Ten Years on from the “Slanty n” - Has a decade made a difference?

“This month marks the 10th anniversary of Nottingham’s infamous “Slanty N” marketing debacle - the promotional blunder that gave the City and County such a reputation damaging drubbing in the national and international media and BOB WHITE of the World Wide Robin Hood Society asks “Has a Decade made a Difference?”

SlantyNThe omens for the failure of the calamitous Slanty N campaign were obvious long before the media launch, where the hot air balloon, with the off-balance N emblazoned on its side, got snagged by the March wind on a corner of Newstead Abbey and embarrassingly began to deflate “live” for the nation to publicly ridicule on Breakfast television, as presenter Natasha Kaplinsky’s laughter echoed round the studio! Meanwhile, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, John Humphreys and I were mutually aghast with disbelief at the insanity of committing “marketing suicide” by trying to promote Nottingham with “a wonky N” when the whole world knows that the City and County are famous for their Robin Hood connections! The Independent on Sunday even featured it in their “Bad Idea of the Week” column and as the story reverberated around the world’s media, Nottingham and Notts were starting to look pretty silly! Imagine if it had happened in today’s social media savvy environment of Facebook and Twitter etc. - the consequences would have been even more devastating!

Fortunately, a vigorous joint campaign by the Post, our Society and the general public finally saw common sense prevail and the City authorities banished the offending” N” – but of course the damage had already been done!

Looking back over the last 10 years, Nottingham has moved on from those embarrassing times but the authorities’ attempts to grasp the Robin Hood “nettle” have often been erratic and protracted.

However, the Nottingham Castle Trust is now firmly on track to carry out the long-awaited up-grade of the Castle to potentially become a world-class visitor attraction that also meets tourists and residents expectations about the Robin Hood legend. A Robin Hood Marketing Group has been established to ensure there is better communication and exchange of information between all the organisations and authorities who promote the City and County on various fronts, recognising the benefits of a more co-ordinated approach on issues connected with the legendary Sherwood hero.

But responses to the current Robin Hood Business Survey also show that the scars the Slanty N fiasco left behind still run deep and some quarters of the business community remain nervous about the sensitivities of trying to collectively “brand” the City.” When the survey data is analysed over the coming weeks, we will hopefully get a better idea of just what business and commerce really think about the impact of the Robin Hood associations and use the findings and comments to help constructively suggest how to get the best out of the legendary connections to benefit the local economy and the community. On at least two previous occasions, elements of the business community have been openly dismissive of the Robin Hood links and had to eventually reluctantly bow to public pressure and professional criticism. Let’s hope that this time history doesn’t repeat itself!