finally settle on the perfect name only to realize it’s unavailable. It’s worth that quick email to your attorney to ensure you can go down this new road with the name you love.
When should the new brand launch, should you start running the new name parallel to the old name so your customers grow accustomed to the change?
I think starting the roll-out process while you’re still selling under the old name is a good idea, you’ll be ironing out the kinks for several weeks as you file the necessary financial paperwork and wait for your amendment or DBA change to be processed. Also, if there’s a legal issue (worst-case scenario!), you’ll be able to handle it behind the scenes while still operating under your original name. During the process you can leave hints on your social media or even soft launch the new brand. If you have a newsletter, it’s the perfect avenue for thoughtfully explaining the name change. Your brand transition will absolutely depend on the nature of your business and your customers. It’s not a bad move to build excitement around the rebrand launch on social media, leading up to the big event. If you’ve learned anything from the myriad home renovation shows, a snappy montage of final tweaks leading up to the big reveal is strangely riveting and makes the end reveal all the more satisfying.
What are some of the bigger costs that people don’t immediately think about when they’re rebranding?
The biggest legal cost will be filing for a new trademark—that is, if you’re going to take the plunge and trademark the new name and/or logo. Many attorneys would advise you to do this, especially if your brand name is established and has a large following. If you want to change your entity name, you will need to amend by filing a form with your Secretary of State (fees vary by state). If you want to keep your entity name but change your assumed name (your d/b/a name), you must submit an assumed name filing (again, fees vary). It’s best to check what the rules apply for your state, or better yet, consult with an attorney. Aside from all of those things, the biggest cost you will find is your time, it’s very time-consuming to file forms and notify the necessary agencies and individuals. You’ll need to notify the IRS of the name change, but you only need a new IRS taxpayer ID if you created a whole new entity through your rebranding.
What are some other unexpected things to be aware of?
If you’ve signed contracts under your former LLC name, you may be obligated to notify the other party of your new business name. A good mindset to have is: what contracts have I signed with my current entity name and how will these contracting parties react to seeing an entirely different name on emails, checks and electronic payment notifications? You cannot void a contract just by changing your business name, but you could cause some unnecessary drama (late fees, email miscommunications, etc.) if the other party doesn’t recognize your new name! Consider drafting a comprehensive list of all your vendor and company documents that need to be updated and then delegate to ensure everything is updated by your deadline. If this all sounds dizzyingly complicated, remember, there are professionals who help with this every day — contacting an attorney may give you some peace of mind. It can be a long and sometimes costly adventure, but your brand name is integral to the identity of your business and it should accurately reflect who you are and what you do.
This article is part of an ongoing sponsored series with Culp & Dyer, LLP Amanda Montgomery is a Texas attorney at the law firm Culp & Dyer, LLP (www.culpdyerlaw.com) and can be reached at 940-484-2236 and email@example.com. Disclaimer: Amanda Montgomery’s comments are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The above comments not form an attorney-client relationship between Culp & Dyer, LLP and this site’s visitors.