Scott Taylor Interview
However, never one to sit still, he has recently implemented a reshuffle of his team. The move sees Gordon Ritchie, former head of projects leave with his duties being assumed by head of brand Tom Rice.
Following the busy 12 months, Taylor emphasises that the restructure of city’s marketing bureau is to continue. “It is effectively a rolling programme, touching everyone in the organisation,” he says.
The task of branding and selling something as fixed yet nebulous as a UK city to a world market, including business conference organisers, sporting events bodies and high end tourists is a challenge which, Taylor says, redefines itself constantly. He and his team have every month until 2020 plotted out, and are balancing long-term targets with short-term structural changes. His handshake is solid and his eyes are resolute. A man not to be underestimated, is one’s first impression.
“I structurally change the business each year. It is absolutely necessary because the competition moves so fast. It is incredibly competitive out there,” he says.
“Our competitive advantage is very, very short, and we are constantly evolving our business structure. If you are a business and you are not doing that then you will go out of business. If you stagnate you are dead in the marketplace. We are always restructuring. It is endemic.
“Every area of my business is going through change to achieve the target growth we need. No single area or individual isn’t touched by change, in one form or another. We are a company in transition all the time. Looking 12 years ahead, if you think the same as you did five or six months ago, you won’t get the business.”
Taylor’s operation has so far this year secured £140m worth of conference business for the city, and there is £4 billion of investment money being spent in the city at the moment, a figure Taylor describes as unthinkable only a few years ago.
“There is no question that Glasgow is in the ascendancy. People ‘get’ Team Glasgow. They want to be part of that. We win against our competition, which isn’t in Scotland. It is London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona Beijing, Montréal, Geneva and Paris.
Those are the cities we are up against day in, day out,” he says. “I don’t compete in Scotland. It is too small a marketplace. It doesn’t have enough of the business that we need in Glasgow to be able to satisfy the supply network we have. That’s why most of my team are currently working on overseas bids.”
Bringing the world to the city involves careful long-term planning and a good diary system to spot and fill the gaps in the event schedule in, for example, summer 2016. The approach, he says, is unique.
“Strategically 2020 is just round the corner. We try to understand what business is on the books, a key event or conference, how many customers we are targeting, and what the gap is. When you understand the size of the gap, you understand what activity you have to do to bridge it,” he says, “That is something that no other city is doing, planning its business each month until 2020. If you think of Glasgow one or two years out, it won’t work. You have to think 10 or 15 years out.”
Glasgow’s Miles Better while lauded by many, made others cringe, but despite its simplicity, the campaign branding worked. While the now radically different campaign objectives have evolved, the spirit and intent is similar to that which gave Glasgow its cultural renaissance in the late 1980s.
“There is a sense of purpose in Glasgow, as there was a sense of purpose then. The drive and marketing positioning is different now, but there are similarities in the repositioning, and the changes the repositioning led to. They had an impact then and are having an impact now, despite the product being very different. The city in 1990 is phenomenally different from the city in 2008.”
Europe is full of cheap and cheerful destinations, Taylor says, but he argues that this is usually a symptom that a destination has very little to offer. Glasgow City Marketing Bureau wants big spenders to spend a little time in the city, and he believes that this is already happening, as evidenced by measurable success against rival destinations across the world.
“We are moving forward ahead of our competitors who are not branding, and who don’t have a clear position in the market place. Brands evolve and develop, and Glasgow, Scotland with style, will continue to develop and evolve in the marketplace.
“If you operate as a brand that is competing on price as ‘cheap and cheerful’ it is very difficult to move the average spend forward. The marketplace in Europe is very crowded in cheap and cheerful destinations. Our positioning of Glasgow is as a high-quality destination. We don’t expect to be perceived cheaply in the marketplace. We are targeting a distinctive audience, a higher spend and higher yield audience, with the precise objective of moving average spend forward.
“Glasgow last year had the highest occupancy of any city in the UK outside central London. That’s not widely known.” Taylor makes it clear that he does not consider himself to be a political businessman. However, he does acknowledge that in terms of practical engagement, assistance and tangible results, there has been a marked improvement in relations with the Scottish Government since the SNP became incumbents at Holyrood.
“In terms of sales and product development we are getting significantly improved assistance. We still have a long way to go. When we are bidding for events and conferences – we produce about 40 bid documents a week – they are accompanied and supported by the First minister, the Transport Minister, the Culture Minister. They are with us absolutely in that sense,” he says.
“The response time is down to a couple of weeks, from formerly taking a significant number of months. We get to the endgame faster, get to compete faster and harder, because of the faster level of support and the accessibility of that support.
“I am interested in results, and our results are improving because of the kind of support we are getting. The environment is changing in Scotland.”