Consignia

Consignia. Ring any bells? No? That’s because it was the star of one of the shortest rebrands in history.

The august British entity, known as the Post Office, with a history that dated back to 1516,
in 2001 announced that it was changing its name.

To what? A baffled public wanted to know.

When told “Consignia”, the public remained baffled.

Keith Wells, who led consultancy Dragon Brands on the two-year exercise to come up with this made-up word, stood by the decision. “It’s got a link with insignia, so there is this kind of royalty-ish thing in the back of one’s mind,” he said.

“And there’s this lovely dictionary definition of consign which is ‘to entrust to the care of’. That goes right back to sustaining trust, which was very, very important.”

What’s in a name? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” declared Juliet. Turns out that wasn’t the story here.

On the whole, it’s fair to say, people hated the new moniker. Despite all the focus groups and flow charts, it didn’t resonate.

However, it’s also fair to say, the rebranding coincided with the opening up of the UK postal market to competition. This led to thousands of redundancies at the group’s Royal Mail and Parcelforce divisions, and forced the company to rein in its global ambitions. The Communication Workers Union boycotted the use of the name, supported in this lofty aim by The Socialist Worker.

Consignia became linked with mistrust rather than trust.

Sigh.

It’s not as if there wasn’t a series of cautionary tales against tinkering with a well-established and beloved brand. I mean, New Coke lasted three months.

The Consignia rebrand was estimated to have cost two million pounds.

The rebranding to drop the 15-month-old name and restyle the entire group as The Royal Mail cost around another million.

Unfortunately — and I realise that I am coming out here with a revelation that the focus groups apparently overlooked –the word consignia also contains the word “consign“, which is what we do when we send things into history and bury them in the past.

Bit like the brand itself.

And Dragon Brands? Ah, they’re consigned to history as well. No longer listed at Companies House.

Why has Consignia been on my mind almost 20 years later? Well, thinking about Horizon.

Kudos to Private Eye for their years-long tracking down of the latest Post Office scandal.

Makes a misguided rebranding seem almost… innocent.

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