Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to fill a current gap in the literature, through the development of theory concerned with changes that occur over time to the functions and importance of the brand name element of a branded entity.Design/methodology/approach – An initial theoretical conceptualisation was developed from the existing literature. Study participants whose behaviour was found not to conform to this initial conceptualisation were included in subsequent research in order to obtain greater understanding. The study method employed was a series of interviews, with the obtained qualitative data analysed using template analysis. This resulted in the development of a revised theoretical conceptualisation.Findings – Various functions of the brand name element, identified as connotation, denotation, linking and branded entity constancy are ongoing important providers of brand equity to some consumers for established branded entities. This challenges a position obtained from existing literature that the brand name element of an established branded entity becomes of minimal importance over time.Originality/value – Value generating functions of the brand name element that persist over time were identified, leading to the development of a theoretical conceptualisation of the change in the importance of brand name equity over time.