King’s College London has accepted defeat over the botched effort to rebrand it as “King’s London”. But the plan needn’t have failed. Here’s how the rebranding company could have sold it.
(1) Establish the idea of change, by pointing out how amateurish the current logo looks. It looks like it was designed in Microsoft Word, and was: I made logos like that in my student journalist days.
(2) Establish the idea that we are behind the times, by pointing out that every other big London university institution has rebranded in the near or distant past, or is not called by its legal title:
• the LSE (not the London School of Economics and Political Science);
• UCL (only rarely called University College London);
• SOAS (not the School of Oriental and African Studies);
• Birkbeck (not Birkbeck College);
• Imperial (legally The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine);
• Queen Mary (no longer Queen Mary College);
• Royal Holloway (no longer Royal Holloway and Bedford New College); and
• Goldsmiths (which dropped “College” in 2006).
(3) Provide evidence that “college” is confusing. For example, in North America a “college” is usually known as a trade/vocational training centre and is a “lesser” institution than a university [UPDATE: Mike Otsuka corrects me on this point in his Comment below]. (I’m still unconvinced that “college” is so confusing, but I’d have listened to evidence if the rebranding company had offered it.)
(4) Give actual quotations from the focus groups showing how confusing people some find “college”. Most of us laughed when told that people couldn’t understand “college”; concrete examples might have changed our minds.
(5) Give survey evidence that the LSE and UCL have better name recognition than King’s College London (if it’s true).
(6) Make a logo that looks good. This is the sine qua non, which is Latin for “do this or we want our money back”.
(7) Since lots of people are conservative, point out that most of us initially sneered at the London Olympics logo but liked it in the end.
(8) Get the KCL Student Union on side. (This was done, but when student outrage became apparent, the Student Union did a great impression of an embarrassing backtrack.)
(9) Coordinate the announcement so that the rebrand doesn’t leak early.
(10) Imply that this is a bargain: e.g. if it cost £300,000, this is equivalent to about 20 new overseas MA students who wouldn’t have come under the old name. (OK, the calculation’s not that simple, but suggest that by spending some money we’ll get far more back.)
I’m not saying that this would have worked, but it would have had a chance.