Changing names, unlike Changing Rooms , is something at which people invariably look askance. The outraged reaction of Sun readers at the prospect of the makeover of the Post Office to a new improved service apparently dubbed Consignia is a case in point. Indeed, the extraordinary thing about the lucrative 'industry' of rebranding is how united all but the professionals in question and their clients are in loathing its output.
In justifying itself, rebranding cites simplicity, indentifiability, newness, and inevitably, marketability. This is balderdash.
The most confident institutions never change names.
Problems of 'identifiability' have never affected Christ's Hospital the school, the Grand National the horse race, or the Athenaeum the club. In the academic world it is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot to rebrand yourself: yet one of the most distinguished and oldest established architectural schools, the Polytechnic, has had to make its reputation as Regent's Street Polytechnic, as the Polytechnic of Central London and now as the University of Westminster. Would you catch an Oxbridge college doing that?
Perversely, it is only good history that rebranding can eradicate. Whether it is Windscale or Sellafield, what we remember is the fact that the name has changed and, hence, that something is being covered up. In our culture, an assumed name signifies not a brave new future but a creepy moustachioed chap who has taken on an alias for shifty purposes. As in the case of the Post Office, this is doubly so when a simple descriptive title is incomprehensibly rechristened.
Hence this week's news that Corus, the company formerly known as British Steel, is about to make thousands redundant, looks like a deliberate cover-up.
The strongest institutions describe what they do, and then stick with it. The Architects' Journal : it does exactly what it says on the tin.