Tribune Publishing, parent company for the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and nine other major newspapers, recently announced that it was changing its name to tronc, Inc. No, that’s not a typo and I didn’t forget to type part of the name. If you’re puzzled by this name change then join the bandwagon of brand consultants and others left scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Changing a business brand name is not uncommon. Strategy changes, product line evolution, reputation issues, and mergers and acquisitions are among the many reasons that a business would consider renaming itself. Certainly, the rationale for Tribune Publishing changing its name is understandable. Tribune Publishing, while a venerable institution in the newspaper world, is an anachronistic brand name. Attempting to break from the past by contemporizing the brand with a more modern moniker is not a bad idea. But tronc? In case you didn’t immediately recognize it, tronc is short for “Tribune online content.” Of course, we all knew that, didn’t we?

Reading about tronc led me to think about other examples of questionable rebranding. Here are five my favorite classic examples and some lessons to keep in mind if you’re thinking about changing your company name.

Andersen Consulting becomes Accenture – This estimated $100M rebranding exercise was one of Time Magazine’s Top Ten Worst Corporate Name Changes. The company employed a rebranding technique which branding experts will tell you to assiduously avoid – letting your employees come up with your new name. Accenture, the winner of an internal competition, was intended to connote accent on the future. Sounds more like management consulting jargon.

Scifi Channel becomes Syfy – The company thought that syfy would be the way millennials would text the name. Short. Snappy. Cool. Until you realize that syfy is a slang term for syphilis. One cardinal rule in branding: don’t use a name that can be associated with an std.

Overstock.com becomes o.co – Some brands employ a descriptive name that let’s consumers quickly know what they do. It’s even better when that descriptive name can become synonymous with the category. So why would Overstock.com – a descriptive name, easy to understand, memorable and known by consumers – change its name to o.co? Consumers didn’t get it and the brand reverted to its original name after several months.

Blackwater becomes Xe Services becomes Academi – Blackwater needed to get out from under the dark cloud created by its involvement with the shooting of unarmed Iraqis. But it’s choice for a new name, Xe, left people puzzled by how to pronounce it and what it stood for. Another good rule to keep in mind when creating a name is to use names that are easy to pronounce and look the way they should be pronounced. Most English speaking people are unlikely to know that “Xe” is pronounced “Zee.” The company changed its name again a few years later to Academi after an ownership change. Regardless, the media and others continued to call it by the name it was known by, Blackwater.

Vegemite becomes iSnack 2.0. – One of my favorites from the land down under was when Kraft decided to rebrand its iconic Vegemite Concentrated Yeast Extract. It was 2009 and the ipod and iphone were the rage. And then there was this new phase to the web called 2.0. So, why not name your classic Aussie snack food “iSnack 2.0”? Perfect for the tech world, but what does it have to do with food? Kraft got an earful and changed the name back after 5 days.

Rebranding done right can breathe new life into a company. But it’s easy to get it wrong as these examples show.

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