Search for a slogan

By The Drum, Administrator

January 15, 2004 | 10 min read

Chunk Ideas advert for selling Scotland.

The word ‘Slogan’ comes from slogorne, the Scots for ‘battle-cry’. Apt, perhaps, then that Scotland has been inundated by slogans and catch-phrases over the last few years as it attempts to sell itself, and its towns and cities, to those at home and overseas.

It has now been revealed, grudgingly, that Jack McConnell is looking to present a more modern image of Scotland abroad. The plan is to sell Scotland to all and everyone, however, at present, a circle of secrecy surrounds these plans.

Roger Williams, head of marketing at the Scottish Executive, was reticent when talking about the project, although he was quick to point out, that contrary to recent reports, the plans were not just about a new catchphrase for the country: “The project is about an overarching message for promoting Scotland, not about brands or logos.”

Other than revealing that the Executive’s retained agencies, Barkers and The Union, would be handling the brief, the communication was cut-short.

Maybe a representative for Jack McConnell might be able to help? Well, yes and no. The explanation is slightly more informative, if open-ended: “The Executive and its partners are currently undertaking research into Scotland and how the country is perceived at home and abroad. The campaign will target the ex-pat communities, coupled with students studying in Scotland - to retain them after their studies have finished - and skilled immigrants. The strategy will be announced over the next six months.”

So, to the agencies...and the reticence is continued. Ian McAteer, The Union’s managing director declines the opportunity to answer questions on the project, and Barkers follow suit.

If newspaper reports are to be believed though, McConnell is looking to the successful re-branding of countries such as New Zealand and Spain, as role-models for the project, although McAteer recently made the point that this is no re-brand: “To call this exercise a re-brand would be a mistake. I would argue that Scotland has never had a brand.”

Scottish Enterprise launched Project Galore six years ago, which sought to identify the image that Scotland projected to the world at large. The results showed that Scotland and its people were seen as strong and powerful, evoking images of castles, tartan and mystery.

However, what has been argued by those involved in this project is that the image of Vin Diesel at the MTV awards in his black leather kilt (notice black leather – not tartan), is now more aptly suited to the country as it looks to attract young, fresh blood.

Project Galore led to the formation of Scotland the Brand, which has now been tipped by many to be the fore-runner for adoption by the Executive.

A range of organisations and quangos exist promoting Scotland in its different shapes and forms – from VisitScotland to Scottish Enterprise, as well as Scotland The Brand – to both the public at home and abroad.

However, although Scotland’s rich list of cultural ingredients often lend to an appetising attraction, it is this diversity that often makes Scotland so hard to market.

And even Theresa Houston, chief executive of Scotland the Brand, recently admitted that there has been some confusion with all the different logos and identities of different agencies.

But will these new steps that are being slowly taken by the Executive go to solve this problem, or will they only make that matter worse? With VisitScotland and Scotland the Brand both backing the moves, however, it looks as though, despite the secrecy that surrounds the project, it will be a step in the right direction.

The problem with selling Scotland as an entity is the diversity of the country, the skills and the people. Can you be all things to all people?

Houston said at a recent ITC Executive Forum: “Scotland is lucky, in having a whole range of brands and images and icons. It's one of the easier countries to brand, and the images tend to be on the positive side. We are very much building high value, premium brands and we need to protect that. We are regulating use of the brand. But although we can lay down a criteria, it is more difficult when you're dealing at an emotional level.”

But she stressed that one of the things Scotland didn't do at the beginning, and should have, was that it wasn’t sold sufficiently internally. “Now we're realising we have to sell it to the Scots, to ensure that when people come in, the country is living up to the very high perception.”

The population of Scotland is dropping. For the first time in recent history it is set to fall below five million. There is a problem that needs addressed, however, not everyone looks to the same solutions.

One leading advertising MD, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Scotland may have a dwindling population... but is that a major problem? A large percentage of the population in Scotland are economically inactive. Instead of trying to attract more to the country, would time be better served helping the resources that we already have? Invest in training, in improving service and services, empowering the population and making Scotland even more attractive as a place to live, work and holiday.

“Attracting a larger workforce to Scotland may be the easy answer, but is it the intellectually robust and economic answer to the problem, if, of course, it is a problem in the first place?”

On the flip side, Scotland has an ageing population, and the fact remains that taxes have to be paid, health care and welfare covered. Old people cost more than young people to keep and new blood is vital in the short term to retain the balance that the country currently has. And, clearly there are two ways to counter this – either attract new immigrants and ex-pats, or make more of the resources that exist.

Population ageing is caused by interactions between three main demographic variables: fertility, mortality and migration. If there are no major changes in these factors, the ageing of the population will accelerate dramatically in the coming decades. Scotland is the only country in the UK whose absolute numbers are expected to decline, falling below five million in 2009 from the 5,062,011 people counted on census day, April 29 2001, and below four million by 2041.

The UK is the fourth richest economy in the world. But not content to boast just that, Scotland has added attraction – the quality of life, the environment, the people and how they fit together to create a welcoming environment. The welcome that you might receive in the States is warm, but it is cheap. In Scotland the welcome is well earned. It is like a view from the top of a Scottish mountain – you have to work a little to get it, but the rewards are great.

That is perhaps where Scotland’s heritage is valuable. In promoting a new, more modern image it is important not to lose the allure that the country already holds for many. Brian Crook, managing director of The Bridge, says: “The choice isn't between, at one end of the spectrum, being a victim of our historic image and, at the other end, deliberately setting out to ‘lose’ it.

“It's clear that our heritage is part of our appeal. So too is our attitude: the attitude that we can do anything and couldn't care less about what's usual or "acceptable" - not the attitude that assumes we're victims. The challenge will be to build on our strengths not to throw them away.”

Gareth Howells, creative partner at Newhaven agrees: “The further away from Scotland you are the more the heather and tartan route applies. The American & Japanese love the castles and Lochs imagery. Then, as you get closer to Scotland, the opposite applies. People have had all that tartan piper on a Loch rammed down their throats for years. Scotland should be portrayed as a modern cosmopolitan country with fantastic scenery.”

Crook adds: “It's difficult to capture the essence of a country in a phrase - particularly when wordplay rarely translates well. How many other country's tag lines can you remember? A visual identity may offer more promise.

“But in any event, a new ‘identity’ isn't the answer in itself - all it is is a mnemonic, a short hand that can remind people of the totality of the offering. If the identity is all that the offering adds up to, then it’s a pretty hollow one.

“We have a huge untapped resource in Scotland's existing population. So much of it could be better trained and more economically active. We could do so much more to reinvigorate our existing human resources.”

This sentiment is echoed by Martin Gillan, joint creative director at Frame ©: “Perhaps rather than contrive to invent a slogan ourselves, investment in people, education, music and the arts might, in the long term lead to the outside media doing the hard work for us; when the Welsh music scene exploded in the mid to late ‘90’s, journalists coined the phrase ‘Cool Cymru’ and, although it was born directly from the music, everything ‘Welsh’ benefited.”

Crook, however, adds that anyone looking to market a country should proceed with caution: “Of course people should be sceptical of marketing puffery. People can see when the emperor has no clothes. It is critical that the Scottish Executive manage how this is launched. It has to be seen as the wrapper round something real and tangible and not just a piece of disposable window dressing.”

The Drum asked a handful of agencies to create an alternative slogan to sell Scotland at home and abroad. On the left are just two of the offerings created by Bond (top) and Chunk Ideas (bottom). Chunk’s Brian Limond said of his design, ‘Scotland’s Smashing...’: “Those three dots have a purpose, because they can be followed by thought provoking propositions or claims, e.g.’Scotland’s Smashing... Through the Limits of Technology and Science,’ or ‘Scotland’s Smashing... Up the Rule Book of What Makes a Great Country.’

“I noticed that three of those island bits on the west could be used to make the three dots in the slogan, so I rotated the image and flipped it and coloured them in to make them look like dots. ”

Furthermore, The Drum asked the marketing community to vote for their favourite and least favourite slogan to promote either Scotland or its cities and towns over the last few years. Below are the results for the campaigns that left their mark, either for better or for worse.

Voted as favourite

“Glasgow’s Miles Better”

“What’s it called? Cumbernauld”

“Live it, VisitScotland”

“City of Discovery” (Dundee City)

“Scotland’s for me”

voted as worst

“What’s it called? Cumbernauld”

“Glenrothes Fife. Great for business, great for life.”

“Living, Breathing, Stirling”

“There’s a lot Glasgowing on”

“Glasgo for it”


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