[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]
Dear Dr. Steve,
Kevin Falcon has announced the BC Liberals' choice for a new name: BC United. The name will now be submitted to party members for a vote. What do you think?
Cor, that's a bit daft, innit? The local 11 hires a gaffer and straightaway he wants a new kit. BC United, is it? A bit naff. Still, may as well take a punt. The BC Liberals were rubbish for donkey's years and headed for the drop. Not exactly Man City, if you catch my drift. Can this side put it in the old onion bag with a new boss and a new moniker? Better not bottle it this time, Kev. You'll get the sack.
So the BC Liberals want to rebrand as BC United. Dr. Steve enjoys a good English Premier League match as much as the next bloke, but this does sound like a bit of a crossover from one field of endeavour to the next. It's rather sporty. BC Roughriders? BC Blue Jays? No, they have opted for something with more international flair. But perhaps the lawyers should have done more research. Never mind the instant association with great football names like Leeds United or Sheffield United — the top Google search for BC United, at least until this week, was the prestigious local women's basketball program. Trademark infringement? See you in, or on, court.
These rebrandings don't always take. Did you know Weight Watchers is now known as WW? What does WW stand for? Would you know without checking? Even Google struggles to reveal that WW is now supposed to mean Wellness and Wellbeing. The CEO's own mother probably couldn't guess that on Final Jeopardy. Back in 2001 Britain's Royal Mail tried to rebrand as Consignia. That's like Burger King rebranding as Bovis Rex. The Royal Mail went back to the old name faster than you can deliver a box of stale crumpets.
Name changes can work, though. The CCF became the NDP. Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC. It's what's inside the bucket that counts.
These days though you just never know by looking at the label. Look at the Vancouver civic party names: Forward Together, ABC, TEAM for a Liveable Vancouver, Progress Vancouver, OneCity. Who knows what's in those buckets? Could be fried chicken, could be spicy rezoning, could be more cops. The names don't tell you squat.
On the other hand the Vancouver municipal ballot will also feature the VOTE Socialist party. That's a straightforward approach you rarely see these days. The political preference seems to be for fudging. Dr. Steve expected something more revealing this time though. After all the whole point of this rebrand was supposed to be that the BC Liberals are not what the name implies, either in its philosophy or federal associations. So why not opt for clear labelling? They could have gone with Dr. Steve's earlier suggestion, Falcon' Right. But no, they have opted for the vague and oddly sporty BC United. Better than the BC Leafs, at least.
The truth is that these names tend to gain meaning in retrospect anyway. Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and the reverse is true of durian, outhouses, wet dogs and Trump Tower. Political brands depend on your politics. When your name is mud, it doesn't much matter what you call yourself.
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