Belfast Telegraph

Forget the daft marketing hype ... this red splat is the opposite of what makes Belfast so great

Fionola Meredith says: The 'experts' may love it, but the city's new logo is an overblown and boring waste of public money.

Boom! That's the first thing I thought when I saw the new logo to promote Belfast, commissioned by the city council to the tune of approximately £50,000.

It looks a bit like an explosion, you see, with the word 'Belfast' emblazoned in the middle of a chunky red splat.

Unfortunate, really, given our incendiary history.

The good news is that I was entirely wrong. This is not a blast from the past at all. No, the brand new identity is apparently intended to signify "Belfast, energy unleashed", and is "based around a starburst shape, inspired by the geographical shape of Belfast".

So are we all clear now?

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm still not feeling the energy, apart from the regrettable pyrotechnic kind. It's hard to get that association out of your head, once it's gone in.

But tourism and marketing types are in ecstasies about the new brand. "For me as a person, it's dynamic, it's edgy, it's authentic, it's the map of the city, it's very modern, it creates that energy we are talking about," gushed Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast.

Hmmm. Really, Gerry?

On the BBC Nolan show - which received a leaked copy of the logo from somebody within the council who considers it "appalling" - an advertising executive opined that the image looked "optimistic", evoking "arms in the air, a flash of lights, fireworks". Now there's someone with a very fertile imagination.

But most on-message of all was Katy Best, commercial director of George Best Belfast City Airport, who couched her thoughts in lugubrious marketing-speak.

"For any city that wants to be a global player and wants to be competitive, having a positioning, and having a narrative, and having a platform that helps people right across the city express what makes it special is really important," she said, in defence of the new brand.

Ye wha'?

Positioning, platform: what does any of that actually mean, in the real world that the rest of us occupy? Best seemed to have a little trouble explaining the exact nature of the "narrative" she was referring to, but fell back on "underlying themes around vitality and energy".

Then she had another go. "We're wanting to ensure that people want to live in Belfast, want to invest in Belfast, want to visit Belfast … so ensuring that we have something that provides commonality in how we communicate is important."

Sorry, I'm still not buying it. How will any of this make our capital city a more attractive, dynamic and inviting place to live, work, or invest? How will it help us express what makes it special?

Here's the thing: I think people are sick of being patronised by very well-paid 'experts' who tell them that their experiences as a citizen are defined by a crude shape with the word 'Belfast' written in the middle of it. The only commonality is that, as ratepayers, this woeful waste of money is being enacted in our name.

Because we're shelling out a great deal for a fairly flimsy return, whatever the marketeers say. To my mind, the logo is boring, generic, anodyne, uninspiring: in fact, the exact opposite of what makes Belfast such a fascinating place to be.

It reminds me of some of the costly, lumpen pieces of public art taking up space around the city, which were sold to us with similarly meaningless and overblown words. The Beacon of Hope, aka Nuala with the Hula, is supposed to express "the universal philosophy of peace, harmony and thanksgiving". The Balls on the Falls - officially entitled RISE - is "a representation of a new sun rising to celebrate a new chapter in the history of Belfast".

Feeling inspired yet? Thought not. When you get down to it, it's just a big pair of balls.

If you're getting a groundhog day vibe about all this, as if we've definitely been here before, you're not wrong. Back in 2008, £180,000 was spent on the creation of a new brand for Belfast, a heart-shaped letter 'B', as well as a further £250,000 on advertising, launch events and showcase promotions. Then it emerged that the logo - which was supposed to represent the city's distinctive "energy and warmth, wit, determination, sociability, vibrancy and boldness" - was very similar to others already in use in places that also began with B, like Blackburn and Barrow in England.

Not so distinctive after all then. At least this time the chosen logo is cheaper. But it's still an awful lot of money to spend on a big red splat.

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