Client Story – intu Metrocentre

Services provided:  Brand Development | Interactive Experiences | Visual Merchandising

My claim to fame is that I invented The Metrognomes. I was responsible for the character creation, brand development and interactive experiences at intu Metrocentre. This is how I turned an idea into reality…

intu Metrocentre, home of the Metrognomes

In 1997, Ron Woodman, Metrocentre’s Marketing Manager, approached Centre Design with an idea to create a single character called a ‘Metrognome’ to use in the Christmas promotion. At that time, I was the Design and Display Manager at Centre Design and saw this as a wonderful opportunity to bring together the talented in-house team, combine our skills, and let our imaginations run wild!

I’d attended an Imagineer course at The Disney Institute in Florida, and understood one of the keys to Disney’s success was to promote a collaborative culture to unlock the power of the imagination. I value different people’s perspectives so created an environment where my team could think outside of the box and develop innovative ideas. Applying these principles, I mind mapped all our ideas, no matter how crazy some of them sounded! These were then evaluated, curated and developed to come up with a viable solution.

At the end of this process, not one, but four Metrognomes emerged – Herbert, Sherbet, Maggot and Rusty. Along with a pet dinosaur for Rusty called Metroshopasaurus. Each Metrognome had a distinct identity and colour to highlighting the different coloured car parks and malls within the shopping centre.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the concept storyline development we imagined a land beneath Metrocentre called ‘Metroworld’. This is where the Metrognomes live and is the location for all their adventures.

The Metrognomes were launched Christmas 1997 as they sailed in to Town Square on Maggot’s galleon. Christmas 1998 saw the Town Square transformed into a Victorian Village, featuring the Metrognome’s favourite pantomimes.  Then in 1999 we introduced Millie the Millennium Bug, an interactive robot. The atrium was lit up with a galaxy of stars and planets, featuring a huge rocket display which was built to launch her back into space in 2000.

The Metrognomes have proven to become a valuable IP asset for intu Metrocentre. Used for 20 years in marketing, promotions and events. They have increased footfall, prolonged visitor dwell time, and kept families entertained.

Herbert, Sherbet, Maggot and Rusty have become celebrities in the North East.

Over the years the characters have evolved and grown in popularity. They have appeared as animated characters in numerous interactive Christmas grotto experiences, featured in story books and made into soft toys.

Every Easter and Christmas the Metrognomes star in the annual intu Metrocentre Pantomime, produced by John Lambert at Q20 Events.

I recently met up with John Lambert to see the new fully integrated British Sign Language performance of The Metrognomes Easter show. It was lovely to meet up with my Metrognome ‘babies’ again. John introduced me to them saying “Metrognomes, meet your Mummy!” I think they were pleased to see me…

“Metrognomes, meet your Mummy!”


The Metrognomes have proven to be firm family favourite, loved by generations. Still as popular with children today as they were 20 years ago!”

Intrigued? – Find out how I can help you turn ideas into reality and develop your brand.

Book a free 30mins Discovery Call >

Leave a Reply