Fit for a Queen: Allied Bakeries rename their Kingsmill brand in honour of Elizabeth II

Many marketers in recent decades have found themselves employed as ‘brand guardians’ – responsible for policing the dangerous felony of inconsistency. Armed with bibles that feature big red crosses through badly stretched logos, they watch out for any errant employee or supplier who has strayed from the straight and narrow.

The explosion of social media over the past few years has undermined the power of the brand cops. ‘User-generated content’ is pretty uncontrollable, after all. If someone designs you a whole new colour palette or shoots a parody of your recent TV commercial on the back of a bus, there is very little you can really do about it. Even when content online is defamatory or infringes your intellectual property rights, you probably have to think twice before taking further action.

The more confident a brand is, the more it rolls with the punches. Rather than react defensively, the guardians embrace the idea that people may want to interact with their business in ways that were previously thought undesirable or impossible. But the confidence can be taken to another level still. I’ve long been fascinated by brands which are so self-assured about their status and position in the market that they are prepared to play with their own identity.

In the branding manual, you have one logo. Ok, you may allow it to be reversed out or rendered in black and white where needs must, but there are clear rules involved. That logo is never going to be more than 4mm from the right-hand-edge of the page and it’s always going to look fundamentally the same. But what about Google? The search giant regularly creates ‘doodles’ which play with its very identity. When you’re a $multi-billion business that’s so certain of your supremacy in the age of the internet, you don’t worry that your logo has effectively disappeared for the day and been replaced by an interactive Moog synthesiser.

One of the most recent examples of this phenomenon I’ve uncovered in the UK is tied up with the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The savoury yeast extract Marmite has renamed itself Ma’amite in Her Majesty’s honour. Allied Bakeries’ bread brand Kingsmill, meanwhile, has transformed itself into Queensmill.

In the latter case, the graphic design provides an element of consistency, of course, but there’s no mistaking the bravery and chutzpah involved. The name change may not be in the brand manual, but I suspect it helps to shift bread. And ultimately, that’s surely what the brand identity is designed to achieve.