November 15, 2022

7 essential steps for naming a healthcare organization


A significant change in service offerings. A new direction or mission. A merger or acquisition. There are plenty of good reasons why healthcare organizations and community nonprofits may be in the market for a new name. 

When we work on naming projects for nonprofit and for-profit clients in the healthcare field, there’s typically a sense of urgency – a need to hit the ground running on a new mission. The leadership team wants to rename, design a logo, and launch in short order. 

But name explorations are usually more time intensive and nuanced than healthcare marketers anticipate. The name isn’t just a word; it’s the expression of the organization’s values, personality, image, symbolism, and messaging. It’s easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of researching keywords and phrases. Often, there are too many cooks in the kitchen, so it’s difficult to gain consensus. And the stakes are high: A name that’s confusing, similar to another, or hard to pronounce risks losing your audience. 

So here are 7 foundational elements to consider as you rename your organization, to help keep you on track. 

1) Start with positioning. 

Why is the organization renaming? What is the new mission, the new direction? The brand’s positioning — how it differs from competitors, how you want your audience to view the organization — is the strategic foundation for a new name. A brand audit is a smart process to help you define new positioning BEFORE you start name explorations. 

 2) Do your research.

Competitive, market, and audience research are components of the brand audit, but they’re important enough to call out here. When you’re naming or renaming, the moniker should echo what the market thinks of the organization, not how it sees itself. Survey and talk to people to understand their view.

3) Follow a disciplined process.

It looks like this:

Positioning + research  >  brainstorming + exploration  >  narrowing options  >  client team review + further narrowing  >  trademark search  >  final selection

 The exploration phase draws from several sources of inspiration: historical words, Latin roots, symbolism, mythology, words that reflect your mission,  your services or your geographical region. Look for synonyms, and then synonyms of synonyms. Mash words together. Make lists, combine, look for patterns. 

 Name exploration could go on forever, so it’s important to set guidelines for the number of iterations you’re going to go through. Sometimes there’s a “Eureka!” moment where everyone unites around a single option, but often it’s not quite that tidy. Creating guidelines should keep things on track and allow the core team to mull over choices.

4) Tackle the words first.

We can’t emphasize this enough: Conduct all your name exploration in a neutral way before you start looking at the visual identity. Get the name right first, and only then do you design a logo. 

 All naming work and presentation should be done in black and white, in a neutral font like Helvetica, to keep the team’s focus on the words themselves. 

 Once the name is determined, that’s when we move to visual expression: color, typography, and graphic mark. 

5) Consider practicalities.

As you begin to evaluate possible names, weigh these factors: 

Is it easy to pronounce? If it doesn’t roll easily off the tongue, the name does you a disservice. When people have to stop and think about pronunciation, they lose confidence. 

 Is it easy to spell? Likewise, don’t create barriers to acceptance and ease of use by making people guess how to spell a name they’ve heard in a radio spot. You’ll lose web traffic if consumers can’t find you when searching because of incorrect spelling. Especially in the healthcare field, watch out for medical terms that have unconventional spellings (like ‘orthopaedic’) that might trip people up.  

Is it similar to another name? This is especially critical if the similar brand is in your geographical market or specialty area.

 6) Do a trademark search.

Of course, a simple Google search will turn up any obvious problems with competitive names. You can also do a free basic search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website. But before you make a final selection, we advise retaining legal assistance to do a formal search and then to register the new name as a trademark. Do this when you’ve narrowed the list to no more than three strong options. 

 7) Roll it out.

There are two parts to this: internal and external. First, introduce the new name and the reasoning behind it — to gain buy-in from employees. (The fact that a new name is coming should not be a surprise to them.) They’re the brand’s ambassadors to your outside audience, so it’s essential that they’re not just familiar with the new name and what the brand stands for, but excited about it. 

 Then, introduce the name publicly. Build a multi-platform campaign for the new name as you would for any major brand initiative. And be sure you have a plan to replace the old name and logo on every one of your marketing touchpoints.    

We’ve named and renamed several healthcare nonprofits and larger organizations and have honed a smart process for this complex task. If your marketing team is leading a renaming project, let’s talk about how we can help

Tenth Crow Creative is a brand marketing agency that creates, aligns, and promotes messaging for health and wellness organizations. Through insightful branding, engaging design and compelling marketing campaigns, we help these essential organizations find their identities and effectively communicate with their stakeholders so they can fulfill their missions.