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Changing more than a name

Photo of Dan Marsh

Dan Marsh 28 April 2021

In late summer 2020, RY was appointed by the Business School (formerly Cass) to support them on an important, and brave, project.


The events of the summer 2020, as protests highlighting racial injustice and inequality rippled around the world, sparked many organisations, institutions and public spaces to examine their own heritage. While often a divisive issue, the fact the protests led to more open conversations and examinations of the UK roots in colonialism were rightly applauded as signs of a progressive and more inclusive society – even amid a global pandemic.


Such was the case with Cass Business School, a name adopted in 2002 following a generous donation from the Sir John Cass Foundation. However, it became apparent last year that much of Sir John Cass’s fortune had been derived from his role in the slave trade. Therefore, in July 2020, the School Council (with the support of the Sir John Cass foundation) concluded such a name was not representative of the School and its values and sought to undertake a process to arrive at something more suitable.    


RY was appointed, following a competitive pitch, to act as the School’s consulting partner – to help steer the process, undertake consultation and testing of names, and ensure the process was transparent, fair and inclusive.


Speaking as a brand purist, most would think that a naming project would come naturally. A name, of course, is the primary identifier for any entity – be it individual, corporate or institutional.


But brands are built on far more than their name, which can often be quite arbitrary. It was with this open-minded spirit that the project group at the Business School entered the process. This would not be about redefining the brand, whose global reputation and values encapsulated their purpose, role and experience very well. This was about finding a name which could represent them and continue their course into the future.


The Business School team were very passionate about ensuring an inclusive process engaging their whole community. We helped deliver this through a phase of online crowdsourcing, conducting discovery workshops to better understand the feeling behind the decision and subsequently in testing potential candidate names received through the course of crowdsourcing. All involving the many stakeholders that make up the School’s well-connected community.


As a result, we felt great pride and satisfaction when the Business School (formerly Cass) last week announced they would be renamed BAYES BUSINESS SCHOOL. Thomas Bayes was a nonconformist theologian and mathematician, whose grave is in Bunhill Fields, opposite the Business School.


The really interesting idea is that the suitability of the name lies in Bayes’ theorem, which suggests that we get closer to the truth by constantly updating our beliefs in proportion to the weight of new evidence. It was this, rather than the man, which fitted so well with the brand and the direction of the School.


They have also committed to much more than a name change, which you can read about here.


We are delighted to have played a small role in the first steps towards the Business School’s new identity and have learnt plenty ourselves along the way – as we often do. As such, we believe the partnership demonstrates what can be achieved when working with a brave, motivated client prepared to reflect on how their own identity shapes their perceptions in wider society.