Airports, Islands and the Humble Crisp

Ever been to the Green Isle?

Lonely Planet Stereotypes abound. Green grass, craft ciders, an analogue music scene in hazy pubs beset by beardy men charming the blarney out of the un-suspecting punters flooding in.

Actually, the friendly people I met in the weekend I spent cramming in a wedding and some limited sight-seeing firmed up my view of this lovely wee country as one I’ll certainly to return too! The food and welcome were exceptional, what more could you want?

The Hill of Tara, the Harp, good Irish beef, Giants Causeway and mad geology – all good stuff! But nothing prepared me for how powerful local brands were, especially the seemingly un-stoppable cult of Tayto!

Belfast City Airport’s love affair with the Tayto crisp may exhibit the only international air hub with Departures expansively co-branded with a potato snack.

This wee-country not only offer great food to tourists, they also offer great brands and great products to their people. Bushmills, Tesco Ireland, Tayto, Cookstown Sausages, Northern Ireland seems to love their local brands and proudly shout about them everywhere… even the airport!

In a climate where cash-strapped Brits demand value, discount retail seems unstoppable and ‘more than half price’ promotions roam gondola ends like oppressive Harbingers of a brand-equity apocalypse, what’s a dog to do?

What are the Irish doing right that we’re not?

Belfast was a pleasant, smart, modern city… but it certainly didn’t seem to be unusually affluent when compared to other great British cities.

So what can we learn from this little gem of the British Isles:

  1. Small is beautiful. Know your brand, know your people. No-one wants ’all things for all men’. People want to be special because they are. Dogs know that….
  2. Spend money on your brand in the right places. Associating the national identify of a country with the gateway to that country seems to me a stroke of genius. Nothing says national pride like your favourite brand of crisps!
  3. Make sure your brand is visible. In the airport, at the vending machine, in the corner shop poster display, by the road, Tayto had it all. Know what space you want, then own it, and then use it, and why not shout about it too?
  4. Be playful with your provenance. Northern Ireland takes the identity of its food seriously and with pride. But, it’s playful. The Tayto vending machines are fun – I bet kids love them. Who doesn’t like fun when they know where it’s from?

Travelling, FMCG brand geekery and a right good wedding! What a great weekend. If anyone’s got any other travel recommendations, let me know your ideas!

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