In the biggest rebranding misstep in recent memory, the BOM–sorry, the Bureau– has diminished its visual presence, reliability in a natural disaster, and universal media support in one fell swoop.
The Bureau of Meteorology no longer wants to be called “the BoM” pic.twitter.com/C7dhN2e51L
— @MartySilk (@MartySilkHack) October 17, 2022
If the BOM’s rebranding alert was a guerrilla marketing ploy, it worked. Column inches have been written, follow-ups have been penned, and social media is alight with glee.
The BOM, as it is commercially and affectionately known by its users, is an essential service. Most Australians have its app on their phones (which is still currently branded as BOM).
Twitter users were quick to snap up the Bureau’s proposed Twitter handles, noting that the organisation hadn’t thought to secure them themselves before they made the announcements.
The NSW Bureau of Meteorology’s Twitter handle and logo remains @BOM_NSW, despite the announcement claiming it would be changing to @TheBureau_NSW.
Probably should have also renamed their app first too pic.twitter.com/KNGB1PrXGB
— Sky Nation NFT (@SkyNation_NFT) October 18, 2022
The mocking of the BOM
From business, logistics, media, primary industries, transport, and government, through to everyday Australians planning their activity on the respected advice of the Bureau, the BOM is a central and important part of Australian life.
The BOM is the bomb in all the best ways. It’s reliable, authoritative, accessible, and distinctly branded. The brand itself has evolved in our digital acronym-loving era, and it was a success. Take-up was high, trust was high, and user numbers were high.
BOM has a high-visibility, authoritative, unchallenged cut-through, and a handheld device ubiquity envied by most government agencies. Why would you mess with that?
As we watch yet again another severe flood event, why would the premiere information source for weather forecasting pull a stunt like this in the middle of a natural disaster?
Who pays? Well, we do. According to The Guardian, the BoM rebrand cost more than $220,000 taxpayer dollars, including cash to update the organisation’s visual style and logo, conduct research, develop pull-up banners and support media engagement.
In a La Niña year of being slammed with extreme weather events and record-breaking floods, this is a screeching slap in the face to flooding communities. Why mess with an essential resource in the wake of a natural disaster? Nobody is bothered. They only want the weather forecast.
The Bureau simply did not read the room. With an ill-thought idea and a fumbled execution, it trampled on its own cachet. It took up news airtime and column inches by making its PR issues the headline.
It was also an exercise in temerity with a PR-driven prescriptive ‘style’ announcement cautioning the media to use the correct moniker and advising of the newly branded social handles. By letting a clumsy execution and hurt feelings get in the way, the Bureau has become the butt of the story, rather than becoming the respected voice underlying the nation’s weather story, which is what they wanted in the first place.
The agency’s full name has always been a journalist trip hazard. It’s just begging for radio and television presenters to fumble over the words, especially when repeating it multiple times. The BOM works. Why change it?
The frustration from journalists has been palpable even when delivered with a laugh or a poker face. ABC News Breakfast presenter Lisa Millar took to humorously referring to the Bureau of Nate Byrne, ABC’s meteorologist. Anchor Michael Rowland, reporting on location from Echuca/Moama amidst the rising Murray River and a real human crisis referred rather drily in a live cross to, “The Bureau, the BOM, call it what you will”.
Educating the media is never easy, but when done well, can be beneficial for both sides of the fence. For example, educating the media on the responsible reporting of self harm, or the terminology used for COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic. The problem with the Bureau’s education attempt is that it was so obviously self-interested, that no one could take it seriously.
Being taken seriously isn’t something you can ask for, it’s something that needs to be earned. If you have to ask people to take you seriously, there’s an issue. The strange thing is, BOM is already taken seriously. Australians love and respect the organisation.
So if the BOM feels it’s being mocked, that points to a deeper misunderstanding around the organisation’s values, what it stands for, and how it views itself. That isn’t going to come from a mere name change. That’s going to require much more work, including both internal and external education about what they do, how they do it, and why.
Let’s be honest. When the dust settles and the invoices are paid, the focus groups are held and the opportunity cost fallout is calculated, we’re all just going to still call it BOM, aren’t we?
About the author:
Phoebe Netto is the founder of Pure Public Relations, a PR firm started 11 years ago that focuses on outcomes, not output – it’s pure and simple. Pure Public Relations offers media relations, issues management and communication services, and has a reputation for securing excellent media coverage and an impressive track record for issues management.