Rebranding the British seaside town


So I met a really interesting chap the other day called Simon Middleton. You’ve probably never heard of him but he’s a brand strategy guru – his words not mine!

Now I’d always thought his job was the kind where you get money for old rope but I was amazed at how clear his thinking on brand issues is – but let me explain how the meeting came about.

Earlier this year, Simon was asked by a group of traders in Hemsby to re-invent the town’s image. The local Pontins had closed which brought in revenue and with it went the famous rock n roll weekenders that bookended the summer and put the town on the map.

The experiment was quite successful, they rediscovered the town’s Viking heritage, got a new logo and now hold a Scandinavian festival which was so successful it is to become an annual event.

The traders at Hemsby have become so forward thinking, they have now adopted an instant feedback system: You go into the local chippy and, if you’re not happy with the produce, you send a text of your feedback for the traders’ association to dissect and address…

It was all made into a TV show and now Simon is about to do a show called the Great British Seaside Town (working title) with Duncan Banatyne that will do similar in other towns and all the above led me to think he would be quite a good interview subject given we’re in the year – or not – of the staycation.

Simon’s ideas are not rocket science, but they do show the benefit of bringing in people who are unaffected, unemotionally attached and have clear ideas when you are in a situation that’s muddied. The tendency at the moment seems to be chop when things are going wrong when sometimes, perhaps there are simpler solutions staring us in the face but we can’t see them for the trees. Companies can benefit from just getting someone in to do a bit of forrestry!

The piece Im doing on Simon will be my last copy for Metro as a staff employee and will be in this Friday’s section. After it’s published, I’ll run the transcript here for anyone who misses it.