DES: England's Oxford: City of Dreaming Spires, symbol of its world-famous university colleges, has just launched its newest destination - Oxford Castle.
TINA: A private-public, mixed-use project, Oxford Castle has been sympathetically re-developed into a modern city cluster comprising luxury apartments, boutique hotel and conference facility, as well as a range of eating and drinking establishments.
DES: With so much to offer, this exciting new destination is in danger of falling into the 'we-have-something-for-everyone' trap.
TINA: Consider its interesting positioning statement - Oxford's Oldest New Quarter 1071-2006 - which hints at that dilemma.
DES: Destinations in the modern era need to understand that what they sell and what they should focus on, need not necessarily be the exact same thing.
TINA: A fact that was confirmed at a recent visitor focus group which unearthed this interesting insight: "I want to go somewhere 'specific' and not just to a 'general area'." Translation: Destinations need to focus on, and become famous for, a single big brand idea.
DES: Luckily for Oxford Castle, the clue for a big brand idea can be found among the city's culinary establishments, which are scattered throughout the city centre. Even George Street - home to many pubs, bars and restaurants - has failed to exploit its position as a culinary cluster.
TINA: An opportunity for Oxford Castle to brand itself as the city's Culinary Quarter complete with accommodation for both short-stay as well as long-stay residents. A culinary strategy that Trastevere has managed to pull off in Rome: The Eternal City.
DES: Presumably a programme of culinary-inspired cultural events would be a top priority for Oxford Castle?
TINA: The main event being a daily organic food market where the early-bird customers would be the Quarter's chefs, while for the rest of the morning the primary punters would be the city centre workers and visitors.
DES: But I guess the key branding issue for Oxford Castle would be to align itself with the major cultural tension that pervades the city.
TINA: The so-called Town v Gown conflict which started way back during the Civil War when the colleges sided with Charles I who turned Oxford into a Royalist stronghold while the City fathers backed the Parliamentarians.
DES: Today however, the strength of feeling between the two sides - the academics and the local citi-zens - has been toned down somewhat and replaced with a non-communicative co-existence.
TINA: Thanks in part to the undergraduate students who are increasingly living outside the college campuses, many of whom have also taken casual jobs in the city's businesses. And ofcourse there's the low-key annual town v gown sporting contest.
DES: But if there was one, single idea to help Oxford Castle penetrate deep into the intellectual minds and cultural hearts as well as the social souls of the city and its surrounding county, what might that be?
TINA: Well, the city's greatest visible export is the Oxford English Dictionary (See footnote). So an online joint university and city collaboration on a New Oxford Castle Culinary Compendium would be the perfect cultural product - complete with culinary-inspired poems, stories, celebrities, and ofcourse the obligatory cook-book recipes.
'Brand' the Marketect says:
"First attract with a single branded proposition, then distract with multiple products and experiences."
The first Oxford English Dictionary's greatest contributor was a Dr WC Minor, an inmate of Broadmoor - a hospital for the mentally insane - and the asylum's longest serving resident. It just so happens that until the mid-1990's, Oxford Castle doubled as a prison in Her Majesty's Service.
Oxford is also associated with being the birthplace of Mensa and the Morris Oxford & Mini motor cars.