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Stirling, Perth and Dundee

By The Drum | Administrator

May 4, 2006 | 14 min read

Some Stirling locals

Scotland’s cities have realised the importance of branding for many years now, proudly positioning themselves as centres for business and recreation alike. Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are currently leading the way by selling themselves to tourists and businesses, with Edinburgh as the ‘Inspiring Capital’, Glasgow proclaiming itself ‘Scotland With Style’ and now ‘Aberdeen City and Shire’ providing ‘a brighter outlook’.

But, in this flurry of flash logos and catchy straplines, are Scotland’s smaller areas doing everything in their power to compete in the international market or are the larger cities stealing their limelight?

Quick to get in on the act, Stirling is currently in the process of a major branding project, while Dundee has played off its ‘Discovery’ tag for a number of years.

Although Dundee, Stirling and Perth are three cities in close proximity, each has its own identity with ambitions to attract investment. They might be small(er) areas, but they certainly still have a great deal to brag about, be it historic value, business capabilities, appeal to tourists or just simply breathtaking views.

But in the quest to raise the profile of these areas, speculation has arisen as to whether the individual cities should work together rather than market themselves individually and face the competitive rivalry from one another. However, this view is quickly shot down by those that live and work in the regions.

Jim Patrick, managing director of Blue Square design in Dundee, believes each city should “definitely” be marketed separately, with individual identities.

“They are very different cities with very different strengths,” he says. “Joint marketing campaigns would only be appropriate when they have mutual selling propositions.”

However Douglas Walker, of Baseline Graphics in Stirling, believes that the answer is not quite as simple, and depends on who the target market is. “Scotland is a small country and for visitors it’s a relatively self-contained travel destination so there is a strong case for concentrating more on effectively marketing Scotland as a whole,” he says.

While in a different era Perth was once Scotland’s capital city, Stirling was only granted city status in 2002, when the Queen marked her Golden Jubilee. It beat competition from Ayr, Paisley and Dumfries to be one of the few towns across the UK to be recognised as a city.

As Scotland’s youngest city, Stirling is steeped in history boasting famous landmarks such as Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument.

Stirling Council is in the process of developing a new marketing strategy in order to attract more visitors and to position the area as the place to live, work, study, invest and play. With these major developments could come a dramatically transformed focus on what Stirling has to offer.

According to Deborah Murray, tourism and rural development manager for Stirling Council, the initiative has been formed to develop the city centre into a “vibrant visitor destination”.

“This will provide a unique forum for public and private partners to contribute to the development of the city centre and represent the diverse range of commercial activities that exist within the area,” she says.

“The City Centre Initiative is working to further Stirling city centre’s enviable reputation as a quality destination for shoppers, visitors, tourists and businesses. Stirling’s city centre is critical to Stirling’s economy and realising the potential of this area will have a lasting impact on the economy of the region. Stirling has experienced significant investment, particularly in the city centre and public sector agencies and private sector partners are committed to continuing that investment in the future.”

This new strategy is perhaps being put into place to combat the criticism from those who believe that Stirling fails to put across a consistent message.

“We have been trying to persuade the powers that be for nearly a decade that Stirling has needed more focus on a singular brand and marketing image, so that everyone can make use of it, and can benefit from it, in much greater measure,” says Bill Bruce of Bruce Design. “Now there are moves afoot to establish this.

“There are too many different organisations selling and promoting Stirling in entirely different ways. The tourist associations want to highlight the heritage and the rich history, while the local authority wants to push the modern, dynamic image. The result is that the target markets get confused about what Stirling has to offer. The people who currently live and work here are just as confused – mainly because there isn’t a clearly identifiable image to support or be associated with.

“Currently the council is running with ‘living, breathing, Stirling’ as a generic slogan, while I have been involved in promoting ‘the city at the centre’ to businesses locating here. I also created ‘the city at the heart’ when we designed all the bid documentation, which helped the town become a city back in 2002. But there needs to be a singular focus on what Stirling has, and aims, to offer people – whether they are residents, tourists or business representatives. In simple terms this should be a distinctive identity, or just a clean and legible typeface, which everyone can get behind and promote.

“Yet, the best and most effective marketing will always come via referrals and through having positive experiences. That’s why the people and businesses of Stirling would have to be right behind any marketing initiatives and Stirling brand personality for it to have any impact outside of the city boundary and for it to be believable and sustainable.

“The current marketing efforts are too fragmented for them to have any real effect.”

Andrew Jones, director of Cloudline Consulting in Stirling, says: “Despite being based in the area for over a year we have seen very little indication of any dynamic marketing activity.”

The recent ‘Living, Breathing, Stirling’ campaign has perhaps also contributed to these mixed messages. According to many businesses in the area, the lack of confidence in visualising Stirling as a major city has led to an “identity crisis” whereby opinions are polarised as to whether the area is simply seen as just a busy regional town or a city.

“After receiving city status, I’m unsure whether Stirling has managed to successfully present itself as a modern city, either externally or to its internal population,” remarks Baseline Graphics’, Walker. “We are still perceived as a provincial town rather than a thriving city,”

However, although Jones does believe that there may be some inherent communication problems, Stirling has a massive potential to fill.

‘A City at Heart’ is the current strapline for Stirling promoting the area as a centrally-based location.

But in order for any marketing strategy to succeed, the Stirling locals must be aware of it and embrace it to enable them to promote it themselves; helping to lure visitors into their city.

Jones continues: “A key element of a successful city marketing campaign is to have a proposition that the population can buy into. Too many cities struggle to come up with a nice logo that appeals to executives on the Council, but has little relevance to the city or its people.

“As a result these campaigns fail to succeed and are often changed every so often.

“If a city’s inhabitants buy into the campaign, they act as the best ambassadors for the city and do the job of the marketing budget.”

So, not only does a city need to stick with one constant message throughout, it needs to do this by creating a strategy to give the city a strong identity it can be proud of. In doing this, Jones believes that Stirling can “start to punch its weight”.

Like Stirling, Perth lacked consistency with regard to its marketing as ‘The Perfect Centre’ which it was previously known as, although dropped. Now known as ‘The Fair City’ Perth offers shops, galleries, theatres and beautiful scenic walks within a vibrant and growing area. Tourism is Perth’s major marketing tool and its breathtaking scenery is its main selling point.

Gary Paterson, of Gary Paterson design agency, believes that the marketing of Perth is working successfully as the city continues to attract businesses to its bustling centre.

“Perth is, give or take a few miles, the centre of Scotland. New business units and offices are being built all the time. I recently designed a brochure for Castlecroft Securities who are building a new business centre with 42 offices and capacity for 300 employees.

“The town centre is bursting at the seems but if Perth is to continue growing I believe that the marketing should be aimed at showing the companies who have started in Perth. Let other businesses outside of the area see just how well these companies are doing. Let other people know just how good Perthshire is.”

Perth is beginning to showcase its creativity with the arrival of a new community called Creative Perthshire, which aims to attract the artistic and creative side of the city. The opening of a new concert hall, which has already promoted previously unheard of talent within design, acting and music, has also been an important change for Perth.

Paterson is confident that the city will continue to progress even further in the future.

“Perth is doing well and with the introduction of new offices and more housing there is a good chance that new investors and businesses will follow.”

Dundee’s slogan, on the other hand, has been around for twenty years, and, as would be expected, has built up a range of different views as to whether the City of Discovery slogan should be revamped or kept as it is.

“City of Discovery is right for Dundee and should be retained. It works on many levels,” says Jim Patrick, of Blue Square design.

Named after the return of Scott of the Antarctic’s Royal Research Ship, Discovery, to its homeport in 1986, the City of Discovery has “proved to be a flexible slogan and like the ship itself, it has stood the test of time” according to Les Roy, head of public relations for Dundee Council. “It is currently used to reflect the growth of world class scientific and medical research in Dundee as well as attracting visitors to discover the many attractions the city has to offer in the arts, leisure and tourism,” he adds. “Our market research shows that the City of Discovery slogan has a very high recognition factor in Scotland and also within science and academic communities internationally.”

On the other hand, Derek Soutar of DJS Creative Marketing, believes that the slogan could benefit from a “process of re-energisation”.

“I believe Dundee – City of Discovery could benefit from a process of re-energisation to take account of the paradigm shift across all aspects of Dundee, which requires effective communication so as to continue the process of awareness and perception change.

“The major challenge is that this is a public sector led process because it’s primarily public sector funded. It should be more innovative, creative and faster moving so as to minimise the obvious effect of the bureaucracy, which underpins public sector initiatives.

“Dundee has a brilliant location, great road links, significant investment in retail and leisure – Overgate, Wellgate and Discovery Quay are all expanding at present. Ally this to a strong educational sector leading to significant spin offs for Biotechnology, Digital Media and Medical Research. Not to mention the publishing giant that is DC Thomson & Co, all of which need reflected.”

George Gall managing director of Avian, agrees: “The current marketing initiatives being promoted to the world at large are based primarily on biotechnology and medicine and the games industries. The promotion in the Biotech area has reaped enormous benefits for Dundee with world-class scientists now resident in Dundee. The Games market has obviously had recent problems with the demise of VIS and Visual Sciences however this appears to be still buoyant especially with Real Time Media. So, these initiatives certainly help promote Dundee but to relatively narrow sectors and there appears to be no strategy to grow business from other sectors. We need to be broader in outlook.

The city’s environment has improved beyond all recognition in the last ten years, the new Overgate, DCA and the proposed developments along the Tay will make it even better.

“Perhaps it’s time to freshen up the City of Discovery Campaign and also the brand that is associated with Dundee which appears to rely too much on the comic strip heritage. Dundee is a city of the 21st Century and needs to be portrayed as such.”

Avian’s Scott McCallum continues: “Dundee has no single body taking ownership of promoting the City – its culture, heritage, and economic growth. Whilst Dundee City Council has several individual initiatives, there is no single strategy or brand for the city allowing the local populous and business sector to take ownership.”

However, one of Dundee’s inward investment ventures, Locate Dundee, has been gaining plaudits from the FDI, winning its European Cities of the Future 2004/2005 UK category for the best promotion strategy, and this year coming second only to London for its Human Resources Project.

Neil Mudie of Mudie and Brown Media says: “The City of Discovery campaign has worked well and should continue to be used as the umbrella for promoting not just Dundee, but the surrounding area. One of the strongest selling points of the Dundee area is its location.

“The current marketing is successful in promoting Dundee as an exciting place to live and work and as a city that has developed a worldwide reputation in areas such as medical research and creative media.”

However, despite the local talent Mudie believes that the local resources are under used. “We were commissioned to make a promotional video for the City of Discovery campaign almost eight years ago. It is still being used despite the changes that have taken place not just in Dundee but in media technology. Perhaps those responsible for promoting the area could make better use of the expertise on their doorstep and in doing so do two things... improve their marketing and communications and create work for local consultancies.”

According to Patrick of Blue Square, Dundee should be marketed as a city of opportunity offering great quality of life, a great place to study, work and to enjoy leisure activities. However, that doesn’t necessarily need full-scale change: “I think Dundee is progressing well on a limited budget,” he says.

“Over the last 25 years the city has changed immeasurably with great developments in life sciences, games industry coupled with steady growth and diversification from other indigenous industries.

“We should continue using the City of Discovery slogan, but drop the Beano/Dandy typeface. We are proud of DC Thomson’s achievements but I think the typeface is wrong to be linked with ‘City of Discovery.’

“Home of RRS Discovery, which was built here and is now the centre of an award-winning exhibition centre, the city produced many discoveries, from the postage stamp to air flight, and is pioneering the study for a cure to cancer.

“As a slogan I feel City of Discovery is better than Inspiring capital and Scotland with Style – it takes a long time to build the brand and once built it should not be dropped without a great deal of thought.”

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