Lantern's Director, Ryan Tym, speaks to Transform magazine about challenging perceptions in place branding
Establishing a place brand can help counter the negative perceptions people may have of cities, regions and countries. Following a flurry of successful projects in the sector, Lantern recently spoke to Amy Sandys about our insights and experience on the subject, as part of a wider discussion on the impact a brand can have on tourism, economics, local pride and reputation. Read an abridged version of the article below.
Written by Amy Sandys
Read the full feature in Transform magazine
Places are precarious things. Generated over decades, centuries, millennia and more, the life of a place is contingent on the processes and people to which it is subject, its physical and social makeup impacted by the countless feet that walk its roads. And, despite their seeming longevity, places are perhaps less durable than their citizens or visitors realise. Political, economic, environmental, even social, shifts can affect all aspects of a place on any scale.
For the organisations involved in place branding, this requires the development of strategies to both adapt to, and mitigate the effect of, any negative shifts affecting place perception while turning unique place offerings into a branded entity.
At a hyperlocal level, the community becomes part of the place brand itself. At this scale, it’s the difference between instilling a sense of belonging for residents who may feel neglected, and allowing a maelstrom of discontent to brew until there is nothing but total despondency. The Newington estate, situated in the suburb of Ramsgate, in the parliamentary district of Thanet, UK, had struggled to shake off ill-informed and negative perceptions until it was recognised by the UK-wide Big Local funding movement as an area with potential. Big Local, which invests money into community-led regeneration projects, began a place-based initiative in Newington to empower residents to lead change. Newington estate, along with London-based brand agency Lantern, began the process of creating a unique identity to override any sense of deprivation.
And, says Ryan Tym, director at Lantern, the estate required a consolidated place brand strategy, identity and accompanying suite of marketing materials to cut through the discontent which had formed after being neglected by its surrounding institutions. Newington has an integrated community but, “A major part of the project was giving residents a sense of pride in where they were as an area, and positioning the neighbourhood as somewhere that’s defied expectations in the last couple of years,” says Tym. “We played on the idea that estates are seen as a challenging or negative place to be, but actually the residents defied that perception. And the visual language we created challenges historic notions of the estate.”
To that end, with Big Local and residential backing, Lantern created a bright and vibrant identity to reflect the personalities of the estate. A key aspect was integrating the idea of resilience, into the marketing materials and ensuring Newington residents felt their own identities were sufficiently reflected in the resulting place brand. “We looked at how best to turn the story round, how best to change the narrative from an area that’s synonymous with deprivation and a group of individuals who felt isolated by the council and previous funding opportunities,” says Tym. “It was about telling stories of what had already been done, and showing this sense of resilience of the past 50 years. Newington residents really wanted that to come through in the branding, so that’s why the language is all about the ‘United Estate of Newington,’ it’s about the estate and the neighbours. It’s about saying we are an estate, but we’re proud of that.”
And, thanks to Newington’s community-oriented spirit, a successful place brand took effect in an area perhaps previously considered to be reaping the worst effects of socioeconomic downturn. Big Local area representative for the south east of England, Carl Adams, says, “Newington Big Local wanted people to consider their community through a different lens; they were tired of being written off as an area that is down and wanted to let the world know they’re very much on the up. The people in Newington have spirit in abundance and the new brand reflects the people – bold, resilient and energised.”