The city of Belfast is embarking on a major branding overhaul in a bid to sharpen up its image, following the power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland.
Belfast City Council has appointed Lloyd Northover to oversee the work, following a tender through the Official Journal of the European Union. It hopes to put the city on a par with international business and leisure destinations of note.
Lloyd Northover is thought to have competed against Saffron Brand Consultants and a local Belfast consultancy in the final round of pitching.
‘It’s the first time Belfast will be branded with such aspirations and in such a wide-reaching way,’ explains Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau.
‘We did some branding in 1996, but it was focused on Belfast as a tourist destination. The political process after the ceasefire in 1994 hadn’t really embedded itself and economic drivers hadn’t come to the fore. It’s clear now that Belfast needs to compete for investors, tourists, shoppers and companies with other world cities,’ he says.
Lloyd Northover has been tasked with creating not only a ‘visual and verbal expression’ of Belfast, but with creating a sustainable international brand that will ‘tell a range of stories’ to reflect the city’s rich history.
Jim Northover, chairman of Lloyd Northover, explains, ‘At the moment, we are really only in the research stage, where part of the process is to define the brief.’
‘We have to try to engage everybody from the commercial and public service sectors to those responsible for the city’s infrastructure,’ Northover says. ‘It’s about the long term.’
The first phase of the project will involve market research, to be carried out by Lloyd Northover in conjunction with sister company IAS Smarts, a Belfast consultancy owned by Media Square.
Talks with groups of potential brand partners will then be held, and a brand strategy devised. The process is expected to take eight months, with creative work unveiled later this year.
The work will initially be funded by Belfast City Council but it is hoped ‘brand partners’ will invest in the programme to further enhance the city’s international standing.
‘The more targeted and efficient our marketing, the more returns there will be,’ says Lennon.
Developments since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement include:
• Victoria Square
• The Titanic Quarter
• The Odyssey complex
• Waterfront Hall