Icons – good or bad for destinations?

We’ve recently completed a piece of work for NewcastleGateshead Initiative helping them review their marketing strategy. The project involved a series of workshops with staff and members getting under the skin of the place and exploring how it should be positioned. This included considering what people who are entirely unfamiliar with the place might think of it and associate with it – people, products, landmarks. These are things that frame perceptions and that destination marketers need at least to be aware of as influences on their potential audience.

So what does NewcastleGateshead do about their ‘icons’? Ant & Dec and Cheryl Cole? Sting and Bryan Ferry? Newcastle Brown Ale and stotties? Angel of the North and the Sage Gateshead? Canny Geordies or stag and hen dos? Are some ‘good’ and some ‘bad’? Or should we be considering them in different terms than those?

It seems to us that NewcastleGateshead is lucky to have so

many associations – it gives it personality and character and offers a depth and variety of angles to take. Not everywhere is as fortunate.

But surely the thing for destination marketers to think about is what their icons say about their destination. And what they do about this. Maybe it is subtle messages to contradict what the icon conveys or it might be fun and ironic recognition. We are not talking celebrity endorsement here, but a careful and thoughtful appreciation of how powerful icons are – and how they can be used to a destination’s advantage.