The worst (and best) company name changes

A name change can sometimes cause a company more trouble than it's worth.

dow chemical

What does a century-old brand do when it grows out of the very business that inspired its name? After announcing in December 2013 that it would shed $5 billion worth of its commodity chemical business, Dow Chemical (DOW, Fortune 500) will have to figure that out.

The company is focusing more resources on higher-value specialty materials products like semiconductors for cell phones and moving away from the lower-margin chlorine business. In turn, executives are considering ridding "chemical" from its title as well, according to a company spokesperson.

Chief executive Andrew Liveris told the Wall Street Journal that a potential name change would hopefully help position the company as one linked by "chemistry rather than chemicals" as it transforms.

But as corporations evolve their strategy, their brands can change too -- for better or for worse. And if history is any indication, an identity change followed by a title switch can cause a company more trouble than it's worth. Corporations spanning industries as diverse as technology to defense have all rebranded themselves only to the peril of their businesses. While some have successfully navigated the dangers of a new title, these instances prove to be the exception rather than the rule.

"As long as they keep Dow ... as long as they don't change that name, the company will not suffer from dropping chemical from its name," said Deutsche Bank Equity Analyst David Begleiter.

Read on to discover seven companies that found out firsthand how challenging a name change can be.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated December 09 2013 08:18 AM ET
Join the Conversation
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.