Visitors make their way to the entrance of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center on Sunday. The museum has changed its name to “Buffalo Bill Center of the West.”

After a half-century with the BBHC moniker, Cody’s leading institution has a new name – “Buffalo Bill Center of the West.”

Trustees of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, meeting last week in Salt Lake City, voted to change the name, effective immediately.

Executive Director/CEO Bruce Eldredge says the “name and brand change” – under intensive study both in-house and by a Los Angeles consulting firm for the last 10 months – is designed to “more reflect the breadth of what we are.”

Complete use of the new name will phase in during 2013, he says, and will include a new “graphics package,” logo, and signage inside and out of the sprawling, internationally known five-museum complex. The changeover is estimated to cost about $250,000, he said.

From more than 450 possible names, a 10-member trustee committee boiled down the list to a final 10. But most of those were ruled out for “insurmountable trademark and copyright reasons,” Eldredge said.

The final few choices, he said, included retaining the existing BBHC name, as well as a few variations of the selected new name – such as “Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West” and “Buffalo Bill Center of the American West.”

The board vote for “Buffalo Bill Center of the West” was “overwhelming and nearly unanimous,” he said.

“Traditionalists” on the board felt strongly about retaining the “Buffalo Bill” words, which resonate strongly with “older people and foreign travelers,” he said.

And a few dissenters preferred a more radical name change to “better attract young people.” Those suggestions included names like “The Way West” and “Venture West.”

The new title is a “more subtle shift and not a wholesale change from the existing name,” Eldredge added.

“We needed a new name.”

He said the new name already has “tested highly in extensive surveys” of both local and non-local museum visitors and non-visitors in 2012.

“Buffalo Bill” are “rich” words that produce “context” with the public, he added, and “center” denotes “importance” and “a beginning.”

But “historical” was a problematic word in the longtime BBHC name, Eldredge said, conjuring up feelings of “stodgy, dusty and undynamic.

“This (Buffalo Bill Center of the West) moves us to a new position with our audience,” he added. “It’s a great enough change to reflect the breadth of the institution.

“It’s important to reflect what we do.”

Retired senator Al Simpson, a former BBHC board chairman, said Monday the rebranding is a “great idea and I couldn’t be prouder of the decisions made by the new board leadership.

“They are working hard and they have some great ideas,” he said. “They have the resources and energy to go get it done.”

The Salt Lake meeting was the first full meeting Simpson attended since Barron Collier took over as board chair. He said he was “stunned” by the work the board is completing and said there are “many reasons why the rebranding will work better for the institution.

“I think it’s quite perfect,” he added. “I don’t have any qualms about where they’re headed. ”

Collier was unavailable for comment Monday.

C. Harris Haston of Nashville, Tenn., chaired the naming committee. He has a home east of Cody and has been a trustee several years. Initial feelings among that group, Eldredge said, ranged from “change everything to change nothing.”

The institution’s legal name will continue to be “Buffalo Bill Memorial Association” as it’s been since formation in 1917. The “dba name” Buffalo Bill Historical Center, he added, dates back to when the Whitney Gallery of Western Art was established in 1959.

The staff has been part of the naming process and Eldredge said a staff meeting will be held Monday to officially launch the name change.

Change conveys ‘breadth of complex’

One of the main concerns pushing the rebranding process at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center has been the “sometimes low expectations of visitors,” Executive Director/CEO Bruce Eldredge said in a recent Enterprise story.

He was discussing the philosophy behind the “rebranding changes” being studied during 2012 for how the museum presents itself to the public.

The museum now has made the biggest branding change of all: It’s changed its name to “Buffalo Bill Center of the West.”

“We exceed everyone’s expectations, but we don’t set good expectations coming forward,” he said in October. “That’s kind of why we’re doing all of this.”

Eldredge said the marketing/rebranding project would address the issue of, “Why are people so blown away when they come in, when we haven’t set proper expectations for them to come?”

Implemented correctly, he predicted the branding changes would help bring more people to the institution. During the fall, BBHC officials specifically declined to use the phrase “name change” in connection with the project, although the possibility of a new name has been widely discussed inside and outside of the BBHC for more than a year.

The BBHC has been working with Siegel + Gale, a global branding firm whose clients include the Air Force, Walt Disney Co. and Microsoft.

Another goal of the rebranding is to attract more visitors and help support the Cody area economy. Eldredge said it’s estimated that in just payroll and expenses, the now-known-as Buffalo Bill Center of the West generates at least $30 million annually in the Cody economy.

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