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Branding Scotland: The Time is Ripe

By Alan Wilson - Posted on 28 February 2013

Professor Alan Wilson, Professor of Marketing and Academic Director of the Executive Masters in Hospitality and Tourism Leadership, looks at the branding of Scotland…

The 2014 Independence Referendum is raising the profile of the Scottish Brand across the world, and it is critical that efforts are made to ensure that this higher visibility is capitalised upon through the quality of events, products and services produced under the Scottish brand. Scotland has always had a distinctive tartan and shortbread image, but now there is an opportunity to build on what is happening to build a more dynamic positioning whilst embracing the heritage and natural strengths of the country.

Efforts are already underway. Take the recent Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar success of Disney Pixar’s ‘Brave’ for example. Disney teamed up with the tourism agency VisitScotland to promote the country to families - the first time this has been done. VisitScotland launched a multi-million pound advertising campaign to attract visitors from around the world and with the success of the film in the US, the returns could be significant. On a similar vein the much lauded James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ included a striking sequence set in Glencoe. ‘Skyfall’ has been one of the most aggressively marketed films in living memory and there is even a 007 branded train travelling between Edinburgh and London.

Sport will also assist in the marketing of Scotland and Glasgow with the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. These events may attract  high global TV audiences and showcase the warmth and welcome of the country and its people.

However, in addition to attracting tourism, Scotland needs to use these political, artistic and sporting events to showcase the country’s talents in producing quality products and services. In food and drink, some of Scotland’s products are second to none, whether it is seafood, beef, cheeses, venison or whisky. Recent research from The Scotch Whisky Association suggests the sector is worth more than £4bn a year to the Scottish economy, accounting for 55% of total international export growth since 2002. Growth markets include China, South Korea and Brazil. At a time when questions are being asked about mass produced processed food, there is a significant opportunity for the natural products from the Scottish larder.

It is also worth stressing that quality Scottish products and talents also exist in more technical fields such as renewables, engineering, consultancy for the extraction industries, biotechnology, computer games, managing investments, fashion goods etc. And dare I say it: we also have a valued education product that attracts quality students, researchers and academics from around the world.

It is not enough for Scottish people to think these things.

A brand whether it is of a country or a product is created in the mind of the potential customer. The government, companies and people of Scotland need to take advantage of the high profile shop window existing over the next two years to build the dynamic and attractive Scottish brand of the future. It is unlikely we will have such an opportunity again.

What do you think of Scotland’s brand image?  How should it develop in the future?

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