Stirling & Perthshire
Rock Icons exhibition work by Baseline Graphics
Always one of the most historically significant areas in Scotland, the Stirling and Perthshire region is currently re-inventing itself as a creative hub. Dave Hunter picks up his Claymore, practices his best war-cry and sets out to see what the centre of Scotland has to offer.
Not since William Wallace defeated the English at Stirling Bridge in 1297 has the Stirling and Perthshire region been so committed to bettering itself in the eyes of the world.
It’s a fitting metaphor for the region’s growing marketing community, currently standing against the superior numbers of Edinburgh and Glasgow, battling for its independence.
Known to many as the “heart of Scotland”, the region is one of many areas of the country currently enjoying a period of rapid growth. Stirling, in particular, has felt a marked increase in development and investment in recent years. This growth has seen it finally receive city status, as well as welcoming a raft of companies starting up or relocating to the new city from elsewhere.
In marketing terms the area certainly appears to be blossoming, particularly on the design side. Stirling city centre has become a haven for several graphic design consultancies and, although the industry in the area is relatively young, each consultancy has an established and growing client list consisting of both local and national business.
One such company is Vizibility. Currently in its fourth year of business, Vizibility has grown to handle accounts for Edrington Group (parent company of Famous Grouse Whisky), KE Adventure Travel and Gael Force, the national marine equipment manufacturer, as well as the Argyll, the Isles, Loch Lomond, Stirling and the Trossachs Tourist Board. Vizibility has also opened a small office in Bulgaria, with a dedicated team of programmers focusing on creating new software programmes.
Director Scott Dickson doesn’t believe being based in Stirling is any kind of a drawback to winning business. He says: “If you sit down and look at a map of Scotland and say ‘Right, we’ve got a blank sheet here, where’s the best place to be based?’, Stirling is it because it’s so central.
“As far as clients go, for some of them it’s a distinct advantage because of location, but if a client’s in England it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference whether you’re in Stirling, Edinburgh or Glasgow. It’s what you’re going to deliver for them that counts.”
“There is a buzz around Stirling at the moment about innovation, and that’s largely due to being named a city,” remarks Bill Bruce of Bruce Design. He formed the consultancy, along with wife Jacquie, eight years ago and has built an impressive client list, which includes, amongst others, BP, Burness Solicitors and the University of Stirling. “One advantage for us is that we work in Dundee, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, so Stirling is an ideal location for getting to all those places easily.”
The consultancies themselves are not the only ones to benefit from the easy accessibility to other cities. Woods of Perth, the largest printer in the Perthshire area, has found its location in Perth to be ideal for generating business. The company has grown to produce projects for clients not just in the UK, but also in 20 countries throughout the world. Michael Eddington, chairman of Woods of Perth, comments: “Our location in Perth allows us to serve our Scottish customers, many of whom are based in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen. However, our locality has also not impeded us from catering for our international clients, a market which has grown largely by referral, who are as far away as Australia and Russia.”
Location can be a major advantage for agencies operating in the Stirling and Perthshire areas. Not just in terms of easy access to other cities, but also because of the quality of the surroundings. Just as a lot of companies put effort into impressing their clients with nice offices, so agencies in Stirling and Perthshire can impress clients with their majestic environments.
The Write People is one of the oldest consultancies in the area, having been formed 14 years ago. Originally based in Dunblane, the Write People has recently relocated to Stirling city centre, where it services clients such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Livingwell Health Clubs, Hilton Hotels and the Scottish Prison Service. Co-founder John Brownbill says: “The surroundings count for a lot. You don’t go far before you’re out of the built-up areas. I think we also find that our clients who are based in Glasgow will say ‘Oh no, we’ll come to see you’. It’s a nice little jaunt to Stirling for them. There’s a great excitement about Stirling now because of the city status. Cost-wise it’s effective and I think that’s reflected in the rates we charge. We just don’t have the overheads of someone based in Edinburgh or Glasgow city centres.”
The area would also seem to have a healthy supply of clients. Very few of the agencies that spoke to The Drum pitch regularly against rivals in the area for their accounts. Most seem to have a firm base of core clients, often rooted in local businesses and organisations, which acts as a firm foundation for them to build on with business based outside the region. Local councils, education and tourism are all strong users of marketing services, as well as local businesses and larger companies that have opened offices in the area.
In addition to these accounts there is no shortage of business from outside the region being handled by local agencies. Several of the agencies in the area handle accounts for clients based elsewhere in Scotland, as well as further afield.
One such agency is Creative Joose, based in Alloa, outside Stirling. The agency was founded by director Richard Neal, who has experience working on both sides of the marketing fence, having previously worked on the client side at Olympus Sports (now part of JJB) and Room2, as well as new media agency Reality Group. On the Creative Joose client list are names such as Warner Brothers Studio Stores, Room2 and Tomo, the mobile phone retailer started by former DX Communications owner Richard Emmanuel. Neal states that being based in and around Stirling and Perthshire can sometimes be a mixed blessing. He says: “There are two ways of looking at it: it’s not a disadvantage when dealing with local companies because they would rather be a big fish in a small agency than go to Glasgow or Edinburgh and be a small fish with a big agency. On the other hand, I’ve worked on the other end of the fence and I know how companies based out here are perceived. I’m just completely honest with people about what they’re getting.”
The issue of preconceptions is one that, seemingly, is decreasing as time goes by. However, certain prejudices still remain on the client side.
“Unfortunately, I think there are some people who still believe that they can only get creative expertise from a consultancy based in a major city, and we’re talking about Edinburgh or Glasgow,” says Brownbill. “And I think that that’s totally wrong. I think there is an equal amount of expertise and talent based around here and, if I’m honest, in other parts of the country as well. But they’re not getting recognition.”
Douglas Walker and Steven Bonner formed Baseline Graphics just under three years ago. Although the agency has successfully established itself working for clients such as DF Concerts on T in the Park and T in the Fringe projects, as well as Scottish Youth Hostels, they agree that there is still a lingering doubt when moving away from the big cities. Walker says: “The disadvantage is that you can be passed over. I think because in the past the design industry was based in Glasgow or Edinburgh then sometimes people pass you by. It’s happening less now, but you can still get the old-school guys coming in from time to time. What a lot of these people forget, though, is that a lot of the folk running these agencies have spent time working in Edinburgh or Glasgow and have since moved away.”
Rob Mungavin runs a marketing consultancy called Meridian Marketing, based in Dunblane. Having spent time working in London and on different sides of the client/agency fence, he moved to Perthshire 12 years ago and hasn’t looked back. During his time working in marketing north of the border he has had plenty of time to observe the Scottish work ethic.
He says: “There are two things about Scotland that are both laudable and quaint. One is that there is a kind of professional modesty – that if you’re good you’ll get your just deserts and if you’re bad you’ll get your just deserts, which I think is naÃ¯ve. You have to be competitive and stay ahead of the Joneses. Secondly, there is this attitude that you don’t think about where your next work is coming from, you just focus on the work that you do. Just because you’re busy at the moment is no excuse for not having a marketing plan.”
With Stirling and Perthshire growing both in terms of clients and agencies there seems no reason why the marketing community in these areas shouldn’t continue to grow and add business, not just locally but nationally. However, as Mungavin points out, keeping busy with existing business is no reason to neglect your profile in the marketplace. In order for the agencies and consultancies in Stirling and Perthshire to compete with Edinburgh and Glasgow on a completely equal footing they have to ensure their names are out there, which means spending time not just marketing their clients but marketing themselves as well. In the long run, it’s fairly certain they will succeed. After all, fighting against the odds is what these people do. Just look at William Wallace.