After the Co-op rebranded six of its flagship stores around the UK to mark the start of COP26, Retail Week looks at times famous retailers have temporarily changed their names to capture the public’s imagination
In regular trading periods, having easily recognisable branding on a store frontage is retail 101. Many retailers have spent decades building up brand awareness and even the most minute changes to logos, liveries and straplines can take years of development and millions of pounds worth of investment to perfect.
However, on rare occasions when the public gets swept up in a particular event – be that economic, social or sporting – retailers have looked to humorously leverage their pressure brand identities to tap into the zeitgeist. Often it will generate press coverage too, which is no bad thing.
Retail Week looks at six examples of retailers who have played around with their brands to make a point.
1. The Co-op sparks climate conversation
Ahead of the COP26 global climate summit kicking off in Glasgow on October 31, c-store specialist the Co-op has rebranded six of its stores around the country to Co-op26 to “get people asking questions about how they can impact climate change at a community level”.
The six stores will carry the Co-op26 rebrand with amplified street signage and window takeovers, and the grocers’ social media channels will also carry the rebrand for the duration of the conference.
All of the Co-op’s remaining 2,600 stores and 830 funeral homes will feature in-store messaging around the event.
Boss Steve Murrells said: “Climate action needs to be truly accessible and inclusive in order to make the difference that’s so urgently needed. While the world looks to the COP26 conference to guide global leaders on how countries can accelerate change, we are shining a spotlight on how Co-op, our customers, members and colleagues can all play their part in the fight against climate change on a community level.”
2. Carphone Warehouse’s Aussie switcheroo
To celebrate the summer of cricket in 2019, which included a World Cup and Ashes series on UK soil, Carphone Warehouse made a surprisingly magnanimous gesture to England’s old enemy Australia.
The retailer rebranded its store at Southside Wandsworth “Carphoown Weyarhouse” and replaced its store livery with Australian green and gold. ‘Carphoown Weyarhouse’ apparently being the way Australians would pronounce the retailer’s name.
Carphone Warehouse completed the rebrand with a meet-and-greet with former Australia cricketer Michael Slater, a themed-selfie corner and a host of “delicious treats from Down Under”.
The retailer said at the time the “switcheroo” was part of “going beyond a usual day’s work of helping customers switch to the best phone and network, and undergoing an Australian cricket green and gold makeover, to celebrate all things switching”.
3. Sainsbury’s sign of the times
A visual change made perfect sense when Sainsbury’s wanted to promote its first ‘signing store’.
The Bath branch switched fascia for a few days in 2019 “to celebrate community inclusivity and encourage all colleagues and customers to sign with one another”.
Around 100 store staff took British Sign Language lessons ahead of the change, enabling them to greet customers and ask whether they had a Nectar card.
Screens were installed showing how to sign words such as milk, trolley and bananas to encourage customers to get involved in the initiative, which was part of Sainsbury’s 150 Days of Community programme. The event was backed by Oscar-winning screenwriter Rachel Shenton, who signed her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards in 2018.
4. Morrisons serves up a name change
Morrisons rebranded its Wimbledon supermarket to Murriwins in July 2013 in honour of Andy Murray, who lifted the men’s singles title at the All England Lawn Tennis Club that month.
After Murray defeated Novak Djokovic on Centre Court, Morrisons tweeted: “Congrats to #Wimbledon Champion @andy_murray! How are you celebrating? We’ve given our store a special makeover.”
Morrisons had renamed the same store as Murrisons at the start of the tournament to show its support for the then-British number one.
The grocer also erected a big screen and giant speakers in the piazza outside the store to show live coverage throughout the tournament. An astroturf area and deck chairs gave shoppers the chance to enjoy the tennis in the sun - and no doubt drove purchases of Pimms, strawberries and cream.
5. England or Iceland?
In anticipation of a knockout game between England and Iceland (the country) at Euro 2016, Iceland (the supermarket) changed the name of its Leicester store.
The grocer initially decided to sponsor the Icelandic football team after its Twitter account was inundated with congratulatory messages from fans when the team qualified for the tournament.
The sponsorship resulted in several humorous videos promoting both the supermarket and the football team, but when Iceland were due to play against England, the retailer was forced to rethink.
Ahead of the fixture between, Iceland rebranded its store in Leicester to ‘England or Iceland’ to show its support for both.
Iceland area store manager Steve Cropper said at the time: “We love England, but we love Iceland too of course. So in order to honour both our actual country and our namesake country, we have renamed our store England or Iceland.
“We decided of course to do this at our Leicester store – the city renowned for achieving great things despite being an underdog. The great thing for us is that whatever the result, one of our teams will win.”
6. Go big, stay home
Millennial gymbunny-favourite Gymshark has made a name for itself through the sweaty selfies its customers upload on Instagram post-work as much as it has through its products itself. Hitting up the gym in your latest workout gear is core to the etailer’s ethos – so much so it named itself Gymshark. But when coronavirus was first sweeping across the globe at the start of 2020, Gymshark decided a rebrand was in order to remind its customers that going out for exercise was not the top priority during the health crisis.
The retailer changed its name on social media channels in April 2020 to Homeshark. The accompanying message – “We changed our name to homeshark, cause some of you needed reminding to stay home” – went on to be the most engaged with Instagram post the brand had ever had.
The brand accompanied the tongue-in-cheek post with streams of home workouts from its raft of influencer partners.