Somewhere over the Rainbow

Conservative PRs couldn’t have planned it any better: As the sun set on Gordon Brown’s premiership, a rainbow appeared in the skies over Westminster. All talk of a possible ‘rainbow coalition’ ended as David Cameron stood on the steps of No 10 to announce a Liberal-Conservative coalition government.

Soon after Mr Cameron’s speech, discussions of a very different rainbow were underway in Westminster.When Michael Gove joined the cabinet the next day, he became the Shadow Secretary of State for Education; unlike his predecessor, Ed Balls, who had been in charge of ‘Children, Schools, and Families’.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families, with its ‘massage room’ and ‘contemplation suite’, had already featured prominently in the election campaign. Its overnight rebrand to the ‘Department for Education’ may be a sign of things to come, both for educators and marketeers.

The DCSF’s brand guidelines, which cost the taxpayer several thousand pounds, called it “A united organisation, working together to ‘build the rainbow’ – the brighter future we want for children and young people”. The new Department for Education doesn’t have brand guidelines or a prominent marque. The iconic rainbow that featured in the department’s atrium has also disappeared. The media was immediately awash with speculation – Did the name change indicate a refocussing of the department?

Terina Keene, CEO of ‘Railway Children’ worried that focussing purely on education would cause very underprivileged young people to ‘fall off the radar’. Mr Gove’s drive to refocus the department on its core purpose of supporting teaching and learning does mean a significant shift in government policy; one that won’t come as a surprise to many commentators.

The Conservatives’ election pledges focussed on the right of parent groups to set up their own schools, with children and families being covered by the Tories’ ‘Big Society’ idea.

The rebranding – done ‘on the cheap’ – reflects a move away from the huge government advertising budgets of previous years. It also reflects a waste of several thousand pounds invested by the previous government in the DCSF brand, which existed for only three years. That’s a better return on investment than the rebrand of the Department for Trade and Industry to the Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry, though – which, at a cost of £30,000, lasted only a week before reversion to the previous moniker.

The lost investment in the DCSF brand is likely to be recouped in the long-run as advertising spend returns to its 1997 level. You’ll probably be hearing a lot less about the Department of Education outside of the press than you did its predecessor.

Will any of this matter to ‘real people’? Probably not – our brand development staff all agree that brands need to be reflected throughout their collateral and messaging; but given the scale of forthcoming budgetary cutbacks, the name change is likely to do just that.

The move is a warning to some in the creative industry. Gone are the large COI contracts of yesteryear. This is a government that wants to be judged by its actions, not its words. That’s a sentiment that we agree with wholeheartedly.


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