9 tech firm rebrands: Why companies change their names


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Logitech is probably one of the best-known creators of PC and tablet accessories, but the Swiss company made an interesting announcement yesterday: It’s ditching the ‘tech’ from its brand name and running with “Logi” instead.

While some reports suggested that Logitech had changed its name completely from “Logitech” to “Logi,” it seems that’s not quite the case — not yet, at least. The company’s name will remain the same, but the name you see on some keyboards, mouses, and other peripherals will be “Logi”, with a longer-term vision to tag all its products with the new four-letter brand.

This could also lead to a complete company name-change in the future, but it looks like they’re staying safe for now by seeing how the new sub-brand performs.

With more than 30 years worth of history and more than $ 2 billion in revenue last year, would such a rebrand be commercial suicide? Possibly — those who missed the press release might assume it’s a copycat, looking to emulate a long-established company. But that’s why Logitech isn’t going all-in on a new brand yet — it’s testing the water to see how things pan out.

There has been a slew of brand name changes of late — just this week, Microsoft revealed it was switching “Xbox Music” to “Groove” and “Xbox Video” to “Movies & TV.” This came just a few months after news emerged that Internet Explorer would be transitioned to Microsoft Edge. Google, too, recently rebranded Webmaster Tools as Google Search Console, as the company sought to target a broader user base.

But product brand changes are different to company name changes. Often, a company will change a product name if it feels it is “tarnished” somehow, either due to a bad reputation it can’t shake off, or the product has evolved beyond what it was originally intended for.

You only have to look at U.K. mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse as proof of the power of a company’s brand name — it hasn’t sold car phones in a long, long time. And following a recent merger with Dixons Retail, you would think that would be an apt time to ditch the “Carphone” element of the name — but alas, no. The parent company is now called “Dixons Carphone.” For real.

For a company to go all in and change the name of the entire organization would be a major move, and it’s a decision that’s never taken lightly. There has to be a very good reason for it.

With that in mind, here’s a look at 9 organizations that have changed their name in recent times, and some of the reasons that led them to do so.

1. Research in Motion (RIM) >> BlackBerry

Former smartphone giant Research in Motion (RIM) rebranded as BlackBerry back in 2013. BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said at the announcement event: “It is one brand, it is one promise.”

While the move may have surprised some, it also made absolute sense — most people recognize the BlackBerry mobile phone brand. Indeed, it’s safe to say most people wouldn’t even have known the name of the company behind BlackBerry. With RIM looking for easy wins in its quest to stop the rot caused by its failure to innovate when confronted with the rise of Android and iOS, a rebrand wasn’t the worst decision, though its impact has been minimal.

2. RapExegesis >> Rap Genius >> Genius

Rap Genius started out as RapExegesis in 2009, with a small team annotating and explaining rap lyrics. Following its swift rebrand to Rap Genius in late 2009, the company gained traction aided by funding and participation in the Y Combinator accelerator.

The company’s evolution continued in 2013 when news emerged that it was expanding beyond rap lyrics, covering poetry, news, and rock music too. So the rebrand simply to “Genius” last July probably made sense — it was no longer a company focused on rap music.

3. Isis >> Softcard

Isis was a mobile payments joint venture created by AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, built upon contactless NFC technology — tap your mobile device on a payment terminal and the payment is processed.

However, with the rise of the extremist militant group of the same name, Isis saw fit to change its name to Softcard — which is probably a better name anyway.

The name change was a no-brainer, really, as its association with ISIS would have caused unnecessary hassle and confusion for a brand that was trying to pave the way for carrier-led mobile payments.

The organization later revealed it was working with Apple with a view towards launching on iPhones, but Google ended up acquiring Softcard’s assets to remove the friction from its own Google Wallet. Softcard was discontinued in March this year, with the carriers electing to back Google’s new Android Pay instead.

4. Justin.tv >> Twitch

Justin.tv was a live video-streaming startup that emerged from Y Combinator in 2007. Of the many different activities being streamed on the platform, one particular niche grew to eventually swallow Justin.tv whole — esports. Or, to you and me, watching other people play video games on the Internet.

What began as a new standalone service called TwitchTV in 2011 blossomed into a major force, and last February Justin.tv and TwitchTV merged under the same corporate name — Twitch Interactive. However, Justin.tv was closed down altogether last August ahead of Amazon’s billion-dollar Twitch acquisition.

Similar to RIM and BlackBerry, it made sense for Justin.tv to chance its name to Twitch, given that Twitch had taken on a whole new life of its own and it was clear there was big money to be made here.

5. Clear Channel >> iHeartRadio

Clear Channel was a decades-old media company that built an empire out of FM radio and related commercial activities. But facing the rise of digital music services such as Spotify, Clear Channel rebranded to iHeartMedia last year, named after the company’s iHeartRadio Internet radio platform.

For a media company that bought its first FM radio station in the early Seventies, it was clear there was concern around how its brand was perceived in the digital age. In its corporate press release, iHeartMedia was eager to point to the fact that it hit 50 million registered users “faster than any digital music service” — though that doesn’t necessary translate into active users or revenues.

The rebrand made sense, though — out with the old, and in with the new.

6. DeSoto >> FlywheelTaxi

Similar to Clear Channel’s predicament, one of San Francisco’s oldest taxi companies, DeSoto, changed its name to FlyWheelTaxi earlier this year to appeal to the smartphone-toting generation.

The cab company, which had been around since the 1930s, partnered with taxi-hailing app Flywheel in a move that saw “FlyWheelTaxi” emblazoned across its 220-strong fleet of cars.

This was a bold move for an age-old company, but with so many pre-digital era firms falling by the wayside due to digital technology, it clearly felt a snappier name and affiliation with a heavily VC-funded Uber-style company was the way to survive.

7. Elance-oDesk >> Upwork

Two giants in the online crowdsourcing space, Elance and oDesk, merged in December 2013 to create a freelancer-marketplace behemoth. At the time, it made sense to call the new company Elance-oDesk, but fresh from a $ 30 million funding round, the company rebranded as Upwork.

While the rebrand was accompanied by new features, such as a Slack-style messaging tool, the name change also made sense. The double-barrel effort was a mouthful, and the company was clearly looking to push forward under a single, unified brand — one that didn’t reek of “merger.”

8. McAfee >> Intel Security

More than four years after Intel acquired computer security software company McAfee for almost $ 8 billion, Intel ditched the McAfee name and plumped for “Intel Security” instead. So, why the change of heart after so long as a separately branded subsidiary?

There are a number of reasons. On the one hand, Intel wanted to better align itself with the security fraternity. But perhaps more than that, McAfee founder — John McAfee — had become a controversial figure, chiefly around an alleged murder in Belize which resulted in (John) McAfee going on the run for a while.

So: a fresh start for the McAfee brand.

9. 10gen >> MongoDB

MongoDB, the leading NoSQL database provider, is another example of how a product can usurp the company that created it.

Indeed, 10gen rebranded as MongoDB in 2013, shortly before closing a whopping $ 150 million funding round. It’s likely the name change was expedited due to the impending funding — after all, if a company is known chiefly for one key product, then why not just change the company’s name to reflect that? It makes commercial sense.

Logitech’s thinking

Logitech is a respected brand in the computing accessory realm, but it’s hardly a sexy brand. However, having hired former Nokia chief designer Alastair Curtis back in 2013, the company has been working on “reinventing” itself. This means you can expect smarter designers, “bold colors,” and a more distinctive look-and-feel.

“We’ve been reinventing Logitech, creating products that strive to blend advanced technology and design to bring you amazing experiences,” said Bracken Darrell, Logitech’s president and CEO. “We’ve built a world-class design team, led by chief designer Alastair Curtis. We’re putting design at the center of everything we do. Our approach to design goes beyond the classic definition. Design to us is the combination of advanced technology, business strategy, and consumer insights. Our products have come a long way, and now it’s time to bring the brand forward too.”

So “Logi” will be dripped out into the product realm, and it seems the company is taking baby steps before making wholesale changes to the company name.

VB’s research team is studying mobile user acquisition… Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.


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