The Lancashire brand

When times are tough economically, one of the first things all businesses look at is their marketing budget. More precisely most look at how they can cut their marketing budget. The smart firms look at how they can get a better bang for their buck, maybe even spend a little more and by the time the economic climate improves, they are usually the companies that have survived and thrived through the recession.

Maintaining or building a profile when your competitors have taken their eye off the ball secures you a key advantage in business, and the art of good marketing was one of the key ingredients to the success of the Virgin brand – according to Sir Richard Branson at least, who I heard extolling the benefits of good advertising at a conference recently.

So, from being a rather tired brand, seen as more yesterday than tomorrow by most people, a series of new television ads have recently put the Co-operative supermarket chain back in the game. During the eighties, Levi’s reinvigorated its brand and subsequently its market share with its campaign theme based around classic tunes like Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard it through the Grapevine’ and decent looking male models stripping off in a launderette. And who cannot admire the sheer consistency of Starbucks for their continued drive towards global domination of the world of coffee with its constant investment in customer care, and its determination to make us all love the brand.

On the opposite side of the fence you have mega high street names, including Woolworths, Ethel Austen and most recently Mothercare who have either disappeared altogether, or who are downsizing at a rapid rate of knots. Failure to take care of your brand, modernise your offer and invest in decent marketing can, literally, kill a business.

The same can be said of cities or places. In Downtown’s series of ‘Big Conversation’ events, which will continue throughout the year, a number of people have voiced their concern about Lancashire’s failure to project a positive, modern image. There appears to be no clear marketing message, certainly no clear theme, and an absence of anything tangible.

This is one of the things that I am told the Lancashire LEP is seriously looking at. They need to get a move on.

Like smart businesses, smart cities invest in their brand. Marketing Manchester has a long term track record of delivering successful campaigns for the regional, national and international markets, and has wowed marketers with its simple but effective ‘I Love Manchester’ campaign, launched following the riots in the city.

Liverpool Vision will launch its own Marketing Liverpool offer later this year, and has already reaped huge rewards from taking the calculated risk of investing in the Shanghai Expo, the Liverpool Embassy in London and most recently and spectacularly the Sea Odyssey ‘giants’ street theatre, which cost the city £1.5million – but generated over £12 million.

In Leeds, too, they have taken up the challenge, with Marketing Leeds appointing Lurene Joseph as its new chief executive. Lurene comes to Leeds from the Greater London Authority where she worked directly with Mayor Boris. She will know a thing or two about spin I guess.

Here in Lancashire we cannot afford to be left behind. We need to invest in our brand, renew and modernise that brand urgently, and begin to recognise the value of good marketing. In simple terms: We need to decide if we want to be a Woolies or a Starbucks! 

Frank McKenna
Downtown Lancashire in Business