Cool Cornwall has brand appeal - and needs to keep it that way ; Better branding is hailed as the answer to many a marketing problem. Philip Bowern... [Western Morning News (England)]
(Western Morning News (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Cool Cornwall has brand appeal - and needs to keep it that way ; Better branding is hailed as the answer to many a marketing problem. Philip Bowern looks at the labels we attach to parts of our region
Marketing men like to play word association games to find out what consumers think about the brands they consume. And in the highly competitive tourism market, destinations - like Devon and Cornwall - are treated as brands in the same way as Nike, Coca Cola and Ford.
So if you say 'Cornwall' to people, VisitCornwall boss Malcolm Bell told a debate at the Royal Cornwall Show, a significant majority of respondents agree that it "offers great food", "delights and surprises" and "creates lasting memories".
All of that positivity has added up to a top destination place for Cornwall in the British Travel Awards every year for the past five years. When the researchers asked 8,000 people across the UK if they had heard of Cornwall all of them said yes. Pretty obvious? Well apparently not. Only 98% of respondents in the same survey said they had heard of Devon.
Against that background how could you go about "Expanding the brand", the title of a debate organised by the Country Land and Business Association and sponsored by accountants Francis Clark and solicitors Clarke Willmott? In plenty of ways is the answer, according to the majority of panellists.
Brand Cornwall does not just mean the county west of the Tamar as a tourist destination. It also extends to the food and drink uniquely associated with Cornwall, much of which can profitably trade on geographical connections. Jo Hartop, head of communications for pasty makers Ginsters agreed being based in the county after which the firm's bestselling product is named made a huge difference, especially since the Cornish pasty was granted protected identity status by the EU in 2011 meaning 'real' Cornish pasties can only be made in Cor nwall.
"We have found since receiving that classification that the brand has grown and others are now looking to Cornwall to source their pasties," she said. "Ginsters original Cornish pasty is the number one best-seller and is in growth this year - and Ginsters employs 600 people in Callington."
Highlighting special qualities is one thing, however. Over- emphasising differences from counties east of the Tamar, from where visitors and customers come, can be something far less positive.
Dave Bullen from accountants Francis Clark told the debate he was a proud Cornishman. To general laughter he went on: "My parents brought me up as someone living in a little country just off England." Cornwall was granted national minority status by the British Government earlier this year, emphasising - in a good way - Cornwall's special qualities that make if 'different' But James Williams warned the debate: "We should keep in mind some of the pitfalls of nationalism - teaching the Welsh language has now taken up half the curriculum in Wales." And Malcolm Bell agreed that one of the reasons Pembrokeshire failed to score as highly as Cornwall in many visitor surveys was the perception from some English people that "the Welsh don't like us". He went on: "I would hate that the idea that the 'Cornish don't like us' started cropping up here."
That is unlikely to happen.
Cornwall has been welcoming visitors for centuries. As a trading centre and a one-time global powerhouse for the mining and smelting of metals like tin and copper, Cornwall has thrived on looking outwards, not inwards.
But brand success is not just about talking up what you have to offer it is also, to some extent, talking down what others can do. Malcolm Bell was among friends - for the most part - when he told showgoers at Royal Cornwall last week that Devon was "a nice green place to drive through, on the way to Cornwall." His opposite number in Devon, Caroline Custerton, might have a rather different view.
One way to enhance a brand, or confirm its value, is through price. Travel writers from national newspapers often compare the cost of a week's selfcatering in Cornwall with cheaper package deals - including flights, accommodation and even car hire - abroad. Malcolm Bell was unrepentant. "If Cornish business can get Pounds 800 more that should be a good thing," he said. "You wouldn't expect Bob Lindo to sell Camel Valley wine cheaply or Pendennis shipyard to sell boats cheaply. We get a premium price because the Cornish experience is a premium offer."
Keeping it that way and making sure even more people know the name and recognise the brand - not just in the UK but overseas as well - is crucial.
Hotelier Toby Ashworth of the Nare, one of Cornwall's top places to say, told the debate: "In Birmingham nobody has heard of Cornwall.." He meant Birmingham, Alabama, not Birmingham, West Midlands. "They have heard of Doc Martin, though," he added. "We have to go out and engage with the world - we are a world brand."
If TV series like Doc Martin can help with that the majority agreed - bring it on.
What do you think? Do we sell the South West well enough to keep visitors coming? Leave your comment at westernmorningnews.co.uk
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