DES: 'Where the heck are we?' is the challenge thrown down to the readers of Business First: the brand new magazine for the South East Counties of England, fused with a campaigning editorial style.
TINA: Arguably, the country's most prosperous region outside Central London, this oddball group of counties technically excludes London, and yet, they are inextricably linked to the Capital - both economically and culturally.
DES: Witness the county of Surrey, nicknamed Stockbroker Belt, from where trainloads of its residents commute daily to the City of London's financial quarter - The Square Mile.
TINA: Or the three Shire counties - Berks, Bucks & Oxon - comprising the Thames Valley, choc-a-bloc with European HQ's of the world's major high-tech companies - all dependent on easy access to London's largest international airport - Heathrow.
DES: And what would the world-renowned Summer
Season festivals of Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta, Glorious Goodwood, Goodwood Festival
of Speed, Cowdray Park Polo, Hickstead Showjumping and Glyndebourne
Opera do without the seasonal migration of the glitterati from the
TINA: Recall the dramatic fall in visitor numbers when Royal Ascot temporarily relocated to York during its recent major refurb.
DES: But despite its inter-dependence with London, the South East English Counties do need a new brand identity - starting with the use of the word 'counties'.
TINA: I agree. As soon as the 'counties' word is inserted, London automatically gets excluded, especially as most people have forgotten that the Capital was once administered as a 'county' by the now-defunct London County Council.
DES: The next big issue is the name itself: 'South East Counties of England' which sounds like a long sub-title - seven syllables too long - and in desperate need of a shorter nick-name - a cultural name rather than a compass name - if it is to start the process of closing the prosperity gap on some of the mega-rich German and French regions - all blessed with powerful brand names - full of cultural meaning.
TINA: And outside Europe, witness the transformation that the 'New England' cultural name has had on the relatively small but highly influential and wealthy north-eastern states of America. New England vs North East America? - no contest!
DES: The challenge 'WHERE the heck are we?' laid down by Business First magazine now needs to be followed up by - 'WHAT & WHO the heck are we?'
TINA: In Part 2 we'll discuss and debate the region's brand identity - its outward self-expression as well as its inward self-identity - both based on a single, big brand idea with a future-focus that transcends the entire South East Counties of England.
'Brand' the Marketect says:
"Most artificial political constructs, over time, develop their own unique brand identities. Witness 'Britain' and 'Scandinavia' to name just two European examples".
'Brand' the Marketect asks:
"Could you name any other artificial constructs that have developed or are developing into powerful destination brands?"