Is Climb Britain the BMC’s New Coke Moment?

Some of you may be aware that the BMC have recently announced, out of the blue (to me anyway!) that they’re changing the name to Climb Britain. The background to this decision is given in this post – Climb Britain: Update from the BMC

As a result, I sent an open email to them to express my opinion at the regional meetings that are now discussing the matter. This is as is – sent from my mobile, so the structure of the arguments aren’t great; but i think the opinion is clearly put across!

This is the opinion of the Author and not necessarily that of Mud and Routes. Disagree with it? If you can disagree eloquently enough, then we’ll publish your reply!

Just a quick email regarding the BMC re-branding, as I’m not really the kind of person who will attend a ‘consultation’. I am grateful that I am given the opportunity to do so via email.

My view on the re-branding as a long term member, joining as it was essential for me to train as an ML, is that it is categorically not a good idea. I’d go as far as calling it the BMC’s ‘New Coke Moment‘. Google it, and you’ll find that story had a happy ending, but only as the company realised their mistake.

I wasn’t sure about joining the BMC initially as i saw it as a Mountaineering club, for climbers, not for hill walkers like myself. So this rebrand makes me think that this is a climber oriented organisation after all, or at least those in charge nationally see it that way.

This is unfortunate as the BMC were just starting to up their profile with hill walkers with their excellent mend the hills campaign. This makes it an organisation for all the mountain goers, from climbers to ski mountaineers, from hill walkers to trail runners.

I think the argument about us all ‘climbing’ as a common factor is rather clutching at straws. Do we include road cyclists in if we define ourselves as those who gain altitude by human propulsion? When I’m running, the climbing bit is the least enjoyable part!

I believe that the membership of the BMC is a majority of hill walkers? So considering the membership, this re-branding idea is even more out of touch.

It’s also rather incongruous that you choose ‘Britain’ when you represent England and Wales, Scotland had its own appropriately named body. The B may already stand for British, but it’s discreetly hidden away at the moment.

In my opinion, this consultation alone will not provide legitimacy to any decision, especially if that is to go ahead with the re-branding. The cynical would surely claim that the consultation was a paper exercise to justify the re-branding.

I put it to whom ever it concerns that this name change should be put to a member vote, as I fear that failure to do so will give the impression that the opinion of those in charge is all that carries weight. If not, people will instead vote with their direct debit. A vote is now an essential step if the board are to move forward with any re-branding with a mandate from the members.

While you could also ask members for suggestions, maybe going to an open vote of names would need locking down. Though Mounty McMountface does have the advantage of making Climb Britain sound good.

So there it is! Agree? Disagree? Don’t care? Tell us below! Though we’re starting to warm to Climby McClimbface now…

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

Please rate this

Share This:





1 thought on “Is Climb Britain the BMC’s New Coke Moment?”

  1. Hi Dave,
    Couldn’t agree more.
    At the risk of filling whatever receptacle this goes in, these are the e-mails I have sent to and received from the BMC.

    [To Dave Turnbull 4 August 2016]
    Dave,

    I spend much of my time abroad and I was staggered when I returned last week to read about the proposed re-branding to ‘Climb Britain’.

    I see that there has been a lot written and said on the subject and that regional meetings have been arranged for opinions to be expressed. Unfortunately I will be out of the country when they take place and so I want you to know my views.

    I have been a BMC member for nearly fifteen years. My interest in the outdoors began as a child in the Peak District and now, at the age of 57, mountaineering is my principle interest and includes hill walking, scrambling, winter alpinism and ice climbing. For me, the BMC covers all of these areas of interest and I have often referred to their videos and advice leaflets.

    There is no doubt that the BMC has gained its hard-won reputation by bringing the hillwalking community on-board but it now appears that this significant proportion of the membership is to be pushed to one side in this ill-conceived re-branding exercise.

    I regularly use huts and refuges abroad and although many do not offer discounts to BMC members, the guardians have all heard of the BMC and hold it in high esteem. I’m not sure that ‘Climb Britain’ will ‘cut it’ with them.

    What hard evidence is there that the current name ‘doesn’t cut it’? Has any market research been undertaken? If so, have the results been published to the membership – maybe I missed that.

    And our President Rehan Siddiqui has said “ it’s vital the organisation responds to a recent explosion in popularity” So, if this ‘explosion in popularity’ has taken place under the name of BMC, why are you wanting to change it?

    I would urge the National Council to have a serious re-think on this change as it could be a watershed which sees the hillwalking community voting with their boots. I for one would be amongst them.

    Ian Tupman
    Membership No. B*********

    [From Carey Davis 5 August 2016]
    Hi Ian,
    I am the BMC’s hill walking officer. Dave Turnbull passed your email on to me so I could answer some of your questions from a hill walking perspective.

    I have written an article addressing the question of what ‘Climb Britain’ means for walkers: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/what-climb-britain-means-for-walkers. I recommend having a read of this before continuing.

    To address your specific concerns first:
    · There are no plans to ‘push aside’ the hill walking portion of our membership. The new identity will not affect our core work and I will continue to develop and run campaigns like Mend Our Mountains, which you may have missed when you were out of the country.
    · The ability to obtain discounts in alpine huts with a reciprocal rights card will not be affected

    I would also like to make some broader pints about the new name and how it relates to walking.

    Personally I believe the new name is very compatible with adventurous walking and is certainly no more off-putting than the current name. I actually think it potentially gives us a better platform to reach out to the wider world. Research undertaken by the firms who worked with us to produce this new identity showed that terms like ‘mountaineering’ and even ‘hill walking’ are often poorly understood and identified with beyond a (relatively) small community of the initiated.

    The verb ‘climb’ is versatile enough to apply to walking. This is not just some technical point of grammar; many people talk about going to ‘climb Snowdon’ when they’re actually referring to walking.

    We know from research like Sport England’s Active Outdoors Survey that there are huge numbers of people who take part in outdoor activities in British society. About 8.96 million are active outdoor participants, and of these 27% go ‘strenuous walking’ and 14% go ‘mountaineering’. Adventurous / strenuous walking has also been identified as the activity with the biggest latent demand.

    In other words, the numbers of people who aspire to get out in the hills and mountains more is literally in the millions. I welcome any opportunity to engage with this wider constituency of people and it is important to be able to use terminology and language that people feel is applicable to them.

    But even if you don’t agree with this, the change to the Climb Britain identity will not affect the work we have done over the last few years to improve our relevance to walkers. Here are some examples:

    · The Mend Our Mountains campaign. This was a huge effort where we worked with eight national parks and crowdfunded more than £104,000 for urgent path repair work on some of Britain’s most iconic mountains and upland areas, including Scafell Pike and Snowdon. We were also widely covered in the national media where we highlighted the funding pressures being faced by national parks. See this appearance on BBC Breakfast News.

    · Other campaigns we have run in recent years include Outdoor Election, Open Wales and Stand up for Stanage, all of which have had a strong hill walking dimension

    · We have constant stream of walking-related news and inspiration on the BMC website. See these recent articles on the possible ‘Disneyfication’ of national parks, the impact of Brexit and our ‘How to Scramble’ series. The amount of hill walking content on the BMC website has gone up by 150% in the last three years

    · The hill walking content in Summit has doubled during the same time

    · We have hired BMC Hill Walking Ambassadors like Mary-Ann Ochota and Chris Townsend

    · We have run events to engage with the wider outdoor public like the BMC Tipi at Keswick Mountain Festival and sponsoring clean-up efforts like Respect the Mountains in Snowdonia

    · We provide subsidised courses at Plas y Brenin in walking, scrambling and winter skills to all BMC members

    · We support our clubs with walking skills courses

    · We have made inspirational and skills videos on BMC TV like our Britain’s Mountains Challenges scrambling series with Trail Magazine, or our hill walking how-to videos with Chris Townsend

    If Climb Britain is a success and does what we hope it will do – improve our relevance to wider numbers of people and bolster our position in the world – then this work will become better-resourced and will continue to grow.

    I appreciate you may well have further questions and points but I hope this goes some way to addressing your concerns.

    All the best
    Carey Davies
    BMC Hill Walking Development Officer

    Tel: 0161 445 6111
    Direct: 07885 910 605
    Mobile: 07885910605
    Fax: 0161 445 4500
    Web: http://www.thebmc.co.uk

    [To Carey Davis 5 August 2016]
    Hi Carey,

    I appreciate your prompt reply to my e-mail to Dave Turnbull.

    First of all, I am not questioning how much the BMC has done for hill walkers over the years, after all, they do form the majority of the membership and as such they should receive a proportionate amount of attention.

    Secondly, I think you misunderstood my comment about mountain huts and refuges. I am pleased you have confirmed that reciprocal rights would be unaffected but the point I was making was that the guardians of these overseas huts have come to know the BMC for what it is – a professional and highly respected organisation representing hill walkers, climbers and everything in between. Changing to ‘Climb Britain’ will, in my view, cause unnecessary confusion and diminish the regard in which the BMC is held abroad.

    You mentioned “Research undertaken by the firms who worked with us to produce this new identity……..” What form did this research take? Have the results been made available to the membership? If not, why not?

    In your article ‘What Climb Britain means for walkers’ you state that “Climbers are not the only people who climb mountains. In fact, most of the people who climb into the high places of Britain and beyond do so using just their two feet”. Surely then if there is to be a name change to reflect the growing interest in outdoor activities, then it should be ‘Walk Britain’? Personally I do not think a change is necessary but if the British Mountaineering Council is considered ‘old fashioned’ or ‘clumsy’ by the marketing gurus then my preference would be simply ‘British Mountaineering’.

    I shall follow the debate with interest and await the National Council’s decision before deciding whether to renew my membership.

    Regards,

    Ian Tupman

    Dave,
    I have already decided NOT to renew my BMC membership next year and living in Scotland, I have joined Mountaineering Scotland (formerly MCofS). And guess what?…..they chose to consult their members before they re-branded. This is the e-mail I sent to Carey Davis on 8 August to which I have not received a reply. Sorry but I couldn’t get the .gif file with the article on here!

    Hi Carey,

    In looking for an alternative organisation to the BMC I have come across this article in Scottish Mountaineer, the quarterly journal of Mountaineering Council of Scotland. Whilst they also are proposing to change their name (and for the same reasons the BMC cites), it is refreshing to note that they are consulting their membership before doing anything.

    Regards,

    Ian

Leave a Reply