Birling Estate then and now

Birling Estate comprises 1800 acres nestled along the North Downs of Kent in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Originally part of the possessions of Odo, Bishop of Baieux, half brother of William the Conqueror, the manor of Birling came to the Nevill’s in 1435 when Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Worcester married Sir Edward Nevill and the estate has remained in the family since then.

At one time a Tudor deer park, the estate evolved and more recently has been managed as a traditional rural estate with farming, forestry, commercial and residential property.

Today the estate is under Guy Nevill’s management and in addition to the Entry Level and Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Schemes he is implementing a number of sustainable diversification projects that will enable the estate to be shared with visitors.

The Birling Crest
The Birling Crest

What prompted the rebrand of Birling Estate?

GN – When I took over the management of the estate a few years ago, I began to explore the history of the place partly to understand the land but also as a way to explore future opportunities.

I’m very conscious that 1800 acres of Kent’s most beautiful countryside is now under my stewardship and as we want to keep it in the family I’m keen to manage and develop the estate sustainably for future generations. This does involve finding viable revenue streams to support and maintain it.

During my re-discovery of the estate’s history, which has been helped by archeologists and conservationists, I felt that there were three projects that were ideal to develop: a sensitively maintained woodland campsite, the restoration of Birling Manor Gardens into an attractive venue and a commercial Vineyard – an idea first suggested by my grandfather who maintained that monks had made wine at Birling at some point in the past. Each of these projects has been directly inspired by the history, geography and heritage of the estate and each one is now underway to some degree.

As the campsite took shape and we begun preparing the ground for planting the Vineyard, I realized that I needed to think about branding in a professional way. These new ventures needed to be promoted – something outside our experience and I wanted a strong and appealing brand that was relevant to today’s visitors.

How did you approach the task and what was your brief?

G.N – My plans for the estate required a strong and credible brand that was well-defined and able to accommodate some very different ideas.

I approached brand consultant David Carroll & Co, a decision that was informed by my professional experience, and I felt the estate would benefit from his thinking and expertise of shaping new and existing brands.

My brief to David was that I wanted to capture Birling’s history yet give the estate an identity of its own with more of a contemporary take and a sense of fun. While there’s a lot of history here I wanted visitors to feel that it’s all quite open and friendly and relevant for today.

As a brand consultant, what was your approach to a ‘heritage’ brand?

DC – The exciting thing about this project was that I was brought in at the beginning of the process. As a brand consultant I’m often brought in to put a ‘face’ on an existing or finished company or product. But with such fresh ideas still in development, this was a collaborative effort to bring the Birling Estate ventures to life.

‘Looking to the past for inspiration for the future’ was a key theme of the process. I think we were both keenly aware of working with a living breathing estate that while rooted in rich history and heritage is constantly evolving. And that leads to a sense of ‘a continuing story’; Guy’s new ventures are very much part of this evolving estate – rooted in, inspired by and shaping its future heritage. We had to be sensitive to that but our aim was to create a contemporary brand relevant to the 21C.

The application of the brand also posed interesting challenges – not only does it need to work across letterheads, business cards and websites, it needs to stretch comfortably from rough and rugged campsite signage to the sophistication of a Manor Garden jazz evening.

What elements were you keen to keep with regards to a sense of heritage & history?

GN – I started looking at the crest as it has been used in the Nevill family over the generations and the bull is consistently part of it. During our research of the Nevill bull we found a version that showed some character and we felt this could work well as a brand marque.

The Birling Bulls
The Birling Bulls

DC – Rather than slavishly recreating the original, I worked on simplified, modern graphic interpretations that could be applied across a variety of media and materials without compromising quality or personality. I presented the final version to Guy and he put the finishing touch by getting the Tipex out and putting the glint in the bull’s eye. Perfect. It gives the bull a lovely personality that is fun, friendly and a bit cheeky.

Birling Bulls brand personality
Birling Bulls brand personality

Once we finalized that version I explored colour-ways to differentiate each venture. The individual coloured bulls form the basis of a ‘brand world’ for the ventures, expressing their personalities without losing a unified identity.

How does the new brand support Birling Estate plans going forward?

GN – It was quite amazing to see how such a simple graphic interpretation could embody the character I wanted to promote and how the use of different colours could change its personality – from sophisticated to warm and friendly.

Birling brand worlds
Birling brand worlds

Having this identity has boosted my confidence and vision in the project. The process has also helped to structure my thoughts about the brand – what impression do I want to create, what do I want to say, how should that be shown. The brand helps to give all that focus and direction through its personality, helping to shape the tone of voice, language and message. It almost has a nurturing role – it becomes a constant reminder of what we want to achieve.

For a fledgling venture such as ours that sense of direction is very important – the campsite officially opens on 24th May this year and a strong brand will help us attract attention, stand out from the crowd and be memorable.

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