Different by design - the power of a good brand positioning strapline
by Nick Ramshaw
CEG is a property developer, but not as you might know them. The award-winning company specialises in developing buildings and places that people will not only want to spend time in, but which will also benefit their health and wellbeing. This people-centric approach lies at the heart of everything CEG does.
The fit between CEG and Thompson has been excellent, right from the moment we started working together two years ago. Our approach is to ask lots of questions and think hard before putting pen to paper, to make sure all the key business issues have been fully explored and considered. Only by doing this can we create distinctive design solutions that work hard to differentiate brands from their competitors.
Vision for Kirkstall Forge
CEG bought the 57 acre site in Kirkstall, Leeds in 2001 and always had something different in mind for it. Set in a beautiful natural valley, with both the River Aire and Leeds & Liverpool Canal running through it, the former steel mill had the potential for both residential and commercial development.
The enclosed valley provides the site with a very clear sense of its own identity, quite unlike anywhere else in the city. The scale and single ownership gave CEG one of those rare opportunities, to develop an entirely new neighbourhood within close proximity to the city centre.
World class architecture
To bring their vision to life and to make the most of the site, CEG knew it needed the help of a world-class architectural practice. As well as the master-planning, an original and new approach to house design was essential. Standard-issue home design simply would not cut it on this site.
Having considered a number of leading practices, CEG appointed Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCB). The only architect ever to win the Stirling Prize for residential, FCB had that modernist touch which would be needed to bring out the best in the opportunity. FCB also matched CEG’s levels of ambition to create buildings that were unlike anything seen so far in Leeds, just as Leeds was starting to take off again.
The brand story
When it came to branding Kirkstall Forge, the story was critical.
The ambition and vision were clear. The offices would be at least as good as anything in Leeds city centre, but set in beautiful nature, only 6 minutes away by train. At a time when employers were starting to recognise the importance of staff wellbeing, this alternative was perfect. Highly specified buildings, set in beautiful countryside, supported by a programme of events and services aimed at making colleagues happy and settled.
The homes will be open plan, light and airy, taking their influences from Scandinavia. Modern homes like this simply do not exist in Leeds, where our discerning target audience has only really been able to choose between traditional Victorian red brick homes in the suburbs, commuting from Harrogate or quiet village-life in the areas to the north of the city.
And everyone living or working at Kirkstall Forge will have the benefit of miles of outstanding walks, sharing Kirkstall Valley with the best nature has to offer.
Customer insight driven branding
When it came to branding, the insight we gathered from potential buyers and occupiers was that Kirkstall Forge was genuinely different. These types of house and this location and specification of offices, simply did not exist here. That and CEGs ambitious plans for community events, a school and the highest quality public realm, makes Kirkstall Forge a truly unique proposition.
The strapline we chose to communicate this and to act as the foundation for the brand was ‘Different by design’. This helped reflect the different level of ambition that CEG had, the idea of delivering the highest specification offices in a beautiful location, close to the city centre, with its train station to radically impact on the use of the cars in this city. The modernist homes with views across the valley were also different, designed to provide a new way of living. And the provision of community events and activities, by the Kirkstall Forge Life team took the idea of place-making to another level. In every way, Kirstall Forge is different, and intentionally so.
The new neighbourhood will provide life and work that is truly people-centric. It will be a joy to work or live here and this place will be unlike any other.
So, the line ‘Different by design’ was perfect.
Bringing the brand to life
Once the strapline had been agreed, the first job was to register it as a trademark, which was completed in February 2018. The line though, is so much more than a strapline. The key stakeholders quickly took it to heart, and began using it as a test as to whether what they are doing is right or wrong for the brand. Is it different by design we hear? If not, then we don’t do it as it’s not right for Kirkstall Forge.
The line also inspired the visual identity. This is unlike other ‘expected’ property development branding, again intentionally so. The identity features a contemporary word-mark, impactful blocks of pastel colours, cut-out images of the flora and forna to be seen in Kirkstall Valley, and a simple keyline illustration of the new neighbourhood being created by CEG. What other property brand would lead with a cut-out image of a goldfinch or duck?
When combined, the identity creates communications that position Kirkstall Forge as different by design. The toolkit of assets enables us to build effective design solutions, whatever the audience or purpose.
Meeting the client’s business objectives
The new branding has supported the marketing of Kirkstall Forge since its introduction in 2017, appealing to audiences and helping CEG to achieve its business objectives:
Kirskstall Forge has won already won nine national, international and regional awards including the national Property Wellbeing Award at the Property Awards 2018, Commercial Workspace of the Year 2018 in the national BCO awards and was the recent winner of the New Building category in the Leeds Architecture Awards 2019.
Passenger numbers into the new train station exceeded the first year target in only 5 months.
Number One, the first office building, is now 93% let just over a year after completion (Nov 2017). The building has attracted high profile tenants including Bupa, Zenith and Mercedes Benz.
The next office building, is in the detailed design stages and construction is about to start on site.
Two prototype homes are being built, that will be lived in by the CEG design and sales teams. This is true user-testing, that will inform the final designs of over 1,000 houses – another example of different by design.
The story is well on track
Kirkstall Forge has already been a huge success, achieving all of CEG’s key business objectives in the first two years. But this is just the start! The neighbourhood will take a number of years to build and we look forward to continuing our partnership with both CEG and Kirkstall Forge.
The branding is already contributing hugely to the success of the scheme, and it is all thanks to a simple strapline. Only three words, but it hides a huge amount of thinking and insight. Get the strapline right and it can be like rocket fuel for your brand.