It has been a key aim of Darlington’s development strategy to protect and promote the town’s identity and let it retain its own character. So as various parts of the town have grown and new places have been added, the Darlington brand has become more powerful than ever.
As one way of uniting the changes, the town is building on one of its key assets – ingenuity. A cross-section of passionate people and businesses of all sizes from all sectors are signing up for Ingenious Darlington – a marketing project setting out to tell the story of the town.
They have all recognised that ingenuity is a Darlington word, starting from the textiles and railways and continuing with the Forge and the National Biologics Centre and so many other projects. The brand is on show on letterheads, posters and websites and will be proudly waved as a flag of support for the town.
Rockliffe Hall chairman Warwick Brindle, who has been at the heart of the creation and development of the brand, said the drive to protect the marketing of the town came after the dismantling of One North East.
"A couple of years ago I was at a meeting of private and public sector companies wanting to promote the town and come up with a marketing plan.
"We put together a programme to get us to a place where we could develop a strategy for Darlington and I became the chairman of what was a very collective movement. We created
and agreed a brief and David Hawksworth of the Given agency impressed us the most and told us they really wanted the challenge of marketing a whole town. They did a lot of work and came back saying ‘this is what we think the town is about’. And the word ingenious kept cropping up.
"We looked back at the history of the town and at the universities and what was coming up and all the things many people don’t know about and it seemed right. I had been in enough meetings in the past where ideas to promote a town were along the lines of ‘let’s tell them we’ve got transport and trees and electricity!’
The team wants the brand to be smoothly woven into the town’s fabric and have a long lifespan. "We knew what the task was when Given went around the town asking people to describe it. They got ‘market town’, ‘industrial town’, ‘railway town’.... so many great assets, but we needed the one binding thing that told people that, as a location, it stacked up against anything else in the UK.
"Rockliffe does a lot of trade shows and agents in the leisure industry and golf industry wanted to know more about where we were and what was around us."
The dictionary definition of ingenious is ‘cleverly and originally devised and well suited to its purpose’. That seems spot-on for Darlington, and when you list synonyms like inventive, creative, imaginative, original, innovative, resourceful, enterprising and inspired, you realise that Ingenious should really be next to Darlington in any business dictionary.
"We have been integrating the word into the businesses and the community," says Warwick. "We’ve created a brand and are inviting the whole town to embrace it. There is a toolkit of information and logos at www.ingeniousdarlington.co.uk and so many firms are going there and supporting it, for a product or an event or just as part of their own marketing. We are describing Rockliffe as an Ingenious Resort in an Ingenious Town. We are even going to have an Ingenious Cocktail at the bar.
"We want to stimulate interest in the town and draw in people who might be interested in investing. When they ask about the Ingenious tag the whole town will tell them to look at the history of the place, and add ingredients like the universities at Teesside, Durham and Newcastle almost on its doorstep, for instance. As the support builds locally, the council can use that momentum to get the message out into the wider world.
"To me the Ingenious idea is to get people to ask ‘Why?’. We have such a rich history of inventing things, fantastic facilities in education and then the trees and transport element.
"We can go out and compete with pride and be even better than we are now. That’s why."
Backing for the brand has come from all sectors of the town, including Bussey & Armstrong; Real Results Marketing; Darlington Building Society; Teesside University; the NECC; Handelsbanken; Hewitt’s Solicitors; The Northern Echo; Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel; St. Teresa’s Hospice; Darlington Credit Union; Lingfield Point; Houndgate Townhouse hotel; Darlington Business Club; Harvey and Hugo PR; Caroline Hinde Accountancy; Festival of Thrift; Willow Tree Gardens and Age UK Sara Williams, Head of Marketing & Business Development at Lingfield Point says: "The story we can tell about our town is simple. In fact it’s ingenious and has allowed us all to tie the town’s past, its present, but most importantly of all, inspire its future."
Houndgate Townhouse director Natalie Cooper adds: "We’re really pleased to be involved in a new initiative promoting Darlington as a great place to eat, drink, sleep and do business."
And James Dobson, business & inclusion development officer at Age UK says "We’re incorporating the ‘Ingenious Darlington’ branding into all of our marketing, including our website, promotional materials and within the meeting centre itself."
The confidence of this new brand is clear and vital. Darlington is a town that is bold enough to say ‘that same imaginative spirit, blind to reason, which allowed a small group of railway-men and women to kick-start modernity, is still alive and well’.