10th July 2024    |    Insights

Creating Synergies: Region-wide Branding through Strategic Partnerships

It is a well-known fact that successful branding of cities and regions plays a crucial role in attracting inward investment and fostering economic development. Manchester is frequently mooted as a good example of this – though how much the external joined-up facade is mirrored behind the scenes is difficult to assess. Outwardly though – the brand perception is cohesive and united. 

Regional branding is not merely about promoting individual assets but about creating a comprehensive, compelling narrative that emphasises the synergy between disparate sector strengths across a region. By strategically highlighting and communicating certain ideas and perspectives rooted in a region’s culture and society, communicators have the power to curate a compelling and attractive brand identity that can drive growth and development in a region. It’s about thinking bigger than the sum of its parts and leveraging the strengths of local institutions, infrastructure, academia and cultural heritage. 

Strategic partnerships and knowledge-sharing are key to this process, as they enable regionals to present a unified, powerful message to potential investors and visitors.

Building a compelling regional identity

Highlighting a region’s potential in terms of economy and education while also promoting its stable infrastructure, housing, and transport, is key in attracting businesses and investments.  The North East of England, with its rich industrial history and vibrant cultural scene, is an exemplary model of how this can be achieved. The region boasts leading universities like Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, and University of Sunderland, each contributing to a thriving knowledge economy and providing a skilled workforce that is attractive to businesses.

The role of knowledge economy in city-region branding

Universities are more than educational institutions; they are integral to the economic and social fabric of a region. Newcastle University, for instance, is renowned for its research excellence and innovation, particularly in fields such as medicine and engineering. Durham University, with its prestigious reputation, attracts international students and faculty, further enhancing the region’s global appeal. Northumbria University is known for its strong focus on employability and partnerships with industry, while the University of Sunderland with its campuses in the city, but also in London and Hong Kong, develops international partnerships. Each possesses a core strength but together (and through their global outreach) they combine to offer great weight to the investment argument – particularly  around R&D. By emphasising on the role universities play in not only shaping academic minds but also driving business growth and cultural diversity, a compelling narrative of intellectual vibrancy, innovation and inclusivity can be favourable in attracting not only students and academics but also businesses looking for research partnerships and a skilled workforce.

Economic growth through strategic marketing

Economic growth is a central goal of regional branding. By effectively highlighting a region’s strengths from its cultural heritage to modern infrastructure, destination marketing plays a pivotal role by attracting tourists and investors. For instance, the North East’s marketing strategies could focus on its historical landmarks, scenic landscapes, and a vibrant riverside night-time and F&D economy. All of these different factors contributed to the whole. 

Globalisation, in addition to the integration of technology and marketing, has boosted regional branding’s potential to create much greater impact and reach wider audiences across ages, cultures, who receive information in different ways. 

Enhancing infrastructure and services

Investment in infrastructure is essential to support economic growth and improve the quality of life for residents. The North East has made significant strides in this area, with projects such as the redevelopment of Newcastle’s Quayside and the expansion of the Metro transport system. Improved infrastructure not only benefits local residents but also makes the region more attractive to businesses, as it increases the ease of doing business, and makes the region more accessible to visitors. Enhanced public transportation, better roads, and state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure are critical components of a successful regional brand.

A full region-wide, comprehensive 5G network is in our grasp and with a modern metro transport system that could embrace an integrated on-board WiFi connectivity network, we have the capacity to really develop a leading integrated transport framework for the north – becoming the envy of other leading northern city regions and competing with TFL in London. 

Promoting sustainable development

While city-region branding contributes to growth and development, it is imperative for this growth to be sustainable. By promoting environmentally friendly practices and sustainable tourism, regionals can appeal to a growing demographic of eco-conscious consumers and investors. The North East’s natural beauty, from the Northumberland National Park to the stunning coastline, offers ample opportunities for sustainable tourism. Additionally, with Dogger Bank, and numerous innovative low carbon pilots across the region ultilising energy efficiency, and also hydrogen projects, we have the capacity right here and right now to drive the UK green economy much further. 

Preserving and showcasing cultural heritage

Culture plays an intrinsic role in shaping regional identity. The North East is rich in history and tradition, from the Roman-era Hadrian’s Wall to the industrial heritage of Tyneside. Promoting cultural events, festivals, and historical sites can attract tourists and foster a sense of pride among residents. It also attracts visitors from overseas, keen to experience something quintessentially English. By investing in the preservation of cultural assets, regions not only protect their history but also create a unique identity that distinguishes them from other regions.

Creating a positive image and reputation

A positive image and strong reputation are essential for attracting investment and tourism. Effective regional branding helps create a unique and appealing identity, distinguishing the region from competitors. This involves not just highlighting the regional’s strengths but also addressing and managing challenges. In times of crisis, such as economic downturns or natural disasters, strong branding and marketing strategies can help mitigate negative perceptions and facilitate recovery.

Conclusion

The success of regional branding lies in the power of partnership. By collaborating and sharing knowledge, our north east cities can create a united, compelling narrative that is greater than the sum of its parts. The North East of England, with its leading universities, robust infrastructure, and rich cultural heritage, serves as a model for how strategic partnerships and a cohesive branding strategy can drive economic growth and attract investment. Inward investment is about more than just economic potential; it’s about creating an attractive message that resonates with businesses, investors, and visitors alike. Through collaboration and innovation, our region can build a brighter, more prosperous future for all.