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Branding and “Place Making”

November 29th, 2012


I went along to the Sheffield Community Network “LunchPlus” event today at the Showroom. The topic was “What’s in a Name? – Building Brands” and we heard presentations from Brendan Moffett (Director of Marketing Sheffield) and Sarah McNulty from the Tramlines Festival. Both were very good, but I want to focus on a few interesting points that Brendan made.

Brendan talked us through the process of establishing a brand for Sheffield – a process which has evolved over the past six years or so and which is continuing. These are the points that stuck in my mind:

  • When you are building a brand for a place, you need to understand that a place is always evolving and the brand must too. (Which made me wonder if the Peak District brand is evolving or if it’s got a bit stuck?)
  • Branding a place must reflect the values and aspirations of stakeholders, including the people who live and work there. This was a difficult process for Sheffield – in the end, two key qualities came to the fore: authenticity and individuality. (I think these are a good summary of what makes Sheffield special – of course, it doesn’t cover everything but it does sum up “Sheffield-ness” for me.)
  • Place making shouldn’t look backwards all the time. Heritage is important, but so is the future. When I talk to clients about how branding applies to their business, I advise them to “tell the story about the company you aspire to be, not just the company you are now”. Brendan talked about how the brand story for Sheffield needs to translate the city’s industrial past into something exciting for the future – stay tuned for news about 2013, the 100th anniversary of the invention of stainless steel.

Lastly, and this is just something I was pleased to learn, the font that forms part of the Sheffield brand imagery was designed specially. It’s called Sheffield (I think) and only certain organisations are licensed to use it. I really like it – does anyone know who designed it?

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