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The 'A-Rod' problem: Why naming your business carefully is so important

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Ricardo Rodriguez named his bodega 'A-Rod' after the once-revered and recently scandalized Major League Baseball player. These days, he's regretting it.
Ricardo Rodriguez named his bodega 'A-Rod' after the once-revered and recently scandalized Major League Baseball player. These days, he's regretting it. - (Thinkstock)

Ricardo Rodriguez has a problem. His problem has a name. Or, rather, his problem is a name: A-Rod.

The 41-year-old Brooklyn grocer named his bodega after the once-revered and recently scandalized Major League Baseball player Alex Rodriguez (to whom he has no relation). In the year 2000, A-Rod was at the top of his game, and just about everyone else's, as well.

But the times, as they say, are changing.

Rodriguez, the baseball player, was suspended earlier this monthfor using banned performance enhancing drugs. Although he has appealed the suspension, it is safe to say that he is no longer as revered as he was 13 years ago.

The Clinton Hill neighborhood's Dominican residents, who frequent the bodega, have soured on A-Rod as his performance started looking less and less enhanced, and finding out he was using drugs and underpeforming has been too much for many of them.

Ricardo Rodriguez's customers haven't been shy about voice their distaste for the name, reports the New York Daily News. The store was called Pena Grocery before the original name change, but its owner is still mulling over options for a new name. The Daily News report is crystal clear though: few people in the area want to shop at A-Rod Grocery.

A big name can certainly bring a quick influx of customers, especially in a city like New York, but let me do some Monday-morning quarterbacking on Ricardo's decision to rename his grocery A-Rod.

Your brand should be a reflection of your industry, your values, your ownership, or some other recognizable and consistent aspect of your business. Sports stars come and go, some, it would seem, more gracefully than others. A-Rod Grocery will probably be just fine after it changes its name, because neighborhood residents often show allegiance to local businesses, out of sheer convenience if nothing else. But that's not always the case.

A name-change can cause all kinds of problems, from resetting brand recognition to making your business disappear from search results on the Internet. But, more importantly, word of mouth is powerful and a name chosen for short-term buzz can just as quickly become a liability.

Founders and owners of all sizes should be careful to name the business for long-term recognition, not short-term attention. It may not always be as easy to get away from unexpected negative consumer sentiment as hanging a new sign.

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