|Brand:rebrand - the rebranding of Peterborough|
|Wednesday, 17 February 2010 15:51|
A city treading water, with little consensus on how it was perceived and where it was headed: That was the Peterborough faced by Glazer Consulting when it took on the rebrand brief. So how was the city’s new identity arrived at? Frank Sutton reports
The branding industry is used to communicating the values of companies or products. But how do they go about branding something far more complex and multifaceted – a city? This was the challenge facing branding agency Glazer Consulting when it got a call from Peterborough.
In broad terms there was agreement on what the new brand needed to achieve. There was a sense that Peterborough was a city that had been treading water in recent years, but also that the green shoots of progress that were emerging were not known about by the local people and businesses.
Beyond this however, there was less consensus, and that was because, as with any city, there were more stakeholders than you could shake a stick at. Most closely involved in the project were organisations – the city council, the Greater Peterborough Partnership and urban regeneration company Opportunity Peterborough – with a role in promoting the city. Yet there were also a complex patchwork of other bodies from the emergency services, to local charities, to big local businesses. Over the years each of these groups had been describing Peterborough in subtly different ways.
And so it was that Opportunity Peterborough, the urban regeneration company established in April 2005 to manage the billion pound transformation of Peterborough, approached Glazer Consulting. Ian Glazer, the firm’s CEO, identified the problem immediately: “The different stakeholders were speaking in many different tongues.”
Perhaps even more problematically, some of their claims were simply not a realistic reflection of where Peterborough was at the time. For example, independent charity Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) was promoting the city as the UK’s environmental capital. “This is a realistic goal for the future but was certainly not accurate at the time,” acknowledges Glazer.
So task number one was to get to grips with what all the different views, visions and misconceptions were. After an exhaustive audit of the many incarnations of the Peterborough brand, both in words and images, Glazer and his team went up to Peterborough to pick the brains of internal and external stakeholders, including local religious groups, community groups and the man on the street.
“There was a sense of optimism from many internal stakeholders,” says Glazer. “Externally however, there was a general air of negativity. There was a cynicism about what we were hoping to achieve and this was based on promises to the people that had not been kept.” Specifically, Glazer traces this back to the 1970s: a period when the area saw a lot of development work. New houses, office blocks, a shopping centre in the middle of town, new ring roads. This was all in expectation of Peterborough becoming an overflow for some of the country’s principal cities – London is only 40 minutes away by train, Leeds a similar distance. But the economic problems at the end of the 1970s put paid to this ambition. In Glazer’s words, “The people’s hopes were not fulfilled.”
Yet not only did the locals have a negative opinion of their home town, they were also convinced that the rest of the country did too. A belief that Glazer and his team heard regularly on the streets of Peterborough was that whenever the national media spoke about a problem such as crime, teenage pregnancy or immigration, they used Peterborough as their default case study.
“If everyone talks your home town down all the time, you get pretty glum about where you live,” says Glazer. But it was this part of the project that helped him to understand that the new brand identity needed to focus on the people. “None of the competing takes on the city’s brand had really been focusing on the people of Peterborough. It struck us that before the city could raise its head up it needed to take into account its inhabitants.”
Tim Martin heads up communications for Opportunity Peterborough. He summarises the vision for Peterborough that Glazer and his team had helped them to crystallise. “We needed a positive and clear identity to attract inward investment. We wanted to put the city on the map as a business hub. We wanted to use the brand to portray Peterborough as a welcoming, affordable city.” Yet one element took precedence over all others. One element needed to be at the heart of the new identity in order to make the ambitions Martin describes realistic: “We wanted to communicate that Peterborough is a place where people can live a better life and fulfil their potential.”
“It has been successful in helping us to attract investment that otherwise wouldn’t have come. It has helped improve retention rates for local businesses. In fact, it is now part of the essence of what Peterborough is about.”
And it was exactly this hopeful, vibrant, peoplecentric vision that Glazer consulting went about embodying in the new brand identity. The logo they created is a ‘p’ with a series of coloured lines shooting out from it. Glazer describes the desired effect: “The logo has the quality of an exploding firework and the stakeholders liked that sense of energy and the festive feel. It is intended to engender a feeling of celebration and of Peterborough as a destination for the future.”
A lower case p was chosen because it has a more friendly feel than an upper case letter. Meanwhile, the font was created by Glazer Consulting for this project. “Its rounded edges suggest friendliness, while the fact it’s bespoke reinforces the idea that there is something unique about Peterborough,” explains Glazer.
The focus on people and the notion of a city going places is echoed in the strap line ‘The future is you’. It suggests a future with local people at its centre, but also that local people are the ones who should take on the challenge of shaping that future. Equally, the ‘you’ is intended to refer to businesses (not to mention charities, cultural, community and environmental groups) as much as it is to individuals.
A series of posters created by Glazer Consulting further brought this brand vision to life. Focused on health, education, culture and commerce the posters used a bright line to add a positive, optimistic image to a photo. In one example, the poster relates to education and the line creates a mortar board on the young man’s head. Meanwhile, the fact that the blue line emerges from out of the logo suggests a journey – Peterborough’s journey to a brighter future.
Glazer Consulting also helped to create a ‘Bondholders scheme’. This is a programme designed to encourage local people and businesses to buy into the new brand identity. Local people can pledge their time and in so doing become local ‘Ambassadors’. Meanwhile, by offering up their time and expertise businesses can become ‘City Champions’, and by offering financial support to promote Peterborough they become ‘City Sponsors’. It’s a position that also allows them to use the new brand identity in their own marketing activities.
The new identity was launched to local business people in the spring of 2008. The recession has hampered the pace at which it has been adopted around the city, yet Glazer and Martin believe a strong emotional connection is already developing between locals and the new brand. Meanwhile, it is being seen in an increasing range of places.
“The new identity has been seen in shopping centres, on the side of taxis, in the main square, on websites and in tourist literature and in various council publications, while we recently ran a campaign that saw the branding prominently displayed at several UK airports,” says Tim Martin. “It has been successful in helping us to attract investment that otherwise wouldn’t have come. It has helped improve retention rates for local businesses. In fact, it is now part of the essence of what Peterborough is about.”
Ian Glazer signs off with a thought about the future. “The only true measure of a brand identity’s success is if it changes attitude. Does it make people feel more positive about their city? Does it attract businesses to the area? Is the brand embraced so widely that it eventually appears everywhere?” The answers to these questions will lie in the hands of Peterborough’s people. After all, as the city’s strap line says, the future is them.
Cheryl Giovannoni, Landor Associates
“The rebrand cannot be judged a success by the identity alone. What I think of it is irrelevant if it hasn’t acted as a beacon of change. What did impress me was the programme to engage the community in becoming brand ambassadors and businesses signing up to be City Champions and City Sponsors. If the people can be inspired to take responsibility for their future, the identity will have heralded a new era for the city.”
Peter Matthews, Nucleus
“It’s easy to take the pee, but if this provides citizens with a positive sense of identity and the council with a hook to attract inward investment then it will have worked. My problem isn’t that they’ve, literally, taken the ‘p’ and placed it above Peterborough, but that the proposition ‘The future is you’ is trite. Who are they talking to? Citizens, visitors, businesses? Does it help me to know that Peterborough’s future relies on me? What a responsibility! What I want to know is what Peterborough can do for me?”
Bill Darling, Saffron Consultants
“I love the thought of a city focusing on its people. People are often the missing link in what agencies create to represent a company, or a city. I applaud the intent. However, I think the idea gets lost in execution. The combination of the bespoke typography (which has a lot of character on its own) and the ‘burst’ and the p in the middle is too many messages at once.”
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