Glasgow has created a whole new image for itself over the course of the last two last decades. Once seen as a hard, industrial city, it has slowly manoeuvred its reputation ‘round – like the turning of one the huge ships that it was once so famous for building – to focus on the city’s lifestyle and cultural attractions.
This manoeuvre has paid-off. Investment has turned Glasgow into one of the most popular destinations for tourists, in Europe, culminating in the readers of lifestyle magazine, Conde Nast Traveller proclaiming it to be the UK’s top city destination. Praise indeed.
However, this development can be traced back to the late eighties when the city’s most famous marketing campaign ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ proved a huge success, while the city was also chosen as The City of Culture and hosted the Garden Festival in 1988. Since then progress has been evident, with the ongoing development of some of its deprived areas and a push for the Commonwealth games in 2014. Has the city ever had it so good?
The city’s current marketing strategy ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’ has been in place since March 2004 and aims to show the world the emergent style of the city, in a bid to attract an eclectic mix of tourism. Since its launch, an additional 240,000 visitors, spending an estimated £26million have arrived. Considering the overall cost of the campaign is now just under £2.5million – figures would suggest that this has been a successful investment.
“I would say that Glasgow: Scotland with style has a lot to do with the shifting perceptions of the city” says Nancy McLarie, head of PR for the Glasgow Marketing Bureau. “We at Glasgow City Marketing Bureau are using a certain type of vocabulary, certain images in how we portray the city, whether it’s in advertising, or through PR, and our partners in the city are following.
“The image benefits and the image gains are far greater when, for example, you see your own words coming back to you in articles. You see the words ‘Glasgow’ and ‘style’ put together even more. Conde Nast Traveller for example is going to be describing us next month as ‘a stylish and flamboyant city’ so they are clearly picking up on the messages that we are putting out. But you have to have something in the city that substantiates all that. You can say in your advertising that we are Glasgow: Scotland with style, but you have to prove it through public relations.”
Nick Maguire, managing director of Maguires, one of the main agencies behind ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’ is understandably proud of the results that the campaign has achieved and the current buzz around the city: “The ‘Scotland with Style’ campaign has had a major impact in terms of repositioning the city and reiterating all of the sense of the city.”
Maguire continues: “We’ve just put an installation in at the Hilton for Glasgow: Scotland with style, while there are major installations in the Raddisson and the Marriott, and within the Holiday Inn. All of the hoteliers are very much pro-brand. Everybody is buying into it and I think that is the key element, that dissenting voices that there always are with a new brand, two and a half years ago, are now part of the team. It’s an integral part of everything we do and the way that the brand is projected, the strategic positioning of the brand.”
Gerry McCusker, joint managing director of Dog Digital continues: “There seems to be more confidence in the approach to communications, and the city itself has become more cosmopolitan, which reflects in the way companies communicate and the channels that they use. The explosion in the number of start-ups choosing to have their base in Glasgow is perhaps due to the renewed air of confidence in the city, with the ‘gallous’ Glaswegian gene coming to the fore again.”
So while the marketing campaign for the city has doubtless been a success in attracting attention to a revitalised city, Scott McPhee of The GaapStudio feels that there are some drawbacks with the use of a campaign that seems to single out Glasgow as Scotland’s stylish city: “The amount of money that Glasgow City Marketing Bureau has invested in promoting the city will certainly not have had a negative effect. However, it is a very specific brand and I think if your business does not fit into this ‘Mackintosh’ look then you have double the amount of work that the favoured businesses have in attracting customers. To be honest, I still find it slightly counter productive to Visit Scotland – are we suggesting that Glasgow is the only place with Style? Sadly it is normally the smaller but no less important businesses that miss out on the added boost from this type of investment and this could ultimately lose the city some excellent small businesses that add to the flavour of our tourists visit.”
Stephen Halpin, managing director of the Curious Group feels that with the numbers of cafes, bars and restaurants growing at an unprecedented rate in the city, this must mean there is more work out there for agencies to compete for: “Every visitor attraction, retail outlet, cafÃ©, bar and restaurant needs to be designed, branded and promoted, so clearly the creative industry plays an enormous part. Whether local agencies get their fair share of this work is entirely down to how well they market themselves to these businesses and organisations.”
Oli Norman, managing director of DADA agrees, but believes that there is some way to go before the social scene of Glasgow is being communicated outside the city effectively: “The number of Londoners who visit and are amazed by what our bars and restaurants, cultural attractions and shopping centres have to offer show a clear lack of communication. We still have to overcome the outdated views of Glasgow’s past, some of which the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau has gone some way to address.”
Recently the city has received a further boost with the reopening of Kelvingrove Museum, attracting more than a million visitors in its first couple of months. Add this to the growing development on the banks of the River Clyde with Glasgow Harbour and the Scottish media investing in new buildings, while the West End and the City Centre continue to thrive as cultural hubs. At the same time festivals such as the West End Festival, Merchant City Festival and The International Comedy Festival, are helping draw attention to the city’s creative work and talent.
Andrew Stevenson of Tangent Graphic says: “The City Marketing Bureau is, obviously, heavily involved in the majority of the large scale events throughout the city, and they are doing a great job with positive results. I am unsure of the level of small to mid size agencies involved and with what projects but I would like to see them more involved more often. With the standard of many recent campaigns I have been looking at, there is a lot to offer which is very encouraging for the future of the industry.”
With the sophisticated image that the ‘Dear Green Place’ now generates, communications agencies will hope that this current ‘buzz’ will attract more clients to look at work in the city.
“We use it in our marketing campaign, the fact that Glasgow is stylish and, in fact, our very own out-of-office disclaimer that we had on at the weekend mentioned the fact that Conde Nast said that Glasgow is great,” says Victor Brierly, director of The Hub. “We’re competing on a UK basis and we won’t shy away from it. We’re very up for presenting the fact that we come from Glasgow. A lot of people come to the agency due to it being based in Glasgow.”
Stuart McLean of Russell Ferguson Marketing agrees that Glasgow agencies are now more attractive to an international client base: “There seems to be more self pride in the city. We see more marketing and communications work with tourism related companies who are clearly more interested in target marketing and understanding their customers. Glasgow businesses are moving from an introverted attitude of ‘this is what we are’ to ‘how can we present ourselves in a way for what the customer wants?’”
Graeme Atha, a director at Frame, has recently returned from business in China where he believes he not only represented his agency, but Glasgow as well: “Our active role is that we at Frame are part of that rich culture, but we’re not involved or acting in any paid capacity to represent it. Most of our clients are from outside of Scotland, and when people deal with them they are dealing with an agency that looks to reflect Glasgow values. We’re not an insular, parochial agency. We’re an international agency based in Glasgow, but that is part of our fabric and I think that people respond positively to that.
Glasgow is a very fine place to work and live... and clients are attracted to that.”
However, Alisdair Gibbons, client service director at Clayton Graham, who was involved with the ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ campaign, doesn’t agree. He doesn’t buy into the idea that agencies will benefit simply from the city’s stylish image: “Glasgow is a product and okay, we’re servicing different aspects, but we don’t work for the city. My view is that we contribute to the city economy, we contribute to the productivity of the city, but that is all part and parcel...I don’t think that any advertising, PR or marketing agency can say ‘we’re flying the flag for Glasgow’ it’s all part of the combined output. In terms of promoting the city, it’s modest.”
The last word goes to Ken Cassidy of PointSize: “In the course of this year, we did some packaging design for a London-based company,” he says. “Did they come up to see us? No. Did we go down to see them? Yes. Can we communicate electronically? Yes. I don’t know if that’s necessarily to do with being in Glasgow or if it’s a case of digital convenience? I don’t feel that clients necessarily need to come to Glasgow in order to deal with their chosen agency. But that’s not because Glasgow is a provincial Scottish city and that you won’t get good design there. We’re the city that is known in Scotland, that has good designers, so it’s not a barrier. Years and years ago Glasgow maybe didn’t have the same reputation for design to compete with the London boys, we would have always been perceived as being parochial. Nowadays that doesn’t apply. Maybe that’s because people have visited the city, or because there’s a bigger buzz about the city, or if it’s built a better name for itself, or people are appreciating that it doesn’t have the hardened image that it once had – it’s now playing in the same league as other cities.”