CT Consults

Manchester – The original modern city

Woman looking at artwork, gold helicopter covered in pink feathers

The challenge

“as great a human exploit as Athens.”        

Benjamin Disraeli, 1844

The Manchester city region has lots of strong sectors, agencies & players, but as an international city it was seemingly pulling in all directions at once. Too much of its messaging was out-of-date, inconsistent and even contradictory. A hint of nostalgia was unhelpful, revering its past more than it looked forward. Ironically, a past all about innovation. The ultimate goal of the brand process was to bring the city together through a shared vision, values and actionable route map that everyone could grasp, own and respond to – individually and collectively.

An iphone, ipad and MAC, all displaying a web page from the same website, what's on listing guide creativetourist.com

Our response

The response was categorical, and at a city region scale (not city central). Original Modern. 

Post-2002 (when Manchester revealed its ability to stage massive events – the Commonwealth Games), the process really took root. An Advisory Committee followed, then a City Creative Champion took the lead. Peter Saville (Factory Records designer 25 years earlier) came in as a catalysing provocateur – wanting to “plug it into the mains” and gave permission to the city to think big, new and differently. 

Peter distilled it to the pure working concept of Original Modern. 

The emerging place brand values acted as brand filter criteria and call-to-action statements; always forward facing – across all sectors. Tourism was lower in mix – in part as the city lacked a flagship tourism / culture offer at the time. Innovation can mean different things for different people, so as a city that word was not used. Words that fitted better for Manchester included: progressive, challenge convention, make a contribution, think global. No-one can be all of these, but it set a challenge to work through these, whether big or small, to be Original Modern.

Kickstarting a new approach

It worked. Between 2007-10 the most used phrase in Manchester planning meetings was probably: “yes, but is it original modern?”. Manchester’s place in Northern Powerhouse would not have happened without Original Modern. Nor would the plethora of national conferences, cultural and heritage investments like Manchester International Festival, international trade deals and so on. 

We can’t take all the credit, but where do we fit in? Before creating CTConsults, a number of our directors supported the development, stakeholder engagement and brand activation of the place brand proposition. Helen was appointed Director of Strategic Marketing at Marketing Manchester, working alongside the city’s Creative Director Peter Saville as the proposition was developed, supplying essential tourism, culture and regeneration perspective. 

Manchester International Festival (MIF) was the inaugural manifestation of the Original Modern brand and has remained its most successful and sustained to date. Alex and Helen worked to establish the business and brand-fit case for the festival, and Helen led the marketing team who launched the MIF brand and delivered the inaugural festival. Almost immediately after the first festival The Observer headline described Manchester as “the beating cultural heart of Britain”

That same year CTConsults also launched a second original modern-infused brand for the city – creativetourist.com – at the time a pioneering and innovative approach to digital marketing, and the first in a sustained series of CTConsults-led tourism marketing initiatives that have supported Manchester’s changed international reputation as a city. Since then Manchester has risen up many of the world’s city indexes, citing its cultural renaissance as a key factor for its success and appeal. All without a logo, strapline or restrictive brand guidelines.  

15 years on, CTConsults remains a partner to these agencies precisely because we can make and continue to support the business case for a dynamic, evolving place brand.

Woman with wings and short blond hair smiles
This is Manchester, we do things differently here. ”

Tony Wilson

Put your money where your mouth is

Case-making for Manchester City Council’s initial £2m investment in the inaugural Manchester International Festival

MIF Delivers

Manchester International Festival supports economic growth by substantially raising the city’s profile, drawing in national and international visitors. The economic impact of the Festival grew to £50.2million in 2019.

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