Naples has had names fall all around it through the years.
Bank of Naples joined Barnett Bank, which became NationsBank — briefly — before merging into its current name, Bank of America.
Hospice of Naples became Avow.
The Children’s Museum of Naples hadn’t even opened before it added Golisano to the name.
International College has renamed itself Hodges University.
NewsMakers: Kathleen Van Bergen
Defends controversial name change.
It’s enough to drive you to the Purple Pill, which is now known as Nexium since a patent on the heartburn medication’s previous name expired in 2001.
But what’s in a name?
“A new name is only one part of the story,” declares Mike Benson of Berliner-Benson, the Brooklyn-based consulting company that worked with the former Philharmonic Center for the Arts to create its new name, Artis—Naples, announced April 19. His company’s job was to focus the institution’s mission and update its brands: its slogans, its type face, its colors.
However, he concedes, “No matter what the name change, people who have affection for that name will have difficulty figuring out why you want to make any change at all.”
A wary beginning
Even Kathleen van Bergen, CEO and president of Artis — Naples, says the idea of changing the Phil’s iconic name stunned her. van Bergen has been through branding studies before, commissioning one at the Schubert Club in St. Paul, Minn., where she was previously artistic and executive director. The results there were a new logo design, typography and imagery — but not a new name.
“The initial RFP (request for proposals) brief I had sent out did not include a name change. We wanted a look and feel that communicated we were not just what happens in that (the 1,425-seat Hayes Hall) building but in every building.” The complex has both an art museum and a continuing education building.
She say she told the finalists, and Berliner-Benson after it was hired, that “we didn’t know” if that was an option.
Artis-Naples: An introduction
The study of local perceptions, however, was a revelation. Mary Deissler, director for advancement, said the organization sent out a record 3,000 surveys to “really, anyone who had ever bought a ticket to the Phil.”
That was followed by a series of focus groups stretching over a nearly solid three days. The discussions were simulcast and taped, so the board and administrators could listen to every remark. Then Berliner-Benson took to the streets, selecting random individuals to get their impressions of the Phil. They studied its marketing as well.
Without disclosing all its details, van Bergen and Deissler offered some of their discoveries:
Slightly more than half of the audience are year-round residents, not seasonal. “It debunked the myth that you only should program January to March,” Deissler said.
The year-round population in the Naples area is now greater than the high-season population was when the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts opened its doors in 1989.
5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard
Artis—Naples in Naples is one of the premier performing arts halls in Southwest Florida, hosting more than 400 events a year including world-class dance, opera, classical and popular music and Broadway musicals. The venue was re-named from The Philharmonic Center ...More about Artis—Naples »
The “very strong” emerging audience for this institution is baby boomers, who are younger in average age as a group than classical music goers.
Outside its patrons, and even among its patrons, was the perception the institution is an orchestra hall.
Ned Lautenbach, chairman of the board of directors, said the single-dimension image was frustrating: “Some 50,000 students we get through our Lifelong Learning classes. And people were unaware of it.”
“We had board members who told us ‘I didn’t know how much you offered,’” van Bergen said.
For the baby boomers, Artis—Naples is programming more era-friendly acts such as a Simon & Garfunkel tribute concert last week. Its classical music patrons haven’t been forgotten: The number of different classical music programs has been expanded from six to 10.
The name wasn’t the only deterrent to a broader, younger audience.
“We had people who were 55 and older who were saying, ‘I wore a tie every day of my work life. That’s not what I want to do in Florida,’” Deissler said. van Bergen acknowledges that group may be at odds with a group that wants a dress code in Hayes hall. There’s also opposition to another accommodation for a more casual crowd: Drinks may be brought into Hayes hall, except for the Masterworks classical music series.
In the end, a name change became part of the move forward. It was not without careful discussion with, and a vote by, the board of directors.
“Part of every meeting since October has been devoted to this,” van Bergen recalled. “We went through hundreds of names.”
At one point, she said, she offered the name LIME to the board.
“I meant it as a joke,” she recalled. “No one laughed.”
Nor was the name change limited to the campus around 5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Every name was shortened. The Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art became the Baker Museum. Although the Bakers chose not to comment for this article, van Bergen said they were consulted and gave their approval for the name change.
The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra also became the Naples Philharmonic, a move that in the past would have confused it with the center.
“Philharmonic, symphony, orchestra — they all generally mean the same thing,” explained James Dallas, principal percussionist of the orchestra. Dallas has been a member of the orchestra since its first year as the Naples-Marco Philharmonic in the early 1980s, and he said the orchestra voted on its own name change without any issue. The musicians, he said, were much more excited about the hiring of Andrey Boreyko, after the protracted search for a new music director: “This is a conductor who is in demand all over the world, and he’s coming here for his first American position. That’s quite a coup.”
Benson, however, pointed out that may be something of a setback. Artis—Naples also hired a new museum director, Frank Verpoorten, last fall. This means changes in everything from policies to personal relationships.
“There’s a new identity style, a new museum director, a CEO who is fairly new. That is a lot of new stuff for people used to the old ways of an organization. I think with any launch of a brand name and identity, there comes a promise that can only be delivered in the product as whole. It will take time for people to build meaning from this.”
A waiting game
Public reaction to the name change has been largely negative. Benson said that’s to be expected among those who weren’t brought into meetings to explain the name weeks and months before its announcement.
“There’s a certain contingent who loved what the Phil was, and their reaction is ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ Well, that’s great for you, but what about the people who don’t want to see a philharmonic orchestra but want to have all the experiences that can be had in a center like this?” he said.
Among the complaints is that the new name is an attempt to erase any legacy of the founder, Myra Janco Daniels. Daniels doggedly raised funds to build the orchestra-performance hall and the adjacent museum and to buy and furnish the Toni A. Stabile continuing education building on the other side of the hall.
Then she ran the entire complex for its first 23 years.
Daniels, who is currently involved in a project to create an after-school center for children in East Naples, has been publicly noncommittal. She wasn’t involved with the decision, she said, and could not attend an early preview of the new name presentation for Artis—Naples.
“What the public wants it to be is what it’s going to be and why it is going to be,” she said this week. “Of course, it hurts to have your baby’s name changed.
But, she added. “I think everything in the Phil is good. It can do nothing but shine eventually.”
The fact that it has outgrown its original name is actually testimony to Daniels’ work, Lautenbach declared.
“It’s been so wonderful, for the last 24 years, what Myra built and developed. We hope to improve on it even more,” he said.
“I keep saying to everybody: We’re the future. That’s what we’re talking about with this.”
Both he and van Bergen said that one of their local advisers, who brought good cautionary advice during the nine months of the rebranding study, was a person involved in the rolling out of the “New Coke” decades ago. The drink was a miserable flop.
“It failed because they had the wrong product,” Lautenbach said.
“We don’t have the wrong product.”