I’m sure we have read about a store or mall opening where celebrities graced the red carpets, photographers snapped away and nobody was seen without a champagne flute in hand. But how many attendees actually remember what the place stood for or did it have a bigger purpose to begin with? Often, the hype dies down almost too quickly and the cycle repeats for the next opening ceremony down the street.
What else, we ask, can be done to keep people wanting more of a place? Just like your merchandise and services, places need brands too! Below is a case study on place branding for the London Bridge area which we may take a few pointers from.
The London Bridge area, as we all know, is one of the most historic settlements in the UK. Besides the London Bridge itself, the area is also known for other attractions like the Tate Modern, Tower Bridge (which people often mistake for the London Bridge), River Thames and more. In addition, it is also home to many global and local commercial companies that contribute significantly to the human traffic around the area. However, even though London Bridge is world-famous, it was lacking the most important asset of any brand. An identity. Without a sustainable identity and proposition, the London Bridge area was beginning to feel the competition from rival areas that were putting in much efforts to offer a better brand experience to its target audience. Hence, a steering committee and experts on place branding were brought in to solve this pressing issue.
- The area had a lot to offer to a wide range of target audience. While this may seem good, it is also a challenge to come up with an all-encompassing strategy while retaining the essence of the individual offerings.
- There was a demand for more quality space rather than more space.
- There was a divide in perceptions as to whether the place served commercial or cultural purposes.
The proposition “A globally significant, historic and vibrant place of modern commerce, enterprise and creativity” was crafted to celebrate the area’s unique mix of offerings. Instead of choosing either commercial or cultural as a main identity, the committee decided to go with one that embraces both aspects as a point of differentiation. The idea was to brand the place as one that you would have no qualms about living, learning, working, playing, relaxing and having fun at. This instantly elevated the London Bridge area from “a commercial area” or “a tourist attraction” to a place where people enrich their lives and minds. With the new identity, the place will also be able direct its communication efforts and unify its messaging to the masses to yield the true value of brand building.
A brand campaign named “London Bridge Revealed” was carried out in order to produce tangible results from the proposed proposition. It signified the revealing of the modern identity and major change that the London Bridge area was going through to be more distinguishable as a place brand. A logo was also crafted to achieve consistency in the following long and short term projects that supported the campaign. The inspiration behind the logo is the overlapping of the area’s historic areas with the main blocks representing the bridges and viaducts connecting the area.
Short and Long Term Projects
With a good understanding that any good brand will eventually suffer if there is nobody actively managing it, the Business Improvement District Team’s Place Marketing Manager was appointed to take charge of driving London Bridge Revealed, with support from Team London Bridge Board and London Bridge Marketing Group.
In the short term, various marketing platforms were identified to support the campaign with the first 6-12 months of the brand’s lifespan. They brought London Bridge Revealed to life and endorsed the brand with tangible returns that its audience could enjoy. The brand proposition was constantly kept in mind when selecting these projects and the management team was responsible for assessing whether these projects were able to carry across the intended messages of the brand. Some examples included a destination website, tourist information, local arts festivals and dual branding on stakeholder newsletter.
Projects proposed for the long run included permanent signage, banners, ambassadors, shared space initiatives and future business plans. These projects require more time to carry out as the brand management team needs to spend substantial efforts in establishing the credentials of the brand. More importantly, extra care needs to be taken when selecting these project partners and stakeholders as they need to be convinced by the brand’s philosophy, since they also play a part in the brand building. Every detail down to the tenant mix and business partners’ background may potentially move the brand away from the intended identity if not carefully selected.
It is important that the brand management team is aware of its brand building activities, communication efforts and the yield that they bring for the brand in the short and long term, tangible and intangible. Without this understanding, it will not be easy to assess whether the target audience is receiving the right messages or if the brand is developing ideally. For London Bridge, a bi-annual panel survey and ad-hoc research studies are conducted in order to keep the brand in check and decide activities for the following year. Of course, this cannot be done without first determining the identity of the place and key messages that should be communicated.
We can see that plain giving a name and celebrating the birth of a new place is not branding. The true litmus test for a good brand lies in the management that comes after the big unveil. With a dedicated team that puts the interest of the brand before themselves, it ensure that the brand philosophy is upheld and calculated steps are taken to aid its success.