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What is ‘brand’ Manchester?

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I recently attended an excellent event run by MPA. The event brought togetheran expert panel of digital/communications professionals and anaudience whose careers are entrenched in the creative arena. All inattendance were there to put their heads together to essentiallydiscuss: what is ‘brand’ Manchester and just how can it excel?

The debate, taking place at NatWest’s offices in Spinningfields,attempted to tackle the current perception of an ‘identity crisis’Manchester seems to be suffering from in terms of professionalcredibility and global standing. How can the city ‘self-promote’and how can those at the centre of the supposed ‘digitalrevolution’ drive Manchester forward without leaning on traditionalstereotypes of the Gallaghers, football & textiles.

The panel was headed by:

JodiBirkett-Partner and Head of TMT at Deloitte NW

Paul Newman- Communications Director at Peel Media

Martin Corrigan- Broadcast Director at Mediacom

Christian James- MD, If Agency

Karl Stones- Senior Creative, BJL

Anna Wilson–Head of Digital, Tangerine PR

A number of issues were tackled mostly regarding the attractionsof Manchester from a Client and professionals point of view withrelevance to the creative and digital scene.

Professionals andTalent

The attraction of living and working in Manchester is becomingincreasingly higher – & this is certainly an incentive fordeveloped professionals who now look to Manchester for a betterquality of life. Average rent prices are 55% lower than London,it’s the second most globally influential city in the UK, theforefront of Cloud Computing and home to a burgeoning community ofdigital companies. Despite this, average graduate starting salariesremain around 8k less in the North when compared with London.Surely ‘the scene’ will only become exceptional if itattracts & keeps the exceptional? To tackle this anidea discussed by the panel was for the headline businesses in theNW to strive to provide ‘different/niche’opportunities whether in terms of platforms, technologies, mobileor creative. Essentially we need to pay and promote the great mindscoming out hungry to succeed who currently point their compassSouth or abroad.

Brand Manchester

What do we and the city stand for?

One heavily debated item was the brandperception of Manchester. A big problem isthe quite archaic perception of the city, yes the Gallagher’s arefrom here, but there’s so much more to the city and plenty more tocome. The perceptions remain old fashioned and a refresh is almostcertainly needed. Who is responsible for this? How can wecreate a collective unity + work towards a respected hub similar tothe collective revolutions in the likes Silicon Valley, Hollywood,etc?

Competition-Home andAbroad

Manchester is the UK’s second city, but a key point debated wasa perception of anunhealthy fixation & competition with London. Surely Londonwill likely always be the premier city – if not just in the UK butacross Europe? Isn’t what Manchester needs is for it to be its owncustodian and forge its own identity in the face of this changingworld. Whether that be a Digital Hub, an entry point to the worldof business or the fastest growing city remains to be seen.

One things for sure is that ‘Madchester’ is tired and ifDigital & Creative is seen as the key feather in the City’s capthen a brand identity and promotion strategy shouldn’t betoomuch to ask?

What are your thoughts on Manchester? Where is it going, does itneed to ‘holdhands’ with London?