For Daren Bascome, a name is the entrée into a story.
Since October 2022, Bascome’s Boston-based marketing agency, Proverb, has had a hand in renaming some well-known institutions, using the new monikers to develop new storylines.
King Boston, best known for its sculpture representing Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, on Boston Common is now Embrace Boston.
The Old North Foundation, which aims to expand beyond the story of Paul Revere and his famous two lanterns, has become Old North Illuminated, and the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, a two-year technical school with a majority student population that identifies as first-generation college students and people of color, is now known as Franklin Cummings Tech, after a $12.5 million donation from the Cummings Foundation.
“Increasingly, consumers are really looking for the brands that are willing to go the distance to stand for something,” Bascome said.
For organizations that have been in existence for more than 100 years, the name considerations might be different, Bascome said. That includes preserving any goodwill the organization has amassed and figuring out how to make adjustments without alienating existing supporters, while drawing in new ones.
Proverb’s latest project was with Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology in Boston, which was established in 1908 through funds passed down from Benjamin Franklin’s will. The college was given $12.5 million by the Cummings Foundation in February 2022 to develop new programs and provide financial aid. It wanted to introduce Cummings into its name, which made its name a mouthful. It also sold its South End campus and will be moving to Nubian Square in 2024 to be closer to where many of its students live.
“It made sense to invest in a rebrand to push forward a new, more modern visual identity, to call attention to our new mission and vision,” Franklin Cummings Tech president and chief executive Dr. Aisha Francis said. “And to also have alignment about the programming that we’re offering, how we’re doing it in a more flexible way, and the expansion and move all at the same time.”
Proverb spent the past 12 months figuring out how to reposition and rebrand the college and shorten its name.
“They wanted to not go away from that name completely,” Bascome said. “That’s still the institutional name, but they wanted to own the conversation around how people are going to refer to them in the shorthand because people are obviously going to shorten it.”
The college was renamed Franklin Cummings Tech. By keeping “Franklin” in the name, it’s paying homage to its history. Including “Cummings” honors the gift that it was given. Having “Tech” indicates where the college is moving, into areas such as clean tech and green tech.
The change from King Boston to Embrace Boston was tied to new leadership and an expanded mission.
“[It’s] beyond the monument on the Common,” Bascome said. “It’s the fact that they’re really focused on the health and vitality of the city.”
Duncan Remage-Healey, director of advancement and external affairs at Embrace Boston, said the new name aims to highlight the story of the Kings’ and other luminaries in Boston during the Civil Rights era.
Its initial effort was to commemorate Dr. King’s time in Boston, but the organization believed telling the stories of the Kings and other civil rights leaders would expand its message.
“It feels like an invitation to new voices or other generations to be able to participate in efforts like this,” Bascome said.
Old North Foundation’s name change to Old North Illuminated reflects the organization’s efforts to expand beyond Revere’s storied ride into discussions of slavery, immigration, American identity, mythology, social change, and activism, Bascome said. The decision to change the name came after historian and author Jared Ross Hardesty discovered that Captain Newark Jackson, after whom the organization named its Colonial-themed chocolate shop in the North End, was not only a cacao trader, but also a human trafficker and a slave trader.
“The organization really started to grapple with how to incorporate the truth of that story into our programming, and looked at this as something that could really spark change in terms of how we present the church’s ties to both enslavement and colonialism,” Nikki Stewart, executive director of Old North Illuminated, said.
The organization reached out to Proverb, which created a style guide, a new logo, and a messaging guide so it could better articulate its new mission.
“We look at illumination as a way to spotlight the church’s place in our nation’s history,” Stewart said. “How do we shine an analytical light on the past to help us understand the present?”