Friday, January 8, 2010

Be Inspired

Branding--it comes up all the time in discussions.  How do we brand our museum, how do we brand our community?  How does it all work?

I'm far from a branding expert--more accurately, I'm just an observer/consumer of brands.   It's a rare brand (except for the ones of my childhood--Heinz ketchup, for instance) that penetrates through today's noisy haze of images, sound and words.   But while in the UK,  I had a longer term experience with a brand that I thought was really terrific.   The Lake District brands itself as a region--both as a national park and a tourism destination (two different organizations I believe).   I first found the brand on the web, of course, on their website, Go Lakes.   The website did everything I needed it to do for me as a potential visitor:   it introduced me to the region,  told me what there was to do and see,  and even let me make a reservation at a B & B.  I could customize my interests, be inspired, and even download a great Ipod app to let me skip rocks on various Lake District lakes.  And of course, it was up-to-date, even including information about the recent floods.

Once in the Lake District, I began picking up brochures for various things--for villages, like Ambleside or Grasmere, for culture, for outdoor adventures, for eating.  Each brochure was incredibly consistent in terms of its look--the font and color block design was the same, but each relied on beautiful, high-quality photos (paired in interesting ways) and a variety of different tag lines.   Although there were lots of other brochures available, I picked up these, as I quickly learned that they were easy to read and useful.

To expand the brochures, there's a network of information centers across the region.  We happened into the one in Coniston.  A brochure about culture had mentioned Andy Goldsworthy's work in the region (above photo from his website) and we wanted to know more.  Not surprisingly, information centers' greatest asset are the people who work there.  The friendly guide knew about Goldsworthy and where his work was, printed out information on where it could be found, and helpfully let us know that we probably couldn't reach any of the sites because of the snow.

What did I learn about branding from my visitor experience?
  • Consistency is key--the consistency in design and approach cut through other promotional noise
  • Collaboration matters--obviously, the consistency requires buy-in from a whole variety of stake-holders
  • Be fun!   I've shown lots of people my little rock-skipping app,  and the clever use of tag lines on the website and in brochures helped keep us interested.
  • Make sure everyone gets it.  That staff at the visitor center was important--they didn't act bored, or too busy--they were helpful.  So the brand of the Lake District--a friendly, beautiful place--was reinforced by them and by so many other people we came in contact with--in shops, in restaurants, and along the way.

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