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Amy Joyce: Life at Work

Re-Branding the Company

Corporate Identity Is Clarified During Search for New Name

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 3, 2005; Page F06

It was about three years ago when Brad Nierenberg decided the time had come. His company was not the only Momentum Marketing in the world, and it was starting to hurt.

Within one week, a reporter for a trade magazine confused Nierenberg's company with a different Momentum, and Nierenberg discovered that a client thought his Momentum was the one based in St. Louis, not in Alexandria, during a business pitch.

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Nierenberg had had it. So he gathered his 55 employees and told them it was time to change the company's name and brand. This was not a little overnight process, however. This meant something to the tightknit group of workers who identified themselves with the hip and energetic Momentum Marketing.

"Momentum Marketing was a cool name, and everybody really took to it," said Eric Zerrenner, an account supervisor at Momentum. "It represented who we were and what we did. So there was sort of some skepticism. . . . We thought it's going to be hard to be better and truly represent who we are and what we do."

Zerrenner likened changing Momentum's name to changing a child's name when she is 8 years old.

"There was a lot of questioning why we needed to change," Nierenberg said. So he explained to the employees that the company wasn't defining itself. "People hire us to give them their own identity and brand. I made it personal to our staff to say, 'Look, you're not furthering your own brand.' "

Momentum was formed about 10 years ago to promote products and brands. It counts America Online, Miller Brewing and Dunkin' Donuts, among others, as clients. The company creates marketing events to introduce or hype a product. For example, GE Financial Network once asked the company to promote its new Web site. So Momentum did a nationwide "wallet drop." The wallets contained instant-win game pieces that sent the finders -- and people who began to hear about the wallets through the media blitz -- to the site.

So, in other words, this company whose name was identical to that of many other companies didn't have a brand of its own, even though its purpose was to promote brands.

Employees, Nierenberg and a couple of outside consultants began the rebranding process. They gathered to discuss possible names, ideas, ways they wanted the company to be viewed.

Liz Dilullo, director of business development and marketing, was part of the renaming group. When she came to Momentum in 2000, she didn't realize there were so many other companies with the same name. And so when chatter started that her Momentum would change, she -- like many others -- got defensive. "We looked at it in the beginning like we have a lot of equity in this name. We just had a lot of pride. Yes, we feel like these huge guys," she said. "But I think as we investigated further, we realized just how many Momentums there were."

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