Marketing boost for east Kent aims to sell the south east's 'best kept secret'

Michael Hayman, from marketing firm Seven Hills
Michael Hayman, from marketing firm Seven Hills

by business editor Trevor Sturgess

Grow for it in east Kent! That’s a slogan that will start appearing across the nation to raise the profile of the south east’s "best kept secret".

Kent County Council has commissioned branding firm Seven Hills to come up with a marketing campaign that aims to transform the area’s image and bring thousands of jobs.

It is injecting £100,000 into the first phase, with a possible extra £150,000 over the next three years. Officials are urging businesses to invest in the campaign.

It will promote Thanet, Dover, Shepway and Canterbury as great places for investment in a region that has rundown areas, but a wide range of attractions not always appreciated outside the area.

The campaign will involve area champions, prestige events, a battle bus, posters and media promotion. It could use slogans to attract Londoners such as "Swap Your Oyster for Oysters" and "From Bank to the Beach in Under 60".

It will capitalise on the £35m of Regional Growth Funding on offer as soft loans to firms creating jobs in east Kent. As drugs giant Pfizer withdraws most of its staff from Sandwich - it is retaining around 800 - the site has been renamed Discovery Park and officials hope to attract firms that will create thousands of jobs over the next 10 years.

Last night, business and civic chiefs from east Kent attended a preview of the marketing campaign.

Michael Hayman, of Seven Hills and pictured above left, told them: "This evening is all about the positioning of east Kent and how you sell your message to the world. How it can have a compelling message to help it grow as an investment location."

Pfizer in Sandwich
Pfizer in Sandwich

The Pfizer site in Sandwich has been renamed the Discovery Park

Great destinations were places where people wanted to be, he said. East Kent was on the doorstep of one of the most successful cities in the world and close to mainland Europe. It offered value for money and a great lifestyle.

"If we can present east Kent as the go-to location for growing businesses, that would be a very powerful message to present to the external market," he said. "We have a fantastic but as yet untold secret."

KCC leader Cllr Paul Carter said: "This location is unique in its proximity to London and mainland Europe. It’s a unique part of the south east where the opportunities are quite exceptional."

Thanet North MP Roger Gale said too much of the region’s potential was unrealised. "We can realise it and we will realise it if we pull together," he said.

Paul Barrett, chairman of Canterbury4Business, welcomed the campaign as a game-changer: "It’s something we’ve been waiting for for years. We’ve dwelt too much in the past on the problems and not enough on the opportunities."

Mark Quinn, of Quinn Estates, a commercial property developer based in Littlebourne, said: "It made the hair on my neck go up. It’s a breath of fresh air. How do I get involved?"

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