DES: What's your take on the English county of Somerset's first major effort at branding itself as the Jewel of the South West.
TINA: This fascinating county's courageous attempt at bringing its seven districts under one banner, has sadly lost its sparkle in the destination branding minefield.
DES: I agree. With so many destinations proclaiming themselves as the 'jewel' of their respective country, region or city, this overused gem of a branding idea is neither unique nor memorable. Witness Stony Stratford: Jewel of Milton Keynes, Frinton-on-Sea: Jewel of the Essex Coast, and Benidorm: Jewel of the Costa Blanca, to name just three.
TINA: And if that wasn't bad enough, Somerset's chosen brand category - South West England - suffers not only from a lacklustre compass name, but the region's current branded campaign is in desperate need of a sharper focus.
DES: OK Tina, let's see if we can come up with a powerful, future-focused big brand idea for Somerset.
TINA: The clue can be found in the literal meaning of the word 'Somerset' - Land of the Summer People.
DES: Somerset hosts the world-famous, summer solstice music festival - Glastonbury - which has developed into an annual rite of passage for the youth of the British nation - at home and abroad.
TINA: Complete with daily helpings of a Cheddar Ploughman's, washed down with a flagon or two of local Scrumpy apple cider (Please see Footnote).
DES: And before you can utter the immortal word 'Campervan', the over-50's - now with slightly fatter wallets - and waistlines to match - are back in Glaston to relive their first 'summer of love'.
TINA: But this time round experiencing a glorious mud-free, silver-service, posh picnic pilgrimage aka 'Glamping'
DES: The early 1970's was the start of a very good thing for Somerset. In fact Tina, were you not born in March '72?
TINA: Yes Des. And yes my parents met at the second Glastonbury. And yes it's conceivable that they fell under the hypnotic spell of David Bowie. But let's get back to .. shall we?
DES: By setting out a brand strategy to own the 'English Summer' category, Somerset would be well-positioned to launch media-facing projects such as a campaign for longer daylight hours: BST - British Somerset Time; a 'seasonal summer fruits' healthy eating campaign, and the obligatory 'campaign for safer sun,' thanks to warmer English climes.
TINA: Wintertime won't be long enough for the 'Somer-Set' to recover from, and then prepare for, the following year's growth in visitors, exporters and inward investors - all attracted to The Long Summer.
'Brand' the Marketect says:
"When faced with a conference room full of your brand's key stakeholders, chances are that your narrowly-focused big brand idea could easily transform itself into a mushy, middle-of-the-road destination to nowhere. Well, it's that time again, fellow place pioneer, to remind your audience of the 'Hierarchy of Destination Brands' - from country to region to county to city to resort to town to street - with each level in the hierarchy, narrowly focused on their own single big brand idea - but collectively, delivering a portfolio of brands with the capability of meeting the self-interests of most of your key stakeholders."
Cider drinking has undergone a major revival in recent months - to the point where it is now regarded as one of the UK & Ireland's trendiest tipples. In days of yore, Somerset was one of the few English counties associated with this brand-building bevvy, but sadly, the civic leadership of the time failed to act, leaving the barn door wide open for the county of Herefordshire, with more than 60 million gallons now produced every year, to lay a very strong claim to being the 'Cider Capital of Britain'.
Herefordshire can boast the biggest cider mill in the world, more than 350 years of cider production heritage, over half of all cider produced in the UK, two cider cycling routes, ancient traditions and modern festivals, a Cider Museum and even a cathedral which counts a Cider Bible amongst the books in its chained library,
Is it too late for Somerset to respond? Yes and No. At county level, it's probably too late,- and there's possibly a bigger brand idea to develop anyway, but lower down the hierarchy of destination brands - at town level - they could roll out the Taunton and Shepton Mallet brand names to name just two, to capture the real farmhouse cider position - Scrumpy and Perry - using traditional methods, while re-positioning Herefordshire as home to the ultra-modern, artificial ingredients, mass-produced stuff.