The Yorkshire brand is stronger than those of its individual areas, we must not dilute it - Stewart Arnold

One of the unintended consequences of the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ initiative and the gradual move towards some form of devolution, is that something of a branding skirmish has broken out in Yorkshire.

Aside from the uncertainty of how a devolved North Yorkshire will be ‘branded’ (especially if it consists of two subdivisions), there is the ongoing battle between advocates of Yorkshire and supporters of what might be called ‘the North’.

In the document setting out the economic rationale for devolving power to Yorkshire, put together by the eighteen Yorkshire councils in 2018, the strength of the Yorkshire brand featured highly.

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The document says: “The Yorkshire brand is considered a significant asset by business, both in terms of local and national markets and in international/outward focussed activities.”

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This is clearly evidenced by the number of businesses, ranging from best-selling brand Yorkshire Tea to artisanal ice cream makers Yummy Yorkshire, who see the name of the county for their company or product as a strength.

That the association with Yorkshire is seen as such a positive for brands makes the decision to rebrand the Yorkshire Bank as Virgin Money a strange one as I have commented before.

However, perhaps an even more significant development for the future of the Yorkshire brand is something else entirely – the North. An example of how the North might be prevailing over Yorkshire in terms of branding strategies, is the decision of Henderson’s Relish to change the slogan on its labelling.

Previously saying the ‘Yorkshire Original’ complete with a white rose, this has recently been replaced by the slogan ‘Strong and Northern’. This perhaps taps into a perception that the ‘North’ is emerging as the stronger brand.

It might be linked to a key driver in the move towards devolution: The Northern Powerhouse. This initiative has had some success in channelling monies into projects in the North of England and has offered London a neat catch-all term for economic regeneration in this part of the world.

Despite Mrs May’s unenthusiastic support for the initiative, it subsequently emerged as a significant political branding exercise as the Conservative Party attempted to break through (successfully as it turned out) the so called ‘red wall’ in the North.

It might be claimed there could be room for both ‘Yorkshire’ and the ‘North’ in this battle of place branding. However, place branding across the globe, whether it be to attract inward investment and visitors, or as a short cut to promote products and services, is a competitive sector.

What should also be remembered is that, in the short-term at least, both Yorkshire and the North as brands, could fall behind the city regions of Sheffield, Leeds and Hull and whatever comes out of the discussions in North Yorkshire, as those newly formed areas flex their muscles in the marketplace.

If there was ever a time for collaboration and joined up thinking, it is now or the very strengths offered by the Yorkshire brand might evaporate.