DES: In Part 1 we discussed 'Where the heck are we?' - a challenge thrown down to the readers of Business First: the brand new magazine for the South East Counties of England.
TINA: Here in Part 2 we're continuing our conversation but this time focused on the tricky task of finding the region's self-identity and self-expression values based on a single, big brand idea. In other words: 'WHAT and WHO the heck are we?'
DES: From the Shire counties of Berks, Bucks, Oxon and Hants through to the Downs counties of Surrey, Sussex and Kent - this is a formidable destination branding project which must transcend the entire region while spanning the business, leisure and social sectors.
TINA: Yet at the same time avoiding the unfocused, generic trap which many English regions have fallen into, such as the North East: Passionate People & Places, and the South West: It's in our Nature.
DES: So Tina, I know you've been researching this region for its big brand idea - any thoughts so far beyond the usual suspects?
TINA: As luck would have it, I've stumbled across a little known fact about the membership of that great and all-pervasive institution: The Royal Horticultural Society or RHS for short. It seems that the South East region provides more members than all the other English regions put together!
DES: It certainly helps when RHS Wisley, the society's spiritual home is located near Guildford, Surrey, the epicentre of the South East region - It seems that all garden paths lead eventually to and from Wisley - the spiritual home of the country's green-fingered and garden-gloved society.
TINA: And with Japan - that other great gardening destination - the gloves can now come off for the Global Clash of the Horti-Cultures.
DES: But which cultural clash or conflict would you dig deeper into, to find the future-focused big idea?
TINA: There are several we could consider, starting with the contradiction that gardening is more nature than art. Which triggers the question: Could gardening attain the lofty cultural status of the fine arts in the foreseeable future? (See Footnote: Clash of Horti-Cultures)
DES: You've certainly opened a can of worms there, Tina. But what about all the other great strengths of the South East such as its high-tech and financial services skills, or its iconic landmarks and coastal scenery, or its motor sports and sparkling wine-making capabilities?
TINA: This is where you bring on its sub-brands - from Thames 'Silicon' Valley to Stockbroker Belt Surrey - to name just two destination brands.
'Brand' the Marketect says:
"When evaluating your big brand idea, ask yourself: Does it have a natural enemy with which it can first co-operate to expand the market, and then compete with for a larger share of that expanded market?"
'Brand' the Marketect asks:
"Any good examples of other artificial political constructs developing into powerful destination brands?"
Clash of Horti-Cultures
1. Britain is a multi-cultural country, but are its gardens? Or its gardeners? Are there any signs of increasing cultural diversity in domestic landscapes?
2. Where are all the new 'Great Gardens'? And their cadre of garden critics?
3. Has France re-discovered the great British tradition of garden visiting?
4. Is the 'natural' garden a contradiction in terms? Is it not a space organised and ordered by humans? Take a considered look at Cornwall's Eden Project where the relationship between humanity and nature is being explored.
5. In landscape design, because the basic materials are 'living', a purely architectural or technical approach needs to be re-visited.