Brand naming can be hard, but it’s easy compared to brand renaming.
Brand naming: coming up with a strategic, relevant and available name for a new company, product or service is challenging. Engaging stakeholders and bringing them on a journey, getting buy-in on preferred options and then getting past legal can make it all seem like an ordeal. But at least you are starting with a clean sheet.
Brand renaming adds history, baggage, audience inertia and many more issues. I think we can learn a lot by looking at a few recent renaming projects. Consider the strategy, the rationale, and the outcome. Maybe you’ll learn something in the process.
First up, Colonial Brewing renamed itself CBCo. This was in response to being dropped by retailer, Blackhearts and Sparrows, who had issues with the romanticisation of Australia’s colonial history. It took CBCo a couple of years to realise how on the nose the name was.
Then, they bottled the rename by using an internal moniker, an abbreviation of the offensive term for their new name.
Did they actually rename at all? It Seems like their intent to preserve some of their brand heritage dropped them between the bar stools. They failed to address the issue and just smudged over it to drop a memorable name for a jumble of letters. The renaming failed to grasp an opportunity to define and differentiate themselves.
Then there’s the Moreland City Council or the People’s Republic of Moreland as some may know it.
Situated in the heart of Melbourne’s progressive north, the area includes Coburg, Brunswick and Pascoe Vale. Community leaders highlighted that the area was named after a Jamaican sugar plantation that has a direct association with slavery and dispossession. After a petition from the local community, the council decided it needed to change the name.
Through a consultative process with Elders and engagement with the local community, the name, Merri-bek was selected, gaining almost 60% support from residents. The council started using the name pretty much straight away.
There are some nice synergies that help the rename: the area borders the Merri Creek, a lifeline for many during COVID lockdowns, and an authentic anchor for the new name. Also, in moving from Moreland to Merri-bek, the council kept its ‘M’ monogram icon, meaning the two brand names can easily coexist.
The area still uses the name Moreland. There’s still the main road, the train station, the pub, and a pile of businesses that use Moreland. But the council has successfully used the rename to redefine the organisation. It helps communicate who they are; the place residents want and a vision for Merri-bek that is defining.
Last but no means least (certainly by budget) is the BOM.
The Bureau of Meteorology grabbed all the wrong headlines with its attempted ‘rebrand’. While I think the strategy was sound, clearly the execution and delivery were flawed. Changing a much-loved public asset like this should be done slowly and carefully. And probably not done with the kind of cultural issues they had.
It makes strategic sense if you believe being called the BOM undermines the organisation’s authority, shifting to the more serious Bureau makes sense. However, the equity and connection to ‘BOM’ from the public was clearly not properly considered.
While I’m sure there was research to back up both of these, without achieving understanding and culturalisation for the shift you’ll always be fighting yourself. As the old adage goes culture eats strategy for breakfast.
So what can we learn from these three renaming efforts? One, embrace the renaming challenge as the opportunity it can be. Two, engage stakeholders and the audience to proof and test strategies. Three, culturalise and educate the organisation, if they believe it they will deliver it. And four, be smart in transition and application a rename isn’t always a rebrand.
Derek is the Creative Partner at Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 30 years of experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in creating beautiful, effective and unique brand identities that bring strategy to life and resonate with audiences. Derek has extensive experience developing consumer, business, community and government brands.