We have one brand, it’s called Cork!

Cork Brand Book

When the headlines in national papers about our thriving favourite place, read “Cork City Council slammed for spending €300k on rebranding design that’s similar to three other logos – and slogan has already been used too” you just get a little bit frustrated.

This same topic has been played out in local papers and on local radio as well as these national papers and it is really unfortunate as it comes from a great, positive, progressive decision from the various players in the region to come together and market our fantastic region as one.

The stark truth is we have to pool our resources and market as one, to avoid confusion, to achieve some consistency of message and to have any chance at all of making an impact in a competitive world where we are in the mix against much bigger regions with much bigger budgets!

Our work – The Cork Brand Book

I need to be very transparent here and tell you, the reader, that we were the local partner who worked with a talented team led by Roger Hobkinson from Colliers International in the first phase of this work, which delivered a ‘Cork Brand Book‘ for the region.

This really is a confusing area, and when I heard Pat Ledwidge from Cork City Council and Derry Cronin of Cronins Coaches trying to explain on mainstream radio about the investment in a ‘Place Brand‘ you have to forgive the respective DJs for not being able to understand what they were talking about and furthermore why all of this “stuff” seems to cost a large sum of money – to them and the general public, this just doesn’t make sense.

A strong communications strategy needs to be part of this work (that’s where we come in folks!!) to ensure that the work and investment is understood by everyone, but even with this it still is a little complicated as people just don’t and won’t get it.

Cork Brand Book 2

A brand is a logo….right?

During the course or our work we explained to all of our audiences that the brand book was not and would not be a logo. 

The brand book was the presentation of the “true story” about the region in a way that we felt would resonate with target audiences – for our work this audience was people who wanted to live in Cork, work in Cork, invest in Cork or start a business in Cork.

Our process was simple but yet very complex – we analysed the different audiences in the region to understand what were the attributes, the hard and soft things that they said made it a special place to live and do business in.

We researched the large FDI companies, the small start ups, the people from overseas who decided to make Cork their home – what was it about this special place that made them choose here and how could we weave this story to others in a way that made it a compelling proposition to them?

When our research was done we gathered all of those special attributes about the region and it was our role to collate and shape these so we could package them and ‘tell the story‘ in a way that would resonate.

When we had this ‘story‘ about the region drafted we tested it extensively with our audiences both in Ireland and internationally to see how it resonated.

Is the story we are telling about Cork compelling to you?

Would you invest or want to work and live in a place like this?

The result of this work was ‘The Cork Brand Book‘ which is still available to download and this outlines what we believe is special about the region and it is shaped in a way that is designed to resonate with our target audiences.

The simple idea once this work was done, was that all stakeholders when they are talking about Cork or describing it in their own marketing materials (website/brochures), would use this language – if all stakeholders talk about Cork in the same way then we will achieve synergy and a consistent message with audiences.

The process above took months with a team of us conducting research, facilitating workshops, meeting stakeholders, executing surveys, compiling findings and then writing, designing and testing along with many meetings with the client.

The process takes time to do it properly and this does cost money and we didn’t even get to design a logo!!

As a passionate Corkonian I was privileged to work on this project and for months there was an extra skip in my step in the realisation that we lived in a very special place and this was played back to us clearly by the many people, not from Cork but who chose to live and work here because they loved it.

Shaky Bridge

Next Steps

The controversy in the papers and on the radio about “expensive logos” and confusing brands was about Phase 2 of the Brand work.

Unfortunately our team (pretty much the team that did Phase 1 with one or two others) narrowly lost out on the tender for this phase and I must admit I was disappointed at a business level but I was gutted as a Corkonian.

I’m passionate about this beautiful, diverse region and I was really sad to see the contract going to others.

The tender assessment committee had a tough job and had to apply their criteria and at that time they decided that someone else was more qualified or skilled to take on this contract than our group.

Effectively the job in this phase for the winning team was to:

  1. Bring the Place Brand Book to life in a website and marketing materials
  2. Gather and maintain relevant metrics for the region
  3. Devise a detailed marketing plan to promote the region
  4. Execute this marketing plan
  5. Manage the brand with stakeholders
  6. Liaise with relevant stakeholders

We haven’t been involved in any of the process (I did offer!!) since our phase was completed so I can’t really comment on the work that has been completed but I can comment on point 1 above, which was the bringing of the brand to life – this is the website and the ‘We Are Cork‘ campaign.

The website features some great photography (this should bring the authentic stories to life for the reader) and compelling copy, which should tell the story of the region in a convincing way – the Cork Brand Book that we produced should be a good reference point for the content.

I think the website does a good job at delivering the messages of the region.

The ‘We are Cork’ name and logo (Collectively, The Brand Identity) were also devices developed as part of the work, which seems to be the part that has attracted all of the controversy with the media and the public.

These should convey a modern, vibrant, welcoming place with a warm, original heart – ‘Quality of Life‘ was without doubt the number one attribute that people loved about the region and this is something that the brand identity should try to convey.

Design is a very subjective area so I am not going to comment about the work here and I will also pass on the name for the same reason – I’m sure the team did their research and were satisfied that of the options they developed these were right for the purpose they were intended.

However, I don’t believe that the Place Brand ‘We Are Cork’ is for general consumption (a consumer brand) so I feel that part of the confusion was caused by seeing this appearing on signage around the city – this should be reserved for the consumer facing, Visitor brand, which in this case is ‘Pure Cork‘.

Unfortunately when you are explaining you are losing, and while it is easy to understand the reason for the different brands it does confuse these audiences when they see both brands and not the one that was intended for them.

€300K for a logo!!

Of course a logo didn’t cost €300,000, but unfortunately when you can only show people a website and a logo as the tangible results of the work then the City and Country Councils are an easy target and it is difficult for them to start talking about the value of developing a ‘Place Brand‘ in a way that the regular reader or listener will understand as I have already mentioned.

Take me to the Church

Beyond the Logo..

The most important thing now is that the work continues and that the other aspects of this phase of the tender come to life with tangible initiatives that promote the region to the target audiences.

As someone involved in the tendering process for this promotional phase it was clear that the budgets were very challenging and the region would have to excel with online promotion (it’s feasible on a tight budget) and it would have to be very laser focused as to the activities that it could realistically engage with.

More phases will have to come and these will require significant budgets if the region stands any chance of making an impact with audiences overseas.

I sincerely hope that all of the stakeholders stay brave, stick with the course and continue to invest in the promotion of the region.

This will involve working together, pooling the limited resources, harnessing the passion and energy, choosing some clever, laser focused initiatives to invest in and then letting it all happen!

Cork is a very special place with a very special story and it is a great place to work, live and visit.

Do we have too many conflicting and confusing brands?

We have one brand, it is called Cork and I love it.

Cork….#BigOnLife

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Social Media Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

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