Now this is a speculative post…
Can a town become a brand? Like a product to sell? Is it possible, through a simple little image and a snappy strap line to start turning around a stubborn mindset; getting folk on board; singing the same tune and believing that the implied values in the brand are true?
It’s now quite normal to talk about ‘brand Cornwall’… and yet this county was never actually ‘branded’, it just became ‘cool’ somehow. The ‘Outside’ looked at Cornwall and started to want a piece of it. The ‘Inside’ marketed the choice bits and so the reputation grew. Attach the words ‘Cornwall’ or ‘Cornish’ to anything here and everyone wants a tangible piece of it.
With BIDs, maybe St. Austell has the opportunity to create its own ‘new’ brand identity for which is can market itself as a changing and positive town. It can’t expect the lovely ‘Cornish’ label to turn it round. Cornish is ‘seaside’ and quaint little picturesque fishing villages full of second homes. Truth be known, St. Austell has been branded by others as ‘St. Awful’. More than most it desperately needs an image face-lift.
A new brand identity will need to have resonance with St. Austell’s heritage and its local environment; it must be honest, cherished and true; inspirational without being over the top; have equal meaning (even if the sentiment is interpreted differently) for local business, local population and with visitors alike.
In rebranding St. Austell the aim must be to create as many positive meanings and messages as possible. The more open the message, the more it can be used in all sorts of different contexts, and the more visible and powerful it can become. Unequivocally the brand’s message must unambiguously positive and inclusive.
It also has to be future proof.
The three Cs of branding
A brand has to be nurtured. It takes time, thought and consistent application. But it does not have to take big budgets. It is a mindset that requires both discipline and passion. It’s about caring for the big picture and the small detail. When managing your brand, keep the three Cs at the front of your mind.
A brand has been described as “everything you say and everything you do.” A credible brand will always align the way a business behaves with the way it is portrayed. This close connection will ensure that your customer’s instinctive reaction is one of trust and belief in your brand not one of doubt and uncertainty.
A strong brand is based on clearly defined values, that are important to your customers and that differentiate you from your competitors. A clear understanding of these values throughout your business will ensure that they are communicated clearly through “everything you say and everything you do.”
The value of a brand comes through recognition and recognition comes from consistent application of every visible manifestation of your brand, at every ‘touch point’ that your customers experience.
Creating a brand identity for St. Austell is essential.
The purpose of a brand is to communicate, very simply, a message. The best brand logos are instantly recognisable for what they represent. They become a point of focus, ownership, unifying pride and a reminder of shared values.
Although, St. Austell describes itself as a ‘Historic Market Town’ this has no relevant meaning today. Consequently, the lack of any active market or market day, the town has little shared sense of historic market character or a specific identity for which to feel pride. St. Austell doesn’t appear to know what sort of place it is now and in it’s future, or how best to market itself to visitors and investors.
St. Austell BIDs needs to powerfully state that St. Austell, as a centre for commerce, but also for visitors, that the town and the area is vibrant, and worth stopping by.
The biggest dilemma is how and who should be responsible for creating this new identity? In this town everyone is a stakeholder. In creating a ‘brand’ identity for a town it will have more ‘legs’ if it can also be used in advertising, tourism, events, signage, local politics, rallies, lobbies and so on. Therefore, engaging the public as well as businesses in the rebranding process is more likely to ensure its success.
Dispelling the Negative Image.
The problem is that St. Austell has suffered over the years with a bit of an identity crisis. It has been called “Snozzle” as well as “St. Awful” a lot in recent years. The retort, “St. Actually-Quite-Nice” is a bit too polite and apologetic and, although it may be inspirational, “St. Awesome”, is likely to encourage ribaldry and criticism. ‘Awesome’ is subjective and most people will agree, even if the desire is to the contrary, that St. Austell currently can’t pretend to deliver much on ‘Awe’.
There’s a move to brand St. Austell on ‘Green’ credentials. Personally, I can’t think it is likely to be effective even if the intention is worthy.
If you saw a sign claiming: The Green Capital (or Heart) of Cornwall, what do you expect to see? Green buildings? A town surrounded by green fields and trees? (Isn’t all of Cornwall like this) or if ‘green’ in the ‘eco’ sense, how interested is a visitor likely to be? They might expect to see jute shopping bags, solar panels and windmills (nothing special or original there) and although White River’s BREEAM status is good, it is not, however, visible or tangible. St. Austell can list ‘Eco’ as one of its credentials but as a message it is too specific. Added to which it may appear to alienate businesses that are unable to demonstrate a ‘green’ policy or environmentally friendly credentials.
I fiddled with my limited capability to produce this. It’s not as I’d like it to be. The font is rubbish and looks a bit dated but I just wanted to give it a go.
So here it is. An example of a ‘brand’ logo that includes a strap line to convey a message about St. Austell.
- St. Austell Bay is already a term used, so is not unfamiliar.
- ‘Heart’ has many meanings: It suggests ‘Spirit’ and ‘Affection’, it refers to the heart as a ‘blood pumping organ’ which makes it also symbolic for pumping a sense of life-blood for the region, Heart is also ‘Character’ and St. Austell’s character is something that needs a positive image. Heart is also at the “Centre’.
- ‘Bay’ is a curved inlet of sea and, land with curving hills around, from the clay region to the coast and stretching from the Gribbin to the Dodman heads. Bay is an accurate geographical description for St. Austell and bays conjure up the thought that they are special places of natural beauty.
- The white font is a nod to the china clay heritage of the past; the green is both the greening of the clay tips today and the ‘eco’ green town for the future. The font is curved to reflect the shape of the bay; heart suggests where St. Austell sits in the bay.
Branding – can it really work for St. Austell?
A brand is not just another word for a logo. It is about values and vision; it is the personality and the promise that it makes to people or customers. St. Austell’s brand values will define what the town stands for and will inform decision-making on many levels, from policy making to attract new business and investment. Branding appeals to the emotions and people will have an instant emotional reaction to a brand. The impact of that instant reaction is an opportunity to connect with customers at an instinctive level. Brands also help to build a level of trust and confidence and this is much easier with a strong brand based on these values.
Six big benefits of branding
1. It acts as an influence of choice
By pressing the emotional buttons that appeal to target customers, a strong, recognisable brand will act as a ‘short cut’ in their decision making process. Instead of dithering over alternatives or meticulously comparing options where there is no clear point of difference, it is easier to choose St. Austell – because they know what it stands for.
2. It creates loyalty and advocacy
Brands go beyond making promises tangible benefits. They go one step further to create an emotional bond.
3. It enables commanding a price premium
A strong brand encourages intangible benefits people get from associating themselves with a brand. Cornwall is now talked about in terms of a brand and this attracts a premium.
4. It provides a vital differentiator from other Cornish towns
Finding and maintaining a point of difference is not easy, particularly if the focus is solely on tangible benefits that are also found elsewhere. The fact that a brand is based on emotional, intangible benefits does mean careful management of the brand, but it also means that those facets are considered unique.
5. It provides a platform for growth
A strong brand will act as a launch pad for expanding business operations. Recognition of what a brand stands for can be transferred to new markets much more easily than starting from scratch with each new development.
6. It provides a framework to integrate all the ways St. Austell businesses can present themselves.
So, there you go. I’ve said it. Thrown my opinion once again into the ring….
- Cornwall’s first beer sommelier is crowned (thedrinksbusiness.com)
- St Austell Community Kitchen wins Big Society Award (number10.gov.uk)