What a load of Bull

Things change. The familiar can quickly be replaced by something altogether unfamiliar which leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the general public. Take Fiona Bruce replacing David Dimbleby on Question Time or go a bit further back to when David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester Utd. Even Prue Leith’s introduction to the tent required some periods of early adjustment as we all tried our best to wake up to change having spent years under Mary Berry’s spell.

But then eventually, as is life and the healing powers of time, the feelings of deep despair subside, the dust settles and slowly but surely, people regain their heads. The pillow can resume its role as a luxury item instead of that thing you were screaming into before bed having endured another day in a post-Mary Berry Bake Off world.

But try telling that to the listeners of The Archers and the villagers of Ambridge. Their beloved pub, the axis on which rural life rotates, is being re-named. “The Bull” will become “The B at Ambridge” in an attempt to reach a new demographic. A sleepy countryside village is now becoming woke. And we know what you’re thinking, and it turns out you’d be right to think it — a kooky re-brand of a well-loved institution reeks of hipster agency work.

As a branding agency situated precariously close to Shoreditch, a place widely considered the watering hole of the hipster, we feel compelled to address what’s going on in Ambridge.

In a recent episode in the lead up to the grand unveiling of the pub’s new name, one local admitted complete indifference to the idea that a change of name can have any real impact. The reaction that followed from the villagers and the listeners of The Archers suggests renaming a well-loved brand can have quite the impact. The comments section for a recent telegraph review makes for an interesting read…

“Another fantastic brand destroyed by yet more political shoehorning”.

Naming is a fundamental element of any brand. A name carries so much weight when it comes to a brand’s reputation, evoking trust and a means of association with its audience. It’s therefore so important that you’re clear in your reasons for changing a name when it is such a central part of any brand.

Names are all about context. Take ‘Sweaty Betty’ or ‘Acne Studios’ — on the face of it these aren’t names that portray a beautiful exterior yet the behaviour of the brands is what makes them great. ‘The Bull’ can be just as hip and trendy and appeal to a different audience — they just need to behave that way. It’s the context of what a brand does that makes it great.

In the renaming of The Bull, listeners believe it’s representative of an unnecessary rebrand of The Archers itself and of a tried and tested, much-loved formula from the BBC being tinkered with for the sake of appealing to a younger generation.

And this is perhaps one programme and pub that shouldn’t be renamed because The Archers has never been about appealing to a younger generation but has always remained popular in its own right.

Essentially, if a rename doesn’t maintain elements of the brand’s heritage then it shouldn’t be done. The core values and traditions have to remain at the heart of the brand otherwise it becomes unrecognisable. If your audience isn’t asking for change then there’s no need to abandon a winning formula.

Renaming should only occur to signal real change just as a rebrand should only be required to keep up with surrounding changes. This is not the case in Ambridge though.

And some things don’t change. The Queen Vic’s still going strong…

We invent, reinvigorate and transform brands. Create great. opx.studio

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