Clapham Junction is not in Clapham!

Originally posted by Hugh Salmon, Apr 13 2010, 12:19 AM

When does a name become a brand? And at what stage of a brand’s development can it rely on the mere transmission of its name to justify expenditure on the exposure of its name alone?

For example, how do marketers justify investment in the presence of their name on the side of a golf ball, or the side-line of a football pitch or the side-pod of the nose-cone of a Formula One car?

I have never really understood this side of our market. These ‘sponsorship’ brands aren’t making a claim. They rely on their name.

To people who do not understand the meaning of the word ‘brand’, I advise them to substitute the word ‘brand’ with the word ‘personality’.

Once they have understood this, they can then understand that brands rely very heavily on their name. In fact, for most brands, their name defines the brand, although there are some exceptions, such as Nike and Shell, where a visual device says it all. These are formula one brands.

There is an inherent truth behind these brand names. People know what they stand for and what they can get out of them.

Thus, I suppose, ‘reminding’ people of a brand name alone is money well spent. Personally, I still don’t get it, but people do it – so it must be justifiable expenditure.

In the real world, having established a brand like say, Dove, the brand’s personality can be extended into new product areas and new income streams. But you need to connect the claim of old brand to delivery in new product.

And in the High Street, signage is very important. The name of the store, even if it is as fatuous as Fat Face, defines the personality of the brand and so encourages shoppers to feel comfortable entering the store.

Unfortunately, these days, it seems the same shops with the same signs and the same personalities are all on the same-looking High Streets in same looking towns. Wherever you go, the names are the same.

Talking of towns, I have always been interested in the fact that people have a preconceived perception about a place that may not be based on reality, and where they may never have even been. For example why has Slough always been defined as such a rotten borough? It can’t all be down to one poem by John Betjeman.

Indeed, the place I live and work also seems to be looked down on by certain folk, especially those North of the River Thames.

Why is the case and how can one change it?

When I moved The Salmon Agency to Clapham Junction 10 years ago, we were paying £12 per square foot compared to over £50 a square foot in Victoria – 7 minutes away on a train.

Because Clapham Junction is a ‘main line’ rather than a ‘tube’ station, people think you have to wait for a train or find a timetable – unlike the Underground, where you just turn up hoping a train will turn up too.

Unless you live near Clapham Junction, that is, in which case you will know that trains to Victoria and Waterloo leave every few minutes.

In fact, in terms of frequency of trains to London, to all intents and purposes, Clapham Junction operates as an Underground station – one stop to Vauxhall, two stops to Waterloo and, often, one stop to Victoria.  You seldom have to wait more than five minutes for a train into town.

So I have always told visitors to my office that Clapham Junction raises an interesting branding issue based on people’s automatic perceptions of a ‘main line’ rather than ‘tube’ station.

But Clapham Junction has another, much bigger branding issue.

Clapham Junction is not in Clapham at all. It is in Battersea.

Clapham is the other side of Clapham Common and Wandsworth is the other side of Wandsworth Common and Clapham Junction is bang between the two – in Battersea. That brand ‘Clapham Junction’ is not based on an inherent truth. It is where it isn’t.

And it is really boring when you live and work here and tourists come out of the station, often laden with baggage from Gatwick, and ask the directions for a road in Clapham and you have to tell them they are not in Clapham at all.

It doesn’t give visitors a favourable first impression of London.

I also think it is really important for the people who live here to have a positive sense of identity about the area they live in.

So I wonder if towns and urban areas like Clapham Junction could identify and admit to their inherent truth (or lack of).

Would Clapham Junction benefit from a change of name to, say, Battersea Junction and could marketing and communications experts use this to launch and establish a greater sense of pride and identity in a place just like they do with ‘brands’?

And, if this could be done, could the new name signal a new direction and a new sense of identity and a new sense of pride and maybe even better behaviour and respect for people within their neighbourhood?

I wish.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
This entry was posted in Blog posts. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *