Tourism NI - What’s in a Name?

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about rebranding and name changes as we approach the Northern Ireland local council reform implementation, with passionate debate particularly surrounding North Down and the intense dislike of the proposed “East Coast” idea for the new super council (too ghetto for Holywood, surely?!)

Yet again this week we saw a similar debate, only this time it centres around the name change for our Northern Ireland Tourist Board to… drum roll…

Tourism Northern Ireland

I know, profound, right.

The revamp follows in the wake of the Hunter Review which made 33 recommendations in total, of which one was a name change.

Minister Arlene Foster said she hoped the new name would signify “a change of leadership and a refocused future strategy” to make the body fit for purpose and help deliver a £1 billion industry by 2020.

In this industry we’re used to the concept of rebranding; what it stands for, why we do it, how we measure success. I can understand why the public have their reservations in the current economic climate, and particularly when it comes to Public Sector bodies. Some will say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but change in a business of any size is sometimes vital to the survival of a brand.

The two crucial factors are knowing when to do it and executing it right.

Because rebranding isn’t cheap.

And that’s just the logo design. There’s so much more to rebranding than that.

And it’s risky.

Sometimes internal or external stakeholders don’t accept the new branding, and that signals disaster.

Some companies have done it superbly over the years, like Starbucks, Apple and Lego.

And some companies have learned the pitfalls the hard way, like Windows 8, Animal Planet and GAP.

And no one can ignore the multi-million pound, every-decade rebrand Pepsi pursues in contrast to Coca-Cola’s barely touched trademark logo (although they did tinker in 1985 but once was enough to learn their lesson).

We do a lot of work on branding because we work with numerous projects which can change in name, aim or funder on a sometimes annual basis. People think it’s all left to the “design guys” and much of it is, but from a PR/Communications point of view we’re involved every step of the way from research, brainstorming, consultation internally, design approval, integration into materials, staff training and external messages and promotion to give the brand a reputation and value of its own. It’s one of the most difficult aspects of Marketing Communications in my opinion.

I mean, no-one wants to be responsible for another “London 2012.”

So should NITB have bothered? Will it be worth the money?

If we go back to the theory, as PR folk often do, then the rules would normally state something along the lines of -

You should rebrand if:

  • Sales are falling and you need to change what people see when they look at you versus your competitors
  • If the brand no longer reflects what you do or what you stand for
  • If sales are fine but you actually want to branch out to attract new audiences
  • When a new management set want the brand to reflect their different values

You should not rebrand if:

  • You’re simply bored of the existing brand
  • There’s a new management team but no difference in core values
  • Your problems are internal and have nothing to do with the market place
  • There is strong recognition/emotional attachment placed by people on your existing brand
  • You can’t afford it

Based on the check list above and knowing very little (admittedly) about the internal goings-on and the future strategic plans of the organisation, I would say they probably didn’t need to rebrand, at least not just now and in fairness that’s mostly due to the final point.

Regardless of the varying opinions, if it’s been decided then the key to success will be in the execution – delivery and communication - of a new brand. I can sum that up in good ol’ PR bluntness by saying:

  1. Do your research. Fix only what isn’t working
  2. Don’t spend too much
  3. Especially not if it looks almost identical to the old one
  4. Make sure it’s easily explained and then explain it. To everyone
  5. Support it, promote it, let it permeate every corner of your communications
  6. Give it time to bed in

May the force be with you Tourism NI!

As a side note, for what it’s worth, of all the Tourist Board logos I’ve seen, Australia was always my favourite because quite simply it represented the country immediately and made me want to go (sunshine, mmmm!)

Although even they couldn’t resist a tinker…


  1. I am wondering if they will change all the signage on all the blade signs all around town. That alone cost them plenty less than 10 years ago!

  2. Theres no denying tourists are now flocking here given the perceived change in troubled climate (erm, well mostly). I think the new logo/name does have a ring of the modern to it, given the old name comes from an era when only the braver tourist ventured to our shores. Reading the NI Tripadvisor forum though still leaves me a little concerned however that two of the biggest “sights” people come here to see are a big building about a ship that sunk, and taxi tours around some nasty murals (which ironically commemorate things that stopped folk coming here for years lol). So i hope this new image brings an inspired drive by those involved to show what else we have here. Over this last few months ive extensively covered the North Coast with my camera (so far from Magilligan point all the way round to Ballintoy) and even as someone who lives here i was blown away as to just how bloody stunning it is up there. Ive only gotten round to getting a small percentage uploaded at the minute, but have loads more to come (Im covering further along the Antrim Coast road this weekend). But yes, NI Tourism is looking good, and i hope it continues. We have so much more to show them than the relics of our tainted past (or a ship with a hole in it). Lets put this place on the map. 😀 B-)

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