What’s in a Name? Considerations for Renaming a Region or Regional Organization

What’s in a name? When it comes to an economic development or tourism organization – or even a physical place – more than meets the eye. The renaming process is one that can be fraught with emotion and high stakes. We all feel ownership of our communities in some way, and change can be a precarious process to manage when it comes to something that is so visible, subjective and deeply personal.

It’s not a decision to make lightly, and it’s one that we recommend is made rooted in research and strong positioning. 

Visit, Explore, Discover, Choose: Giving a Tourism Organization a More Creative and Memorable Moniker

When you think “tourism,” you’re most likely thinking of a vacationer with a suitcase, ready to lay by a pool somewhere. But tourism organizations have multifaceted needs and audiences, like in the case of the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau. The capital city of Michigan approached us with the goal of maintaining a competitive edge in reaching meeting and event planners—a pivotal audience for a community boasting not only diverse tourism experiences for individual travelers, but also an incredibly creative and resourceful event hosting team. 

Michigan abounds with phenomenal cities with numerous reasons to visit, so Lansing – and its tourism organization – needed a unique way to authentically tell its story and attract visitors. 

By renaming the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau to “Choose Lansing,” we infer upon our audience – whether that be an individual vacationer or a convention or meeting site planner – a great and deliberate choice to come to Lansing over other options in the region. It suggests that Lansing is a preferred destination over other options in the area, and it also helped solve one of the largest problems the organization faced: it makes the name much more succinct and memorable, always a smart choice when it comes to branding decisions.                 

Specificity > Dilution: Renaming an Economic Development Organization to be More Geographically Clear

In terms of economic development organizations, the need for a new name is often precipitated by a new endeavor or particular challenge that a more straightforward or obvious moniker may not be able to solve. 

In the case of Southern California’s North County, a new name is what was needed to help energize the economic efforts of this collective of five cities – Carlsbad, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista – along California State Route 78, just north of San Diego.

The five cities sought North Star’s counsel in giving their economic development partnership a brand that immediately pinpointed the region’s advantageous geographic location, and lent itself to a strong message of unity but also to creative flexibility among the different groups involved. 

Our research found that “North County” meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The brand message was too diluted to communicate a clear message, which is especially of the utmost importance for an economic development organization tasked with conveying a clear and compelling narrative about a community or region’s capabilities to key decision-makers. With the new name “Innovate 78,” the group has a specific geographic reference point that is familiar to everyone in the state, and has a more expansive brand with which the five cities can use to grow their collective success. 

Nixing a Renaming: Working With What’s Working For You

We’ve discussed groups that have renamed themselves with great success, but what about a physical place? Does it always make sense to seek a new name in addition to a new brand? Undergoing a rebrand does provide a convenient opportunity to debut the new name to key stakeholders in a singular way. Sometimes, though, a new name only opens you up to confusion, frustration, and dilution of your authentic story. When we are approached about a potential renaming, we always ask “why should we?” Often, the answer is “we shouldn’t.” 

This was the case for the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. A scenic area of southwest New Hampshire known for its small towns and scenic beauty, the Monadnock Region already had equity in and affinity for its name, which it received from Mount Monadnock, known to be one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world. Our research proved that the Monadnock name held deep significance for the community and its identity. On a practical level, there were many institutions that used “Monadnock” and even infrastructure contained the name. Renaming the region would be an expensive, start-over endeavor for a region trying to recruit and retain talent. Instead, we doubled down on the existing name by giving it a broader meaning and value proposition (Within Thriving Distance) than the mountain. We also provided some tongue-in-cheek ideas for ways to activate the brand: you can purchase your very own Monadsocks and hike in comfortable style. Using Strategic

Insights to Guide the Renaming Process

So, is a new name right for you? The North Star team can help guide this decision, using data-based strategic insights – and weighing practical considerations – to uncover whether a new name is the right call in the situation, and then to guide the creative naming process. Is a rose by any other name still a rose? Let’s find out