News Feature

By The Drum | Administrator

July 3, 2006 | 6 min read

Being a marketer isn’t an easy job. Case in point: Dave Hodgson, marketing director at Marketing Birmingham. Last month Adline published a letter criticising Hodgson’s decision to appoint a London agency, along with two Birmingham agencies, to carry out the marketing of Birmingham over the next three years.

The letter caused rumblings within the marketing community of Birmingham, not least from Hodgson. The three agencies in question (Birmingham’s WAA and McCann Erickson Central and London based SBG Finex) are now tasked with the job of making Birmingham an internationally renowned city.

Hodgson it seems is relishing the opportunity. It’s an intriguing brief to say the least. Birmingham (being a resident of the mighty city I think I am covered to say this) is somewhat of a dichotomy. Being too far south to come under a Northern brand, the city also struggles in its second city tag as it is so close to London. When it comes to agencies promoting the city, it will be no easy feat.

Hodgson is well aware of that fact, and while he is under no illusion of the city’s perception, he is eager to change it. But he has a wealth of experience on the client side with time spent at Thompson Holidays and Scottish and Newcastle. He also admits that it is not going to be a walk in the park and has already implemented a number of internal changes at Marketing Birmingham. He comments: \"When I first came into this job I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy job, and we have gone through a reorganisation of the company in terms of its marketing departments.

\"Our main objectives are to change the perceptions of the city and to make sure we are getting an economic return gorthe city. For every pound we spend we want to make sure that we get ten pounds back.\"

The key ways that Hodgson aims to achieve this is to identify three key areas that Marketing Birmingham wants to associate with the city: shopping, eating and sporting events. Therefore he has appointed agencies that have strengths in these areas. Hence the roster. WAA (retail) and McCann Erickson (eating) have already produced work for the company, with SBG charged with taking the sporting message to the wider world in the next few months.

Hodgson comments on the criticism lobbed at him in last issue’s Adline: \"We have two agencies looking out from Birmingham and one looking in (to the city). That way you can make sure the message isn’t going off in the wrong direction. The agency had the right skills for the right campaign. We have to get the job right and that’s the way it works.

\"We didn’t choose a London agency because they were a London agency. That just is factually incorrect. In the original pitch we had a Cambridge agency, one from Glasgow, we had a whole range of agencies going for the brief. So credit to the two Birmingham-based agencies who ticked all the boxes.

\"I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t picked any Birmingham agencies. Then I could understand people getting upset. But out of the whole raft we got they were the best ones . While you have to support your local area, it has to be right. And I think we have that with the agencies we picked.\"

For Hodgson, who was appointed as marketing director late last year, the challenge of making the city a credible European destination is clearly a job that he is keen to meet head on. And, while not a native Brummie, he is proud of the city that he now calls home.

\"I am originally from Wigan. I am a Lancashire lad,\" says Hodgson. \"I am an out of towner and if you go across the city there are a lot of people who have come here for work. It is about not only going to the heart of the city, but also getting the message out to attract people to the city.\"

Unlike the recent rebrand of Leeds, Hodgson has shied away from a full rebrand for the city, instead focusing on individual areas. He explains his reasoning behind this decision: \"I was responsible for the rebrand of Thompson Holidays, Britannia and Lunn Poly. We spent 70 million quid on that and it was in danger at that time of turning into a badging exercise. So what we did was to slow down the rebrand. We invented self-packaging, we brought out a low cost airline by a package holiday, which had never been done before, and all of a sudden Thompson became the answer for all your travel needs. Once we had got there we speeded things up and went about the rebranding.

\"When I got this job I thought ‘do we really want to re-invent the B-logo when we don’t actually stand for anything at the moment?’ But when we do have the message in place and we do stand for these things then I think by the end of next year we will look to a branding.

\"I have seen so many instances of rebranding and repackaging in the past: it’s almost ‘rebrand, re-package resign’. I think it is working because there is a substance behind it. There are cities in the UK that have rebranded not that long ago and you have to ask: what’s changed? Are you still a centre for gun crime? The logo’s changed, so what? How much did that cost?\"

Another reason why Hodgson is perhaps hesitant to rebrand the city is due to the way Marketing Birmingham is funded: through both local government and private sector funding, ensuring that he is entirely accountable for the marketing spend that he is currently doing. He explains: \"The way we are funded is that we are a public private funding. We are part funded by the local government but we are also funded by our shareholders. We are a business, we are accountable. Otherwise you would end up with some poncey flowery marketing which looks good but isn’t effective.\"


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