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Cork Independent


Do Corkonians really have special DNA?

Wednesday, 27th February, 2019 3:38pm

A few years back, we were privileged to work on a really interesting branding project in conjunction with Colliers International, Placematters and Location Connections for the Cork region, which was commissioned by some of the key stakeholders including Cork City and Cork County Council.

The work could be described as ‘destination branding’, which is a very fancy way of saying we need to start telling the “great story” about our place consistently to people, so they understand what you will experience here and hopefully encourage people to visit, work, live and invest in Cork.

This approach is something all cities and regions must now consider as they must tell their story in a clear, concise and consistent way to all target audiences that they wish to attract. Just like a business, how a place markets itself must be believable and true so that the actual experience matches the story that we push out there.

This was a very astute, bold, brave and forward thinking move by the leaders in Cork as we were the first place in Ireland to commission such work.

While this might have been a daunting task, it was quite simple when you broke it down into the different parts.

We first had to understand all the great things that Cork had to offer and we then had to package these in a way that people could easily understand. In effect, this package or story became the Cork brand.

As you can imagine, lots of in-depth research and thinking went into this process as we tried to really understand this place that we all love so much. When we finally felt that we had captured the Cork story, we tested it with people to make sure that it was resonating and we had them saying ‘I want to come there’.

Once we were all clear about the Cork story (the Cork brand) that we wanted to tell, then a vital next step is that all the subsequent promotion of the region by anyone should be consistent so that all audiences get the same understanding.

As part of the early research work that we conducted about Cork, we discovered that many people were attracted to the size of Cork – ‘it’s not too big and not too small’, they love how quickly you can get from the city to the country, they love the nearby coastline and they also love the friendliness, humour and warmth of the people.

Even the Huffington Post identified Cork as an “overlooked city in Europe that must be visited in your lifetime”!

It might be easy to understand the physical attributes of Cork but the people dimension is one that is much more difficult to pinpoint.

Is it really true that Cork is a friendly city as declared by the Lonely Planet Guide and very recently by the Condé Nast Travellers annual reader survey - we were voted number three in the world!

The Lonely Planet guide praised us: “Cork is at the top of its game right now: sophisticated, vibrant and diverse, while still retaining its friendliness, relaxed charm and quick-fire wit.”

How can you explain this friendliness and charm?

Do us Corkonians really have this special friendly gene in our unique DNA?

As part of our research in Cork, we conducted questionnaires with many foreigners working in Cork and they consistently told us how they had no intention of staying initially but this is now home and they would not be leaving. Cork is great fun and the people are very friendly.

As much as this proud Corkman would like to think that people from Cork do have a special gene, I don’t really believe it but it does lead to another big question.

If it’s not a special gene, then why do we behave in such a friendly and charming manner?

- We have a huge tradition of welcoming visitors and traders through our port – ‘how’s it goin’ ...and where are you from?’

- We have learnt how to be enterprising and we get on with things, despite knocks such as the raft of factory closures in the seventies and eighties

- In Cork we have plenty of small, determined and resilient enterprising businesses as well as large multinationals and we never have a big commute

- Both ourselves and our children can receive a great education right on our doorstep

- We can enjoy a vibrant and friendly city where strangers still chat to each other and it is relatively easy to access ‘Where did you get that dress?’

- It’s a really safe place to live, visit or go to college

- You can be in the country or walking on a beach within half an hour

- You can enjoy a lively, entertaining, art loving, multicultural place

- The appreciation for great food and the choices are both diverse and top class

- We are connected to the world and major city hubs via an airport that is just 10 minutes from the city centre (we always want more routes though!)

- Being very practical, Cork is a significantly cheaper place to live than Dublin and a more economical place to do business.

For the career hungry, ultra ambitious people out there, the big career opportunities probably aren’t as great as in Dublin or London, but an increasingly connected world makes this less of a problem as companies like Teamwork and Voxpro are proving and the overall sense of wellbeing from an exceptionally better life balance makes Cork a really clever place for people to choose to live their lives.

So why are people from Cork friendlier, warmer and wittier?

Maybe it’s not our DNA us after all, maybe it’s this place that is not too big and not too small, with an abundance of natural attributes that just makes us happier?

When we were completing that work on the Cork brand, we were chatting over a pint or two and doing our very best to come up with some sort of a tag line or a hook that might sum up our place.

How about Big On Life?

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