The South Norwood Tourist Board: local eccentrics or marketing magicians?

Under-appreciated London suburb or rightly maligned backwater? A war is waging over South Norwood’s fragile reputation

South Norwood, former home of Arthur Conan Doyle, is in the midst of an identity crisis.

One group fighting the good fight is the South Norwood Tourist Board, an unofficial body which, in its own words, is dedicated to “celebrating what others fail to see”.

But in the face of its apparent unpopularity, have the inhabitants of this town set themselves an impossible challenge? The pessimists may say so. But the South Norwood Tourist Board’s outspoken advocacy for one of London’s least-loved localities holds some inspirational content marketing tips.


The South Norwood Tourist Board is a local phenomenon. It is truly the Robin Hood of South London life, sticking up for local businesses and the wider community with its plucky campaigns against the perceived tyranny of Croydon Council.

Its local outlook places the South Norwood Tourist Board ahead of the content marketing curve at a time when the link between technological process and local content is growing – a trend analysed in detail on Content Desk. Wearable technology and hyper-personalisation means content from organisations like the South Norwood Tourist Board will be more in demand than ever in the years ahead. Will yours?


Although geared towards boosting tourism in South Norwood, the South Norwood Tourist Board has made a name for itself far beyond the suburbs of South London. Its outgoing approach to content creation has been the key to this – a textbook example of creating publicity through bold ideas.

A series of stunning manoeuvres, including an aborted campaign to establish South Norwood as an intergalactic hub and a surprise attack on the Lake District, has seen the South Norwood Tourist Board obtain coverage from, among others, the BBC and Wall Street Journal.

Sometimes it goes too far. Their occasional choice of colourful language, such as an odd and misjudged diatribe against the Evening Standard, threatens to undermine the whole venture. Their support of worthy causes buys them some goodwill, but such polarising language is liable to scupper their more laudable efforts. Clearly this is not a suitable tactic for the vast majority of content marketers.


If there’s something going on in South Norwood, the South Norwood Tourist Board will squeeze an impromptu event out of it. Notable examples include Picklesfest, commemorating the rescue of the stolen World Cup in 1966 by a South Norwood dog, and the Sensible Garden, the opening of which was heralded by punk legend Captain Sensible at a marvellous party.

The benefits of using experiences to boost your marketing efforts have already been discussed on Content Desk. The South Norwood Tourist Board demonstrates that lack of access to a giant LED screen need not stand in your way; the vital ingredient in experiential marketing is belief in your content.


Recent political turmoil has heralded a period of soul-searching for content marketers. Is producing more political content worth the risk? Would it be simpler to pull back and transcend the mudslinging? These are the questions harassing organisations of all kinds in these ultra-politicised times.

Not so for the South Norwood Tourist Board. Their declaration of a People’s Republic of South Norwood in 2015 spectacularly anticipated the growth of global political unrest, in addition to showing up other marketers agonising over the potential pitfalls of politicisation.


Despite their often tongue-in-cheek approach to tourism, there is no better example of the importance of a fundamental guiding philosophy than the South Norwood Tourist Board. Declarations of independence and assaults on the Lake District aside, the team has thrown their weight behind a range of good causes. Examples include fundraising to keep a local film club open and campaigning to find Robert Gibson, a local campaigner missing since the summer.

This is a worthy example for marketers going soullessly about their business with little concern for the outside world. Let the naysayers talk down South Norwood’s meagre urban charms; the South Norwood Tourist Board’s combination of bold campaigning and impassioned local activism offers a lesson to us all.

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