Branding Belfast - an interesting situation

The Belfast Telegraph reports on Belfast's new branding initiative. A couple of interesting things here:

1. The dilemma over how Belfast should be branded - as a generic tourist attraction (the fantasy) or as a more complex site of political conflict (the reality)? Which will make the most money? "Much as we would like to put the Troubles well behind us, it has to be accepted that they are Belfast's top selling point in any campaign. People have heard about us, all over the world, because of our historic quarrels - and the queues for open-top bus tours of the Falls and Shankill are proof of their curiosity value."

2. The problem over accommodating local feelings as a new image is crafted: "With so much about the past that is still in dispute, the marketing team will have to be sensitive to local feelings, as they portray Belfast to the world. To most people, the fact that it is both British and Irish is a plus point, but getting this across without treading on too many toes will be difficult - as will be the concept of a 24-7 city."

3. The development of a site where anyone can vote on how Belfast should be branded. "The views of anyone with access to a computer are being sought - on - to find out what people think of the capital city and how it can put on its best foot forward."

We can learn a few things from these elements.
  • The thing that you want to emphasize in the brand may not be what is marketable to your target audience. Are you mature enough to recognize that and overcome it?
  • On a related note, the things they want out of the brand might generate sensitivity--e.g., might even hurt your feelings. You have to be ready for that and determine how much of a factor your feelings will be in making brand decisions.
  • One way to approach this is to open your campaign up to voting on the Internet to provide objective research-based data for use in making decisions. This can mitigate potential hurt feelings as well as avert misdirection, as image decisions become a matter of responding to the public rather than determining a direction based on political or "gut" considerations.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, and, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.