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What's in a name? Ask Kenny Kuhns

Photos by Willie Vogt Kenneth Kuhns
NAME CHANGER: Kenny Kuhns pulled the trigger on a company name change, foregoing his corporate namesake for the potential to grow the business. It wasn’t an easy decision, but one he saw as necessary.
Short-line maker of hay tools decides to drop family surname from company brand to avoid confusion.

Corporate name changes aren’t uncommon, but among short-line manufacturers — makers of those essential tools most farmers use for special tasks — it’s rare. Unless they get bought.

But for Kenneth “Kenny” Kuhns, changing the company name from Kuhns Manufacturing to Norden Mfg. was not about being bought. “We made this change for our business,” he said.

Kuhns Manufacturing started in 2005 making small square bale handlers. The name looks similar to another equipment maker, also in the hay business, which would cause confusion from time to time.

“We had people asking us if we were the same company,” said Kenny’s son Glendon, vice president of Norden Mfg., in referencing Kuhn North America. He noted that there are dealers in the market selling Kuhn North America and Kuhns Manufacturing equipment. But no more.

Walking through the National Farm Machinery Show in February, I noticed the Norden Mfg. equipment looked familiar, but the brand was different. That’s where I learned the story.

As Glendon explained, while some name confusion existed in the market, it really wasn’t an issue until last year. “We’re looking at expanding our product line,” he said. “And we felt the confusion between the brands could be challenging.”

It wasn’t an easy decision. When talking with Kenny, I got the sense that, while he’s achieved acceptance, he’d rather have his farm innovations bear his name. “I won’t have what other short-liners have,” he said, referencing names like Unverferth, Danuser and Kinze — all bearing some form of the founders’ names.

New signage for Norden Mfg.

A company name change means more than changing the sign in front of the factory. For Kuhns Mfg., the move involved everything from shirts to the company website.

Kenny said the conversation started five years ago at the family kitchen table. They had explored keeping the existing name and distinguishing themselves from the larger company. But it became “a reluctant necessity that we would have to change,” he said.

And so Norden Mfg. was born with the help of an agency that creates brand names. The logo for the company appears as a compass pointing north. The idea is that the Kuhns family is pointing toward the truth — that is, what is true for all people in all places at all times. And as Glendon added, “We’re of German heritage, and ‘norden’ is north in German.”

What it takes to change a name

At the show, Kenny and Glendon shared all that had to change along with the name:

  • branding on clothes, signs and pens
  • decals on equipment
  • brochures and other literature
  • website and email addresses

  “We even had to change the stickers we put on parts bags that go out with our equipment,” Glendon said.

All of this piles up to be a big one-time expense, yet the Kuhns family pulled the trigger with the future in mind. To learn more, visit nordenmfg.com, where you’ll find the same equipment, same people and same service.

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