Blog Member Stories
Branding Norfolk at the NEF
“Our county is a home for over 8,000 fast-growing businesses; however, many find themselves isolated,” states the Norfolk Enterprise Festival’s press release. As I was reading it, I felt grateful for the presence of the Norfolk Network and the Student Enterprise at UEA for the community feeling that they provide. As a result, my business partner and I have never felt isolated. We set up tea, our strategic brand consultancy, almost right out of UEA. We met during the MSc in Brand Leadership, a course that provides an extended international network of not only students but professionals from all over the world.
Norwich is ripe with creative agencies, whether it’s digital marketing or design. It’s the home to Fountain, Made, AllisFlux and Quickfire Digital (welcome to the NN Nathan!), to name just a few who have greeted us with open arms. The county is also a thriving hub for tech startups, many of which we meet at events organised by SyncNorwich, HotSource and nor(DEV). We instantly felt welcome and not the least because our focus on brand strategy meant that we could collaborate both with creative agencies and tech startups. We can add to the client process of the former and help grow the latter. We look ahead, dig deep and inspire companies from within. Because what else is your brand if not your people, your culture or your tribe?
The Festival is a chance to extend this warm welcome to small and medium businesses across Norfolk that may not have felt as connected up to now. It may even give them a reason to find their purpose as they witness their potential impact on the broader community. Local businessman Mark Lapping and George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, started this Festival to help make sure that the entrepreneurial community’s voice is heard. It’s a timely intervention, as the county prepares to shape the future of the vision for the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor with meetings that anyone can attend. Independent research suggests the corridor has the potential to bring an additional £2.75bn to the regional economy by 2031, creating 26,000 new jobs. “Fabulous, but does it also have a plan for filling them”, asked Paul Grenyer – founder of Naked Element – on LinkedIn referring to the jobs. And that’s how we arrived at the idea of holding a workshop on “Branding Norfolk” at the Festival.
We will need to define what attracts the world’s best talent to live here. Other than, “I am here because of my partner”, as we so often heard at SyncNorwich meetups. The global appeal of Cambridge and Oxford mean that the tech corridor between them could best benefit from naming it after their college system, Oxbridge. All they need to worry about is how to get buy-in from other, less internationally recognisable, cities in their region. But how could the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor stand out? If Oxbridge’s values are “academic, high-skilled, leading edge and historic”, then what are ours? It’s your chance to have a say in what our county’s unique place should be in this rapidly changing world.
In Norfolk, we live on the edge of possibilities after all, where the sun rises first, as Robert Jones – our professor and Head of Thinking at Wolff Olins – once said. Here we can adapt because we can approach any problem creatively. It is on the fringes where a species change because “here you can flourish free from the corrosive belief that everything great has already been done” (Kevin Roberts, Lovemarks). Not to mention that we have innovation pouring out of UEA, NUA, Hethel, John Innes and Quadram Institute. As well as sustainable brands like GNAW, Nor-Folk, Adnams and the Horsey seals. Ok, the seals may have always been environmentally conscious.
All we need now is collaboration, with some healthy competition, to show that we can attract talent whose values match that of Norfolk. And help everyone in the region benefit from it all. Because in the age of automation, we have to get better at being human. Otherwise, how are we to complement the machines? So please join us in the exploration of the region’s values. You’ll use strategic branding tools to give an edge to our county and learn how to apply them to your own business. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.
Read more on our “Branding Norfolk” workshop here