Great British Brands: Rover, Dr Who, Octopus Energy

From old cars and nerdy sci-fi to renewable energy

This ‘great brands‘ series is a new one we’re starting at the magazine for 2024. One where we ask contributors in our network to name three brands from a given country – past, present and future – and tell us what, in their view, made (or makes) them great. Great British Brands, Great Irish Brands, Great Turkish Brands… and so on.

To kick things off, here are mine.

Mike Piggott, Editor


Past — Rover

Hands up, who remembers Rover? I dimly recall that my dad had one when I was a kid. I remember him saying it was reliable, and fairly well put together (he’s worked in the automotive industry his entire career, so he’d know). The company originally began life as a bicycle maker in 1878 before making cars in 1904. Rover then became the flagship brand of the Rover Group in 1988, one which included more notable brands in its line-up, like Land Rover and Mini. Under ownership of the BMW Group in the ’90s Rover saw a bit of a resurgence in popularity, which then dipped. BMW then sold the Rover rights to Ford in 2006.

It seems like, from the 2000s onwards, Rover never quite found its place in the modern world, and thus has all but diminished in the face of more innovative automotive brands. Before we move on, here’s a UK advert (in German, for some reason) from 1988 for the Rover 800. Sweet nostalgia.

Present — Dr Who

Despite seeming like the obvious nerdy type I didn’t particularly watch Dr Who growing up. I maybe caught the odd episode, but it slightly passed me by. That said, I recognise its global appeal. As does BBC Worldwide – this is their biggest-selling show, internationally. And with this latest incarnation of the character Dr Who has evolved, yet again, with the first actor of colour (Ncuti Gatwa) playing the role.

Future — Octopus Energy

Now you might say they’ve been around a while, how can they be your future choice? Yes, they were founded in 2015, but there’s an argument to be made that in the last few years they’ve cemented their place as the most promising brand the UK has to offer, in terms of energy providers. Indeed, in 2022 Wired ran a piece saying Octopus Energy was ‘the answer to a broken, inefficient market’.

Under the leadership of CEO Greg Jackson the brand continues to drag us all into the future. His mission ‘to make the world’s power 100% renewable, as quickly as possible’ is commendable. Based on his achievements to date I wouldn’t rule him out.

Featured image: Ncuti Gatwa as Dr Who / BBC