The brand character based on the Bownessie legend of Windermere is set to make an impact on Chinese visitors to the Lake District.
Marketing graduate Xiaohui He was recruited as an intern by the Cumbria Innovations Platform on a project to research the buying behaviour of international visitors. Her research will inform innovative product development of the iconic toy created by Bowness businesswoman Naz Craig and the further development of the existing range. It will also help with the company’s marketing strategy.
“The aim of hiring a Chinese intern was to use her cultural knowledge to help shape the market research I was conducting to gain a better insight on what the many Chinese tourists do in the Lakes and how Bownessie could reach the Chinese market and improve brand positioning,” said Ms Craig. “The ultimate aim is to collate visitor information to help raise funds to take the Bownessie brand from a pilot phase and use the investment to develop the products, services and new partnerships. The next phase is to find investors.”
The Bownessie toy, and associated items for children including colouring books and “appearances” at events, was conceived following speculation about a “monster” said by some to be living in the lake. The appearance of a mysterious creature in the water was first reported in the Westmorland Gazette following a sighting by a university lecturer, Steve Burnip. It subsequently featured in an hour-long documentary about lake monsters made by a French Canadian film company.
Naz Craig said: “The idea is to build an amphibious character synonymous with the Lake District (akin to Peter Rabbit, but like the Loch Ness monster) and create a range of characterised products based on the unidentifiable creature in the lake.
“We want to develop a ‘Hide and Seek’ theme so that the we can take Bownessie around the Lake District on the basis we are looking for him.”
She added: “There have been several sightings of a mystery monster on Lake Windermere. We want to create the Bownessie brand with a range of products and activities that can be used to introduce people to the beautiful natural environment of the Lake District and show the exciting places and adventures they can have in the area.
“That’s everything including nature walks, cruising in the lake, or even having a Bownessie themed event and then taking home a memento such as a cuddly toy or other merchandise.”
Cumbria Innovations Platform project manager Sarah Allison said that the internship was an excellent example of how graduate students could help small businesses to develop ideas and products. “This was a very specific piece of market research which has enabled the client to address the needs of a target audience.”