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Goodbye Staines. Hello Staines-on-Thames.

2nd November 2010

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So, they are thinking that, with a new naming strategy for changing the name of the town from Staines to Staines-on-Thames they can improve the image of the suburban Surrey town. Staines-based branding specialists, Design Incorporated went (not far) to investigate.

Commercial Director, Frank Norman admits that most people outside the area associate the town with comedy gangsta Ali G, a fictional character played by Sacha Baron Cohen. He says “But it is also true that most people don’t know Staines is situated on one of the most beautiful stretches of the River Thames and I agree that a naming strategy, changing to Staines-on-Thames may certainly make the town sound more desirable, but we have to be careful that any name change or rebranding, whether for a product, business or location is always carried out for the right reasons. In the case of a town however, it is important that any naming strategy ensures it understand the heritage of the area.”

The Romans settled in Staines in 43AD and the first Staines Bridge was constructed to provide an important Thames crossing point. In fact it is assumed there was more than one bridge as the Roman name for Staines was ‘ad pontes’ (at the bridges). The present day name of Staines actually comes from Old English meaning ‘the place of the stones’.

In fact a border stana, or stone, on the bank of the River Thames, dated 1280, still remains, indicating the western limit of the City of London’s jurisdiction over the Thames.

The Thames therefore, and Staines’ situation as a major crossing point has always been key to its heritage and its involvement in national affairs; the barons assembled there before they met King John at Runnymede in 1215, and Stephen Langton held a consecration there shortly after the issue of the Magna Carta. Sir Thomas More was tried in 1535 in a Staines public house, to avoid the outbreak of plague in London at that time. Kings and other important people must have passed through the town on many occasions: the church bells were rung several times in 1670, for instance, when the king and queen travelled through the town towards Windsor.

The river has also been key in the decision of locating industry, with the Linoleum Manufacturing Company settling in Staines to set up business in 1864. Linoleum soon became the main industry of the town and the company was a major employer in the area up to the 1960s. These days, the town is home to a number of blue chip companies including BUPA, British Gas, Logica, Siemens, Centrica and Samsung.

And, bringing the town right up-to-date, Staines is poised for major expansion with construction already started on the ‘Staines Central’ scheme – a five storey, 3 building, retail, office, hotel & communications hub in the centre of the town. Creative agency, Design Inc is located directly opposite.

Frank Norman met with Alex Tribick, chair of Spelthorne Business Forum which made the proposal. He said: “A lot of businesses are moving from Central London out to the Spelthorne and Staines area. Everything we can do, even if it’s a small thing like changing the name, can only be good for encouraging business and investment in the area.”

The Forum insist there would be a public consultation before any formal decision was made and they are fully expecting to meet with opposition from residents who see no need for a name change.

Many residents we met felt it a good suggestion, with one prominent businessman commenting, “Of course there will be many who don’t like the idea of change and may think this is pretentious nonsense. But it’s not. With the 2012 Olympics almost upon us, we have a real opportunity to promote & showcase Staines to a wider audience. The Thames is integral to our town and we are proud of our association with the river.”

Another commented “We have Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond-upon-Thames, Walton-on-Thames and they are all as beautiful as they sound. I can only see positives from renaming our town Staines-on-Thames and showing that we are so much more than just the home of Ali G.”

No doubt the debate will continue and we will of course look forward to the outcome. We certainly understand and acknowledge the reasons behind the suggestion of this name change. Frank Norman gives his final thoughts, “As a branding agency, we know that creating the right message and values in a name is crucial to any brand. I believe the name Staines-on-Thames is certainly a positive one for the town and the area within which it is situated. The name creates a promise of beauty & tranquillity and, if this change happens, it is important the council continue to back up that promise.”

If you would like to discuss your own branding project with us, contact Frank Norman on 01784 410380 or by email.