BRAND. Magnifying glass over seamless background with different

Here’s a present for Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins. This is the gift for the man who has everything—in the tradition of Machiavelli’s offering to Medici of good counsel. And just as The Prince benefits all who read it, it is my hope and fervent desire that this modest article will be useful to you, the reader, especially if you’re interested in your company’s brand and how to maximize its value in business.

Name, brand, and trademark

Mr. Snyder—readers—your name is everything. It tells people who you are. You change your name reluctantly if ever. For example, Apple is a great name. (Most of us didn’t notice the subtle change from Apple Computer.)

Your name is everything

Your brand is what your name represents. If your products and your image suck, you keep your name, and you overhaul your product line and your image. Most so-called rebranding is of this type. Recent successful rebrands include Target and Burberry, with their newly fashionable products and images. Also Apple after Jobs’ return. McDonald’s and UPS are making strides. None are out of the woods—no company is ever out of the woods.

Your trademarks can include your name and your products’ names. They’re how your customers recognize you and your products. All of the brands mentioned above are trademarks.

The Slants and the Redskins: Free speech isn’t always smart

In my last two articles, I covered The Slants trademark case and the golden opportunity it presents to the Washington Redskins. To recap, in Tam (The Slants), the Federal Circuit revived offensive trademarks in the name of free speech. In my article applying Tam to the Redskins, I urged the latter to throw in the towel (in the face of victory) and change their name.

Advice to Redskins owner

Mr. Snyder: Change your team’s name.

Not because you must: Two days ago, the Federal Circuit gave you the gift of allowing you to make the choice. (They said you can have your trademark; they didn’t say you must keep it.)

Not because your fans insist on it: They love your team! They will never demand a change of name. Your team doesn’t have to change its product line or its image.

So why change? Two reasons: (1) It’s the right thing to do, and (2) it’s smart business. This is an ideal combination. You can do well by doing good.

Mr. Snyder, your fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg is telling you it’s smart business to change your team’s name. He published an excellent article on the business case on May 31, 2013. The article is difficult to access—there’s a paywall—and you, Mr. Snyder, can afford the price of subscription.

Renaming vs. rebranding

Renaming isn’t easy. It should be undertaken advisedly. Here’s the best piece I’ve found on the subject, titled Ten Principles for Renaming, by Marshall Strategy, Inc.

Renaming isn’t easy

Here are a few case studies of successful renaming:

  • Accenture will never go back to being Anderson Consulting;
  • IBM will never go back to being International Business Machines, let alone to being Computer Tabulating Recording Corporation;
  • Google will never go back to being BackRub;
  • Nissan will never go back to being Datsun;
  • Sony will never go back to being Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation;
  • Ravens will never go back to being the Browns; and
  • Last but not least, Redskins will never go back to being the Braves.

That’s right, Washington’s NFL team has already changed its name once.

Renaming is on you

Mr. Snyder, this will not be easy. As I’ve said, this will be a harder call than running the ball on 4th down.

This call isn’t for the fans or the President to make

It isn’t the fans’ call. It isn’t the players’ call. It isn’t the coach’s. It isn’t the President’s. It’s all on you.

It’s all on you

I’ve been reading up on alternative names that have been proposed. Most of them suck.

My fave name for Washington’s NFL team

Here’s my pick: SKINS. Here’s why:

  1. It offers continuity with your current name, the __skins;
  2. The first syllable of your current name, “Red,” is already widely used, for example, by a baseball team in Cincinnati;
  3. SKINS is really distinctive;
  4. It is short—one syllable; and
  5. It is not an acroynym (see Ries and Trout on Positioning).

So, that’s my Christmas gift to you, Mr. Snyder: Change your NFL team’s name to the Skins.

Note to the reader: You may not own an NFL team, but your choice of brand is just as tough as Mr. Snyder’s. Your alternatives might not be great, either, but choose you must. Think it through. Marketing can help. Legal can clear and register the mark. In the end, though, it’s on you.

That’s my gift to you, my friends and readers: Choose your brands with care.