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Guest editor

By The Drum, Administrator

November 17, 2006 | 5 min read

Making a difference This year’s chairman of The Marketing Society Scotland is Ken Grier, director of malts for The Edrington Group. As one of Scotland’s biggest clients, here he explains how Scottish agencies can make a difference.

It’s my pleasure to guest edit this edition of The Drum celebrating the upcoming Marketing Society Scotland Annual Conference, which takes place in Edinburgh on 1 December. The event, whose theme is Making The Difference, will see us field the most inspiring range of marketing speakers ever assembled in Scotland, creating the perfect chance for clients and agencies to get together.

I feel passionate about Scottish creative talent and entrepreneurship. Client-side, we in Scotland either don’t use Scottish service agencies because they don’t have the “cachet” of their London equivalents or they don’t produce the right “quality”. The marketing services community in Scotland, in return, has a chip on its shoulder about losing out to its London brethren.

I was recently reading an article on the Gunn Report, the global annual ranking of the top award-winning television and print campaigns. The results were extraordinary and inspirational because they showed a shift away from the traditional Anglo-American dominance. There was none of the big US agencies in the top ten commercials listed for 2006. In addition, the performance of emerging markets was astonishing – Argentina was in third place, Thailand was fifth, Mexico was 12th and South Africa was 13th. Volkswagen even has an agency from New Zealand on its international roster.

In Scotland, we have a heritage of creativity, intellect and people skills – let’s harness this by working in partnership with like-minded Scottish clients to produce great creative and by opening up new international markets. I feel there are four ingredients to this success:

1. A Fresh Perspective

Both clients and agencies need to change their view of the world. Take one of my brands, The Macallan Single Malt Scotch Whisky, one of the fastest growing and the most prestigious whiskies in the world...

A different perspective has always played a part in our success. When we launched in 1974, we were the mavericks of the industry. We used word of mouth to extol the virtues of this fabled drink, and quirky black and white illustrated ads showing the love affair between the bottle and our famous sherry casks. We had only tiny budgets but our brand sales soared.

Fast forward to 2000, and we realised we had to change our game again. We now see ourselves as a luxury brand – in fact “the world’s most precious whisky”. Repackaging, new luxury ads and brand partnerships with a host of famous names, such as Rolls Royce, Brioni and Amex, have seen us become the number two best-selling brand, by value, in the world.

The marketing community in Scotland must take a fresh perspective and find a new energy to grow, together with their clients.

2. Quality

Clients just want the best work. They want great communication that brings a tingle to their spines, praise from their boss and envy from their peers. We have to raise our standards on our thinking and on the quality of our output, not just to “London standards”, but to truly world-class standards.

One of our little brands, Highland Park, shows it can be done. Last year, F Paul Pacult, a famous American spirits journalist, announced he was going to produce a list of his top 100 spirits in the world – and lo and behold Highland Park 18-year-old was named “Best Spirit in the World”.

We didn’t moan about our windswept island where trees don’t grow, leaving only heather peat. No, we used this aromatic peat and skillfully combined it with sherry casks to produce the best spirit we could. Quality is king – and if we can do this in Orkney, there is nothing to stop any agency producing world-class work from Scotland.

3. Bravery

Clients and agencies have got to take a few risks to succeed. Once trust has been established this should be meat and drink.

Levi Strauss showed this best in its famous black sheep of the flock print ad which came with the copy line: “Why zig when you can zag?”

4. Chemistry

My Marketing Society stint has shown me that we work in the best industry imaginable and with some of the sparkiest people. Too many clients don’t use the pool of great creative talent open to them in Scotland and too many agencies don’t “engage with the enemy” and establish great client rapport.

So what is my provocation? Take a chance. If you are an agency, get out there and make some new contacts – offer to show your worth. And if you are a client, take a risk on a new agency.

But whether you are client or agency take one step now... Come to the Marketing Society Conference on the 1 December at the EICC.

Bring your colleagues, friends, in fact anyone who wants to be inspired, as this will be a fabulous opportunity to get together, meet new people, glory in our profession and be energised by great case studies and new thinking.

The conference includes case studies from Google, Mercedes, Subway and Standard Life, and will also feature charismatic and thought-provoking personalities such as top female CEO Kim Winser, Doug Hall, TV star and innovation guru, BJ Cunningham, founder of Death cigarettes, and David Magliano, who was the marketing thrust behind our successful bid for the 2012 Olympics.

A fresh perspective, quality, bravery and chemistry... now that’s Making The Difference.

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