Bluewater is Europe’s largest retail and leisure destination. It
opened on 16 March near Dartford in Kent and was designed as a ’new
generation retail environment’ by Australian property developer Lend
Cohn and Wolfe was hired to develop the brand, handle community
relations, promote the venue to consumers, and provide a press
To position Bluewater as a shopping alternative to central London and as
Europe’s most exciting retail and leisure centre. To attract customers
who would not normally visit an out-of-town shopping centre and support
the leasing team in attracting quality retailers.
Cohn and Wolfe developed and ran four programmes. In each element of the
campaign, PR was the primary form of communication.
To convey how Bluewater differs from other shopping centres, the agency
commissioned research to explore the shopping habits of men and
The research identified that half of all shopping trips end in tears as
men and women have different shopping needs. Bluewater had created a
tailored retail offer for men - the male creche, and the research was
used to position the centre as an innovative shopping environment.
Cohn and Wolfe had to keep local press, community groups, and nearby
residents informed of developments including questions on Bluewater’s
impact on local traders, traffic and the environment. Initiatives
included the creation of a press club to give local updates, a community
newsletter distributed as an insert in local newspapers, as well as the
promotion of a roadshow to publicise the 6,700 new jobs, and the launch
of a transport plan to encourage shoppers and staff to travel by bus or
Cohn and Wolfe organised a national press programme of tailored features
on specialist subjects including architecture, landscaping, family and
kids, and set up a fashion launch to introduce Bluewater to key fashion
writers. The agency also co-ordinated and monitored media and retailer
queries and managed on-site media events such as press breakfasts.
Crisis planning and management handled by the press office included
dealing with the out-of-town versus high street debate and traffic and
transportation issues, all of which were highlighted in the media when
Bluewater opened for business.
The fashion launch was attended by 40 journalists from titles including
Elle, Vogue and Marie Claire. Around 70 journalists, ranging from trade
to foreign correspondents, attended the on-site preview week. Pre-launch
coverage from October 1998 to February 1999 resulted in 180
The fortnight before launch, 90 pieces appeared in the press, and at
least 70 have appeared since the opening. The press team has handled 600
calls and 60 one-to-one briefings. Around 120,000 shoppers turned up on
Cohn and Wolfe successfully juggled a campaign which depended as much on
crisis and issues management as getting glossy consumer magazines and
lifestyle writers to buy-in to the Bluewater experience.
Lend Lease marketing director Amanda Longworth said: ’We were relying on
PR to convince journalists to be third party endorsers, and well over 90
per cent of the coverage was positive.’
Client: Bluewater/Lend Lease
PR Team: Cohn and Wolfe
Timescale: August 1997 to March 1999