Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Our brands say more about us than our words ever can

Rory, Graeme and Darren are worthy winners of Northern Ireland's Top Brand because they remind us how far we've come, says Pauric McGowan

Brands are a powerful marketing tool. They provide companies, places, even people, with an opportunity to summarise who they are and what they have to offer.

A brand can be a name, like Tayto, or a symbol, like Nike's 'swoosh'. Celebrities too, have a brand image - think David Beckham.

They impact on expectations. In that simple name or logo, we are reassured about what we can expect if we buy a particular product.

Some people will remember George Best telling us that Cookstown's sausages were "simply the best". More recent examples are Twiggy as the face of M-amp;S, or Cheryl Cole endorsing L'Oreal, "because, ladies, you're worth it".

Brands say a lot about who we are as individuals and the lifestyles we enjoy, or seek. The car you drive, the clothes you wear, your favourite restaurant, the newspaper you read - they all say something about your perception of yourself.

Brand managers will do all that they can to respond to your lifestyle choices. They also want to reinforce what is so distinctive about their brand. They are a key to building and sustaining customer loyalty and building that depth of trust requires a considerable investment in terms of effort and resources.

Northern Ireland's top 10 brands - as revealed in today's Belfast Telegraph - capture and project, in a very particular way, what is unique about the province in terms of those characteristics that best describe the people and the place.

Bushmills whiskey, Tayto crisps, Comber potatoes and Moy Park chicken are food products that define the freshness and quality that consumers come to expect from this part of Ireland.

These food products speak volumes of the unique promise they make to you and me as consumers - of quality and value on a par with the best in the world.

The Titanic, probably one of the best-known brands in the world, along with Harland and Wolff, are icons of Northern Ireland's industrial past that continue to offer real promise for the future.

Similarly, the Belfast Telegraph has for the past 142 years reported and informed the public here, emerging as an icon of the place where we live.

And where we live has had a very bad brand image and not surprisingly many people will identify with the Troubles as one of the prominent brand images in the Belfast Telegraph's Top 50 brands.

These Troubles speak of a darker side to Northern Ireland, sadly defining it in the minds of many here and outside the region as a repressed place of inter-community strife, religious intolerance and inward-looking, small-minded people.

In stark contrast to the darker image of the past we have, as Northern Ireland's number one brand, that of Rory, Graeme and Darren. Our team of successful golfers provide us and the wider world with a wholly different image of Northern Ireland - as a place where good things happen and from which good things come.

As a group of winning athletes, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke embody what is best about Northern Ireland - how this place has progressed and been renewed. How it is a fun place to be.

Their dogged determination to be the best, to win against the odds, to provide a quality response in times of adversity, tunes into the character and personality of people who live here and is consistent with the way brands are developed.

They have helped to define a new image, a new brand of Northern Ireland itself, for the future. They define a place where people are looking out into the world in pursuit of new possibilities.

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