What do Skoda and Hull have in common? (No, this isn’t a joke)

Brand-wise, the city of Hull has recently had a bit of a makeover. But before I tell you more about that, let me tell you an old joke that goes:

“A bloke walks into a garage and asks ‘Can I have a windscreen wiper for my Skoda?’ and the mechanic answers “Yeah mate, that sounds like a fair swap.”

To anyone under 40, that probably won’t make a lot of sense. But if like me, you grew up watching ‘Battle of the Planets’ and eating potato waffles and beans for tea, you’ll remember that during the 1980s and early 90s, Skoda was a laughing stock.

Famed for their poor build quality and lack of reliability, Czech-built Skodas suffered a real identity problem here in the UK. But that all changed in 1991 when the brand was acquired by the Volkswagen Group.

And while the German car giant got to grips improving the vehicles themselves, it was advertising that really helped Skoda reverse its fortunes and turn the brand around.

Research had shown that 60% of car buyers would not even entertain owning a Skoda. So tackling this head on, the ‘It’s a Skoda. Honest’ campaign was created. The gist of this was to show status-conscious individuals discovering much to their surprise, that the car they were interested in was, in fact, a Skoda.

Flipping people’s prejudices on their heads, the campaign successfully managed to turn sceptics into Skoda drivers and by 2001 UK sales topped 35,000 – their biggest ever year.

But what does all this have to do with Hull? Like Skoda, the East Yorkshire city has been the butt of many a joke over the years. As far back as the 17th Century, a verse that reads “From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us” helped colour people’s prejudices about the place.

So when Hull was named 2017 UK City of Culture, the question was how could it shed this image? By developing a brand strategy that would change people’s perceptions in the same way that Skoda had.

With a new identity and narrative, Hull welcomed an impressive 6 million visitors in 2017 – 26% above target.

Much more than just a well-designed logo and a memorable strapline, both these examples prove the power of branding. Get it right and you can change minds, shift opinions, create desire and win hearts and minds.

Get it right and you can get the results and ROI you deserve.

For the full article on how Hull started thinking like a brand, click here.

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