All Aboard Florida could be changing its name to Bright Line.
The high-speed rail company has trademarked the names Bright, Bright Line and Bright Rail, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records.
But All Aboard Florida is remaining mum about its plans.
A spokeswoman didn’t deny the controversial railroad would be rebranded, but wouldn’t confirm it, indicating only that it’s too soon for the company to say.
“We really haven’t made any announcements at all,” said Lynn Martenstein, vice president of corporate communications. “We haven’t announced our marketing plans. We haven’t given our timetable.”
All Aboard Florida, a $2.25 billion project, would link Miami and Orlando with 32 high-speed passenger trains a day. It would begin running from Miami to West Palm Beach late next year, with service through the Treasure Coast and on to Orlando early in 2017.
Over the past 1 ½ years, it has elicited passionate responses across Southeast Florida, with supporters heralding the train as convenient and economical and opponents — many on the Treasure Coast — condemning it as an affront to residents’ quality of life.
Rebranding would be a drastic, but possibly effective, way to reshape public perception, said Elizabeth Goldsmith, Florida State University professor of consumer behavior.
“(All Aboard) probably is doing the right thing,” Goldsmith said. “Sometimes a company can fix its reputation with good publicity or good company service, but if it’s really damaged, there’s no reason not to rebrand.”
Still, a new name and logo likely would have little effect on the strongest opponents, according to Armin Vit, founder of UnderConsideration, a design and branding company headquartered in Austin, Texas.
“(Those) that hate that company will hate it even more for trying to sweep its dirt under the rug,” he said.
All Aboard Florida filed its Bright Line, Bright Rail and Bright trademark applications Feb. 19, 2014, and three weeks later announced it had hired branding specialist Julie Edwards as its chief marketing officer. Edwards — who previously worked with Nokia and Disney Parks and Resorts — would be responsible for a marketing strategy to support the passenger rail launch, according to All Aboard Florida.
Martenstein, a former communications executive with Royal Caribbean Cruises and United Airlines, joined the company last month with 30 years of communications experience.
Creating a long-term marketing team is essential, Vit said.
“Some would love to think of a rebrand as that device in the ‘Men in Black’ movies that wipes your memory clean, but that’s rarely the case,” he said. “A new name and logo are nothing without a change in actions and behavior.”
Bringing in someone with cruise-line experience, such as Martenstein, is particularly smart, according to Allen Smith, Florida Atlantic University marketing professor.
Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean set the benchmark for customer service in the hospitality and transportation industries, Smith said.
Nevertheless, some experts said they have doubts about All Aboard Florida’s possible new identity.
“All Aboard Florida sounds fairly traditional. That might be one reason they want to go away from it,” said Jon Morris, University of Florida professor of advertising and communications. “Bright Rail? I’m not sure what the heck that means. My initial response is that’s not a great name. It’s nothing special.”
The name Bright Line does not connect consumers to an image of a valuable product or lifestyle, according to Smith. Of the two, All Aboard Florida has more personality and probably is the better choice, he said.
“It has an uplifting kind of sense to it,” Smith said. “‘All Aboard’ signals: ‘Come on, you’re welcome here.’ But Bright Line or Bright Rail? I don’t get it.”
Bright Line, Bright and Bright Rail apparently aren’t the only new names All Aboard Florida wants to acquire.
The company on Dec. 19 filed an application to trademark “Gastrohub,” to be used for supermarkets, retail stores and restaurants, according to federal records. All Aboard Florida could be planning to use the name for food-related operations in its new Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations.
That trademark is not yet approved.