The Power of a Name

Last month, the famous Sears Tower in Chicago was officially re-named Willis Tower. In a new lease deal that included the naming rights of the building, Willis Group Holdings had the new letters installed on our nation’s tallest building on July 16th. Sears Roebuck and Company had it built and occupied space in the building from its conception in 1973 until 1995. Sears’ naming rights expired in 2003. With no suitor at that time, the building retained its original name until July.

Chicagoans of all walks of life have opposed the new name. The summary of the arguments have been rife with such concepts as “cultural fabric,” “icon,” and “historical preservation.” This building has brand equity–for the Windy City and the record books. But the name was arbitrary. Had the Acme Anvil Company commissioned the structure, people would likely defend the preservation of the Acme Tower’s name—with similar vigor and passion. Other than the tenant mix, the building hasn’t changed with the new name.

Why has this provoked such emotion? When brands are left unchanged—even if the original elements were arbitrary—the status quo grows in the hearts and minds of its consumers. So the logical leap is that if your brand doesn’t have intentional development, it’s probably furthering a benign position that will ultimately be hard to change. We once performed an overhaul for a regional brand that insisted that a particular color remain in the design—simply because of decades of inertia. What if a different color, design element, tagline, position, etc. could have been developed that better enhanced the brand in the first place?

We’ve observed that intentional brand development can provide greater lift and drive business results when performed sooner, not later. If your brand isn’t articulated intentionally, ‘these times’ are a rare chance to re-tool your brand to capture your company’s essence. When done properly, that compelling essence will further your most vital objectives. We all have to get the low hanging fruit now. But, all must plant for next season. Don’t wait. Get your brand intentional now.

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