It’s good to talk

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about my home town of Warrington and discussed why it should have a brand. The debate is still ongoing but in the meantime it has made me more aware of what other towns do to give themselves an identity.

Yesterday I drove through Knowsley. It’s not a place I visit very often and as a result I really don’t know much about it. Upon entering the town I was greeted with a sign saying “The Future is Knowsley” – a pretty bold claim. On returning home I Googled Knowsley and what I saw wasn’t at all what Iwas expecting. Without going into too much detail the articles I read weren’t entirely aligned to the ‘Future’ message and instead of being positive and aspirational were bleak and unambitious. The Future certainly wasn’t in Knowlsey.

So where did this strapline come from? And why has the town not really lived up to this statement?

Creating a brand for a place is a great thing to do and will create not only a positive image but also create public support. But it has to be done in the right way.

I’m currently working on a project that is all about creating a brand for a place. I’ll be able to tell you who this in my next blog, but the overall principle is about identifying a brand that connects with people that live and work in this area. The process we are following revolves deeply around understanding peoples thoughts, views and feelings. This will give us the direction we need to develop our brand and message.

But whether you are branding a place, a product or a service you need to speak to people. Research is often overlooked yet it provides the most valuable information in how you can develop, not just your brand, but your business too. Now when I say research I’m not talking about just surveys (for example an online questionnaire where people fill in boxes or score things on a scale of 1 to 10) – there is a time and place for Quantitative Research but to help discover your brand and business plan, it just isn’t enough. You need to speak to people. I genuinely believe that organisations feel research can be expensive when the truth is it can be entirely scalable.

So, where do you start? Here are some tips that will get your research on the right track to delivering the right outcome.

1. The first place is to define what you want to achieve. Don’t go in with an open brief as this will only result in an endless stream of information that doesn’t actually conclude anything. Define what you want to know and why you want to know it.

2. The next thing to consider is whether you can or even want to conduct research yourselves. I can wholeheartedly say that unless you have an experienced researcher in house you should consider appointing a professional to conduct this for you. Using an external supplier will ensure the results are completely unbiased and uninfluenced which is absolutely critical.

3. Consult not just with your external audience but speak to your colleagues. Consultation will give you a greater success of buy in for the new brand. If you can show the brand and message was built on the views of your audience then this will make it much more credible. Plus people loved to be asked! If they can see you are taking their thoughts and views into consideration this will send an incredibly positive message.

4. Focus on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I get involved in many research projects where the first thing people always want to discuss is the Bad and the Ugly. The Good bits always seem to be less topical! But while you can learn from the Bad things you must push hard to explore the Good.

5. Prepare to accept some harsh truths. Research often reveals the things we don’t really want to hear and it can be quite brutal. But it’s important you hear this and embrace it. Do not defend and justify negative comments. People say them because that what they feel and this is exactly why you are doing this.

6. Listen! This is the most obvious thing to say but you will be surprised the number of times I have conducted research only for the client to ignore the results and do what they want anyway! Needless to say it fails and they are no further forward (and in some cases backwards) from where they started. Be honest with yourself. Whatever brand and message you create must be believable. It’s great to have aspirations and ambition to change things but you brand must be based on reality.

Research is part of what we do here at Fogg Associates. It forms our thinking and our creative outcome so we always advocate this as part of our approach. If you’d like to find out more then please drop me a line or give me a call. It’s good to talk.

Kerry Howl 
01925 226 139