Opinion: How branding breathed new life into a forgotten London icon
How do you make a historic development that has stood unoccupied and unloved for almost two decades attractive again? Embrace the unexpected and alter perceptions, says Marks Davis, founder and creative director of branding agency me&dave
When Barclays moved from Royal Mint Court to Canary Wharf in 2000, few could have imagined that this historic financial epicentre would lie dormant and neglected for so long.
So when property developer Delancey took on the project, it knew it had a major image overhaul on its hands if it was to attract new occupiers to the huge 600,000 square foot commercial space.
We were tasked with creating a brand and marketing collateral that would rid this former financial powerhouse of its jaded image, restore its reputation and establish it as an aspirational proposition. The plan was to appeal to as wide a range of international businesses as possible.
The brief was to respect the heritage (the central Johnson Smirke Building is listed and the site is near the Tower of London and Tower Bridge), while dragging it kicking and screaming into the modern world.
We realised that we needed to completely rethink the key target occupier, who probably wasn’t going to be the traditional City type. Royal Mint Court is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on the edge of the Square Mile, so the campaign had to appeal to people who weren’t afraid to break City codes and boundaries. They were more likely to be innovators, unafraid to go against the grain.
The obvious strategy would have been to play up the past and celebrate London’s unparalleled heritage, but we believed that to lure modern businesses the brand needed to be almost at odds with history and reflect Royal Mint Court’s old-meets-new juxtaposition (as well as the listed structures, there are 1980s urban blocks that are being redeveloped).
Yes, the capital is celebrated around the globe for its history, but it’s also one of the world’s most powerful business hubs. Our brand strategy needed to amplify that modern, unique London energy, shift perceptions and revitalise the iconic institution. London is an international heavyweight, but it’s also one of the most exciting, surprising and innovative cities in the world. We had to drive that message home.
We wanted to appeal to people who see the world a little differently. The instinctive, the innovative, the industrious – those who feel the pull of opportunity. Life is moving at a faster rate than ever before and Royal Mint Court couldn’t afford to languish in the past any longer.
To that end, we opted for poppy, controversial imagery. Potential occupiers were invited to walk through heavy, old-fashioned wooden doors into an unexpected, brightly lit marketing suite, with glossy red lips dominating a wall, a juke box, pool table, drinks fridge and striking neon signs. Other marketing materials included a brochure, website and presenter box with CGI imagery, development plans and information about the location. Hoardings surrounding the site also featured the signature lipsticked mouth, with apertures so that passers-by could peer in and see the construction take shape.
A series of merchandise was also created, including a jet-black umbrella. On the face of it, a traditional City-gent accessory, but on opening, that signature smile looks right back at you. A big ‘shout out’ for Royal Mint Court and the perfect metaphor for the whole campaign.
Having fun with the concept of ‘old meets new’ and taking such a fresh and radical approach was exactly what this former grande dame needed to make her relevant for today’s London.