Thought Leadership

Focus on Edinburgh – City Brand Leaders

Andrew Stevens


The third Edinburgh International Marketing Festival took place in August 2012. Creativebrief asked EIMF co-founder and organiser asked Andrew Stevens to take a look at Edinburgh and suggest how it might become a better brand.

Choose Edinburgh

Auld Reekie. The Athens of the North. The World’s Festival City. These are just several stages of Edinburgh’s brand journey and civic identity as Scotland’s political capital and attack brand. As the number of city branding courses proliferate at university level, so does Edinburgh’s status among them as a leading case study in honing a brand offer under careful stewardship. But does this self-assurance actually permeate through to the citizenry? It’s something I managed to examine while at the Edinburgh International Marketing Festival this summer.

On balance, the Scottish capital arguably has an enviable set of city assets. Speak to anyone among the city authorities and marketing community and the first response is one of Edinburgh “punching above its weight”, almost a slogan in itself, mired in self-belief. It’s probably quite helpful at this stage however to remind ourselves of the city’s considerable offer and assets:

  • Scotland’s capital city, home of the Scottish Parliament
  • A global festival city
  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site – Old and New Towns
  • The first UNESCO City of Literature – from Sir Walter Scott to JK Rowling
  • National Galleries and Museums
  • A reputation for innovation – from the telephone to Dolly the Sheep
  • A city centre surrounded by mountains (including an extinct volcano) and beaches
  • A royal palace and a castle at the heart of the city

Most recently the city received an industry gong at the World Travel Awards as Europe’s leading destination in 2012. For international arrivals, it is only beaten by London in the UK and even then forms an essential component of many itineraries, Britain’s second city both culturally and politically. For the most part, Edinburgh remains a leading global city brand and acts as an attack brand for Scotland itself, a front counter for the rest of the country. Its visitor economy is mature and well-developed, offering both a heritage-led and contemporary cultural offer for all age groups and markets.

While English cities have recently been confronting their ‘graphs of doom’ on spending cuts by reaching for marketing budgets and demanding the consolidation of promotion bodies, Edinburgh had largely achieved this ahead of the pack with the creation of Marketing Edinburgh in 2010, unifying its destination marketing, convention bureau and film office. The ‘Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’ brand was launched in 2005, subsequently taken in-house by the city council in 2008. The integrated brand speaks to not only its status as Scotland’s capital, if not biggest city, but strengths in its finance and knowledge-led economy.

Edinburgh is, of course, synonymous with its festivals, which date back to 1947 (mission: to enable “the flowering of the human spirit”) and through the fringe incorporates an ‘anything goes’ spirit of the contemporary, which not only serves to attract visitors but lends itself to a constant and palpable energy and vibrancy through the city and its offer and feel. To put this into numbers, in 2011, the international festival alone attracted 2,500 artists from 38 countries, and an audience attendance of 385,000 from 75 different countries, while the latest Edinburgh Festivals Impact Study (2011) shows that the 12 major Festivals generated over £245m worth of additional tourism revenue for Edinburgh in 2010, sustaining 5,000 full time jobs. Driven by an awareness of competition from other UK and global cities, the festivals upped their game in 2007 to harness a collective brand under the new Festivals Edinburgh organisation, underpinned by the first joint marketing strategy between Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, VisitScotland, EventScotland and Scottish Enterprise. Backed up by the televisual staple of New Year’s Eve broadcasting in the form of the rowdy hedonism of Hogmanay on the city’s streets, like carnival in Rio, Edinburgh doesn’t have to try particularly hard to embed itself into anyone’s worldly consciousness.

Beyond this sheer sense of place, the most recent global positioning has happened under the partial guidance of the Scottish Government, conscious that a strong reputational capital brand is essential for an increasingly outward looking Scotland seeking to assert itself on the global stage. With the inauguration of the Edinburgh International Culture Summit this year, it is hoped that the Scottish capital can become for cultural diplomacy what Davos is for economics. 32 national culture ministers and their delegations gathered in Edinburgh for the event, which can only boost the city’s perceptions and awareness in other global capitals. The ministers (or their successors) will be back in 2014 for the next summit, which takes place immediately after Scotland hosts the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, with swimming events held at Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool.

Scotland’s International Framework

Launched by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP in October 2012, the new document updates the first ever International Framework for Scotland published in 2008. The new framework sets out how Scotland will stimulate economic development through export links, foreign investment and cultural ties with key overseas markets, in particular demonstrating leadership on the world stage around its low carbon economy. As well as education excellence (including in life sciences) and a strong visitor economy based around the festival city, the framework acknowledges Edinburgh’s international recognition as the most important UK financial centre outside London and the South East, ranked fourth largest in Europe in terms of equity assets. In the 2011 Global Financial Centres Index, Edinburgh was ranked above key cities such as Amsterdam, Dublin, Brussels and Madrid.

What happens at EIMF doesn’t stay at EIMF

One of the most recent additions to the Edinburgh festivals calendar is the International Marketing Festival (EIMF), co-founded by Creativebrief and now in its third year. Sandwiched between the Olympics and Paralympics being held down in London, this year’s EIMF continued its celebration of the marketing, communications and creative industries, but with a distinct stream around the importance of creativity in building the reputation and performance of a country and its cities.

Taking time out from the festival hub however, I make my way over to the Scotsman building in Holyrood. The barn-like structure also houses the Edinburgh Evening News and sits adjacent to the Catalonian-designed Scottish Parliament and Dynamic Earth open-air exhibition centre, surrounded by the imposing and striking Salisbury Crags, an altogether unusual yet somehow typically Edinburgh setting. There I’m greeted by the capital’s evening paper editor Frank O’Donnell, evidentially a seasoned observer and authority on the city’s identity and profile, as would befit The Scotsman’s former Edinburgh city correspondent. O’Donnell moved into his new role from its sister paper this year when editor Tom Little was appointed as the city council’s public affairs chief, something the council chief executive later told me showed its determination to engage pro-actively around its message. We quickly set about discussing the city’s brand character and the challenges it faces. For his part, O’Donnell immediately seems somewhat off the script I’ve heard elsewhere in the city about it ‘punching above its weight’ and is doubly quick to point out why:

There's definitely a split between what you read in surveys of how Edinburgh is perceived externally - the usual "most desirable place to visit", awards for liveability, the scenic beauty that surrounds the city itself, not to mention the Royal Mile and all around it, the city being beautiful and safe and ultimately well to do. But that's solely from the visitors' point of view, if you ask any locals it's far from positive and this then becomes a kind of narrative fuelled by large sections of the population, each with their own particular gripe, be it taxi drivers over potholes or the whole tram fiasco. Overall there tends to be a lack of confidence among the local population which leads to a lack of pride in the city. But there's a fundamental mismatch between the external perception that the marketers buy into and the actual feeling on the ground, where the foot-soldiers who should embody the city's marketing message just give it a miss. It might just be the Scottish psyche but there's little local support for slogans like "Edinburgh Inspiring Capital" - it might play well with marketeers, but for the ordinary people who even know about it, it tends to just fuel the cynicism over what city marketing is about.

Frank O'Donnell

Despite all the talk of ‘punching above its weight’ and so on, Edinburgh’s marketing has long been in the shadow of Glasgow’s celebrated well-integrated approach and campaigns, which have secured the local buy-in mentioned. For O’Donnell, his city definitely lags compared to the better-known and received campaign of its chief rival:

Edinburgh certainly struggles compared to Glasgow, where its marketing efforts have been better geared to gain the support of the local population. The "Glasgow's Miles Better" campaign actually struck a chord with ordinary people, who felt pride in it and understood exactly what it was about, unlike Edinburgh's efforts. The Glasgow campaign was in step with how local people saw their city, they could instantly relate to it, whereas forced slogans like "Edinburgh Inspiring Capital" just don't work. Compare the Inspiring Capital slogan to something world-beating like "I love New York", it's no contest really. The slogan feels forced - and that just reinforces that cynicism.

Frank O'Donnell

I’m left wondering however if any attempt to refresh or realign Edinburgh’s marketing push requires something which would better suit new and emerging markets, rather than just relying on its comfort zone, especially the staid imagery of twee merchandise on the Royal Mile and indeed neighbouring Holyrood Palace. O’Donnell seems to agree:

This has always been a difficult balancing act. On the one hand Edinburgh and Scotland needs to play up the history and heritage. But we don't want come across as a kind of Disneyland. We are also a place to work, live, study and do business. We have some world class businesses here, but my feeling is that the business message is weaker and needs to be addressed.

Frank O'Donnell

Previous articles in this series have established the link between strong city brands and strong city leadership by having an elected mayor in charge. If English cities have proven lukewarm to the concept so far, in Scotland there’s nothing short of outright hostility, among the political establishment at least. The governing parties in the Parliament at Holyrood, of whatever stripe, have never really taken to the idea at all, in spite of the multiple problems of city governance affecting its performance such as the oft-mentioned ‘trams fiasco’ which could perhaps benefit from a more hands-on approach by a leader with a strong mandate. I ask O’Donnell, an attuned observer of city politics from the onset of devolution, if an elected mayor could improve Edinburgh’s position. There seems little doubt:

I agree completely, an elected mayor for Edinburgh would be great. If you look at the city council as it stands, the members are poorly paid, but expected to look after so much, including roads, schools and sweeping the streets, and that's before you even get to activities like economic development. The councillors spends their lives dealing with all kinds of negative PR whereas an MSP is paid more and can just sit and, relatively speaking, hide for four years. A council leader who was more powerful and better paid would attract a different calibre of politician and be able to knock heads together and get things done. If you had a mayor for the wider city region, not just the city centre like we have now, then it could put the excitement back into politics. A few locals would be able to name the New York mayor as Michael Bloomberg, but you'd not be able to find hardly anyone who could tell you who the leader of Edinburgh was. A fresh structure is needed.

Frank O'Donnell

Marketing Edinburgh and the Inspiring Capital Brand

Marketing Edinburgh supports the City of Edinburgh Council’s City Vision that by 2015 Edinburgh will be the most successful and sustainable city region in Northern Europe. To achieve this, we need to get the message out about all that the Edinburgh City Region has to offer. Currently Edinburgh, along with Madrid, sits just below the key players of Tokyo, New York, London and Paris who are renowned for their best-in-class cultural offer.A destination marketing alliance enables a single body to co-ordinate promotional messages to provide one single unified message to the consumer. Using the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital Brand, Edinburgh can differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded market by drawing on Edinburgh’s key strengths and by helping to deliver a united image and message.The project to develop a brand for the Edinburgh City Region had a number of objectives:

  • to develop a brand which would represent a cohesive marketing image for the city region
  • to ensure a more joined up and effective approach to city promotion
  • to create a brand which would allow economies of scale as public, private and voluntary sectors could unite behind a common approach
  • to develop and enhance Edinburgh’s reputation as a successful and dynamic world class city region
  • to highlight the attractions of the city region as a place to live, invest, visit and study
  • to contribute to improving the economic and social prosperity of all sectors of the Edinburgh City Region

Back at EIMF, the first day’s sessions have ended and the drinks reception is in full sway inside a mirror-decked travelling dance-hall on George Square, vying for attention amid the rest of the festival activities there. As I’m introduced to assorted guests and media ‘wheels’, there’s chatter about Edinburgh’s ease of access from the rest of Europe, just an extra hour on the flying time from Frankfurt, and the role of the television festival in championing its offer and challenging perceptions to London opinion formers. A council PR officer guides me around other stakeholders and city officials, including its chief executive, before I’m introduced to the cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs (i.e. Scotland’s culture minister) Fiona Hyslop MSP. She’s no stranger to the evening’s proceedings either, having spent her pre-parliamentary career as a brand manager in the Scottish finance industry. Seated on the edge of the dance-floor as her advisers check their Blackberries with one ear on the conversation, I’m interested in whether or not in devolved nations like Scotland, as in Wales, there’s a tendency for the administrations to concentrate on national projection and perhaps neglect the capital brand. Hyslop is having none of this however and quickly sets me right on where she and her colleagues in government are coming from:

We as a government recognise that what's good for cities is good for Scotland and the performance of our cities is something that's at the heart of the agenda for whatever kind of branding activity you want to look at. We're a pro-city government, there's no mistake about that and we've done whatever we can to raise city performance and give them as much global opportunity as possible, you only have to understand the opportunities the 2014 Commonwealth Games will bring from Glasgow to see that. The government has to invest in cities to increase that performance so that the infrastructure is there for the cities themselves to build on their own offer. Ultimately it's about cities marketing themselves on the world stage and you only have to look at Glasgow's convention bureau to see how a city can take the initiative and go one better. So I don't see the city brand or nation brand as being in any kind of conflict or tension, but more of acting in symbiosis.

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament

It’s interesting that the minister flags up this government’s pro-city credentials, when in many respects the previous (1999-2007) administration was seen by many as paying scant lip service to the urban agenda, while more recently initiatives such as the Scottish Cities Alliance have bubbled up and given renewed prominence to the urban agenda and the role of cities in national performance. But what are the challenges, I ask her:

On the face of it you have exciting developments like Perth becoming our newest city, what's going on in Dundee with the new V&A and in recent years there's rightly been an emphasis on investing in and developing the offer of Edinburgh as a festival city. But as a next step I think the challenge for Scotland's city brands, even that of Edinburgh, is being able to get transport right and by that I mean putting on late night trains. Edinburgh may be the city that people come back to after a visit to the rest of Scotland, but we want Edinburgh to be able to share its customer base with the rest of Scotland. We're very much minded to invest in international tourism, but beyond that it's about incentivising partnership and being able to grow success.

Fiona Hyslop

Recalling my earlier conversation with Frank O’Donnell at the Evening News on the advantages the capital’s brand could have under an elected mayor as a more focused and accountable city leader, I take the opportunity to hear directly if this is something we might possibly see emerge as a next step from the ‘pro-city’ government. It doesn’t seem likely, not on her watch anyhow:

It's not an argument I've heard raised or even considered, not least as the current team in the city is working quite well. You have a chief executive who knows the city needs to raise its game and she's working to do that with a strategy for the brand and where it needs to go. There's a very new council leadership just taken office, so you need to give them time to grow into the role, but I think they're already making the necessary effort and working as one with the corporate leadership to get out there and promote the brand.

Fiona Hyslop

From ‘trams fiasco’ to brand fiasco

As we’ve already seen, Edinburgh’s brand and offer is keenly studied by scholars and practitioners alike as a case study to deepen understanding of the discipline. Equally there’s little sense of the city or anyone involved in its marketing grasping for any kind of Bilbao-effect type silver bullet solutions to ‘fix’ the brand, but rather a sense of seeking to consolidate and better what’s already on offer. That’s not to say that there aren’t palpable tensions and causes for concern though, as the case study itself has quickly become a live knee-jerk example in what some practitioners and the wider public alike feel most about the more risible aspects of city branding practice. To say that October 2012’s hastily-unveiled and untested slogans worked up by the Leith Agency for Marketing Edinburgh received nationwide sector derision and a local political outcry (‘twee’ and ‘appalling’ went the consensus, ‘suicidal’ was another) is nothing short of understatement. For its part, Marketing Edinburgh claimed the leaked potential slogans such as ‘Incredinburgh’ were just flipchart musings from creatives, which were not intended for actual roll-out. The problem is that the signed off slogans such as ‘Goaheadinburgh’ and ‘Winterinedinburgh’ are still included in the new campaign, which would probably be more suited to a seasonal campaign for a provincial shopping centre than Scotland’s ‘attack brand’.

As it goes, such slogans have as much utility as a piece of tartan tat bought on the Royal Mile and we’ve already heard of local disdain for anything forced. But there’s also a tendency among the city’s politicians and media to over-state the significance of wholly parochial affairs (such as the so-called ‘trams fiasco’ and recent troubles at Creative Scotland) as far as Edinburgh’s image is concerned externally, though some wags were quick to join these up as some kind of localized civic omnishambles. The more significant fact here is that Edinburgh will shortly have a European-style tram system to transport visitors from the airport and around its city centre, regardless of the procurement nuts and bolts or extension issues. This in itself will not only vastly update the contemporary feel and green credentials of the city, but also significantly gives the capital a greater sense of parity with larger rival Glasgow and its hundred year old metropolitan subway system. Equally, the same city politicians who fret over how a dispute on delivering a rail light system might be perceived externally do little to contemplate the below par retail offer, Harvey Nicks or no Harvey Nicks (which recently celebrated its 10th year in the city).

The rivalry, if we can call it that, with Glasgow is not only significant, but also illustrative of where Edinburgh sits amid a nexus of newly ascendant and collaborating Scottish cities spurred on by a supportive national government seeking to assert its own place in the world. Glasgow has long relied on its claim to be ‘Second city of the Empire’ and it remains Scotland’s largest, by dint of local authority boundaries at least. In my conversations at EIMF and earlier at the opening of Scotland House down in London for the Olympics, I heard how other Scottish cities have had to position themselves around distinctive creative appeal, be it broadcasting in Glasgow, gaming in Dundee (no longer “jam, jute and journalism”) and even the literary scene of Scotland’s Hay-on-Wye (a ‘National Book Town’, no less) in Wigtown. It is the Year of Creative Scotland, after all. Ultimately in the long term, the 45 mile gap between Strathclyde and the Lothians (that’s Glasgow to Edinburgh, if you’re talking cities) will become less significant if transport improves and joint marketing to attract and retain trade, talent and tourism will, politics willing, be the focus across a connected metro region.

A roadmap for a better Edinburgh brand

Back at EIMF there’s talk from the mics not only of the need to communicate ‘Edinburgh’s message better and louder’, but of the tourism opportunities than can be realised through global awareness of literary brands such as JK Rowling’s homegrown efforts penned in a city café which has become a must-visit destination for many in its own right. The Anholt-GfK Roper City Brand 2011 report for Edinburgh commented that the city needs to consider how to inject relevance and breadth to its offer, taking on a political identity amid the stridence of significant global cities. For our part however, we could instead focus on where Edinburgh can find homegrown opportunities to refresh and reassert itself in different ways.

There is of course, the literary underbelly as you would imagine in the first UNESCO City of Literature, although the epics of Sir Walter Scott probably account for little footfall compared to the ‘set-jetters’ for Ian Rankin’s dark ‘Rebus’ novel adaptations and JK Rowling devotees. The civic response to a certain mid-90s novel and film which fuelled thousands of English university place applications to the city’s HE institutions (Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting) has been to largely ignore it (even the UNESCO City of Literature website accords it no mention), understandable perhaps given the transgressive subject matter and its moral dimension, but something of a PR own-goal in the eyes of some.

The arresting image and pounding music of the intro, coupled with the winning attractiveness of Ewan McGregor and pals fleeing down Princes Street is still burned into the consciousness of a fairly wide and influential demographic, regardless of whether or not it embeds any negative facets of the city’s image as a hotspot for substance abuse and outlying sink estates. With the eyes of many likely to fall on Derry/Londonderry in 2013 as the UK’s first City of Culture, Edinburgh perhaps needs to consider how best it can leverage all facets of creativity, rather than just the elite or most commercial.

Echoing the Anholt-GfK Roper City Brand Index commentary, Edinburgh-born place branding academic Keith Dinnie has warned in a Scotsman article on the city’s brand that attracting visitors from emerging markets in the BRIC countries will require a more innovative approach from Marketing Edinburgh, such as learning from the use of social media and guerilla marketing employed by other cities, as well as brand ambassador schemes which utilize the character and charm of local people, rather than top-down sloganism.

As it goes, it’s not just the likes of Barcelona or Amsterdam that Edinburgh could take its cues from here, but closer to home in the form of Leeds, where an effort to launch a counter-brand to the city’s official but trite ‘Leeds. Live it. Love it.’ slogan as ‘Leeds. Love it. Share it.’ took place as an organic yet authentic design activist response in keeping with local street values of autonomy and mutualism, though to do so would require a conversation among Edinburgh’s community as to what its values are. Yet as we heard from the editor of its evening newspaper and have seen only too recently, ‘forced slogans’ have little resonance or buy in among local citizens. Therefore a more authentic and ingrained response to channel could perhaps be found in the creative community from which the city’s alternative literary product originated.

Sometimes you don’t need an elected mayor to ‘fix’ the city brand, but to better harness the dynamism and energy of its people. Calls for better stewardship and investment in the Edinburgh brand, be it ‘Inspiring Capital’ or the more ridiculed campaigns of late, have their place, but ultimately as one local politician put it in response, the city just “speaks for itself”. Time then to find its voice and it’s something that needs to be discussed in more depth at next year’s EIMF, the ideal platform for a conversation that’s only just really beginning.

What are the challenges for the Edinburgh brand as it goes forward?

Kenneth Wardrop, former chief executive Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance, place marketing and tourism consultant:

“The Edinburgh Inspiring Capital Brand faces a continued challenge in acting as an effective promotional vehicle across all three agendas of attracting tourism, talent and trade, especially as a tourism or visitor brand. The brand website has an uphill task in attracting tourism traffic due to the strength based on legacy of the portal; this is not helped by a lack of investment resources for the brand. A lack of resources also means that the work to encourage brand adoption by city partners to extend brand reach and ubiquity has not been sustained. The Edinburgh Inspiring Capital Brand is now seven years old and is also due a refresh. Strong and confident leadership on the city branding proposition and product development are vitally important at this time for the city.”

Lucy Bird, Chief Executive, Marketing Edinburgh:

“Globalisation is greatest challenge facing any city at present. Cities need to carve out an individual, distinctive reputation in the global market place and gain recognition for the accuracy and sustainability of that distinctiveness.”

Faith Liddell, Director, Festivals Edinburgh:

“There is increasing competitiveness for share of voice within the marketplace and as such it is has never been more important to ensure a clear voice to leverage maximum penetration and visibility for Edinburgh. Our city has many unique strengths and as such consideration needs to be given on how best to promote the cultural, heritage, retail and food and beverage sectors to ensure all organisations feel represented. Much like the work of Festivals Edinburgh when we often lead with the fame of our summer festivals to drive marketing campaigns and interest, Edinburgh needs to consider how to best promote its starring attractions, while ensuring engagement and return for all sectors.”

What strengths does Edinburgh have over other UK cities?

KW: “Edinburgh is fortunate in having a high level of existing brand awareness and positive association (ubiquity and equity) that means that in international profile terms it ‘punches above its weight’ – this is based on a legacy of brand profiling built on its festivals, iconic images linked to its place in history (ancient capital city, enlightenment, centre of scientific invention and the arts), architectural beauty, literary heritage, dramatic natural landscape and topography, and famous residents past and present ( e.g. Connery, Scott, Stevenson, Rowling, Rankin, Welsh, Smith, and Hume). The city has strong institutions and businesses based in the city that help extend the global reach of the brand. As Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh also benefits from association with high profile, iconic and ubiquitous global Scottish brands such as golf, whisky, tartan, and the image of the friendly Scot (and a significant Diaspora).”

LB: “Edinburgh’s already a revered competitor in many markets as it boasts a wealth of talents. These include: Its status as a capital city; reputation as a global festival city; recognition by UNESCO as a world heritage site – an exemplar for the quality and preservation of its architecture – and as a UNESCO City of Literature – because it has inspired so many great writers – Sir Walter Scott to J K Rowling; Fabulous collections in its National Galleries and Museums; An internationally renowned and revered knowledge economy; A significant reputation for innovation – everything from the telephone to dolly the sheep; Its setting in superb natural landscape with a mountain and beaches at its heart.”

FL: “The city’s strengths are numerous, with Edinburgh’s Festivals playing a starring role in the positioning of the city on not just a UK-level, but on a global scale. We have a unique mix of culture and heritage which cannot be found anywhere else in the world and Edinburgh consistently retains its position as the UKs favourite city – most recently for the 13th consecutive year by readers of the Guardian/Telegraph and The collaboration by not just our festivals, but by the wider agencies and organisations in the city, will ensure that we continue to deliver results.”

What could be done to promote the Edinburgh brand better?

KW: “In a highly competitive global market place for destinations and with new entrants via for attention all the time – Edinburgh needs to work harder to raise its global promotional profile especially in relation to promoting the contemporary messaging about the City. It needs to develop strong positive associations and identity for the city’s contribution and relevance to the world in the 21st Century (be this as a place of thought and ideas (capitalizing on its intellectual capital and building on its reputation and position in the 18th century enlightenment), or scientific invention (building on the cutting edge and world leading science and research of its universities), or creativity and the arts (capitalizing on the creative firmament of the festivals).”

LB: “Like any other ‘product’ there is a need to identify and articulate a set of succinct messages that enable a consistent approach to Edinburgh’s promotion. Those messages must run hand in hand with distinctive promotional campaigns that promote specific opportunities or, more generically, promote the quality of life in the city into key markets. With its wealth of assets Edinburgh can carve out something truly memorable and effective.”

FL: “Edinburgh needs to deliver a clear voice and share of market over the next decade. Marketing Edinburgh will shortly be rolling out their new creative campaigns for the city and we continue to work closely with them and others to ensure that Edinburgh’s Festivals remain at the forefront of campaigns. In 2012 Edinburgh proved its resilience in the face of a challenging year for the UK visitor market, with many of our festivals reporting record attendances. As such, in the lead up to Scotland welcoming the Commonwealth Games in 2014, we need to build on the success delivered this summer and make more of those existing assets, such as the Festivals, which already play a major role in defining the city to a worldwide audience”.

What role do creative and cultural businesses in Edinburgh have in developing the brand and its articulation?

KW: “In the 21st Century destinations need to focus on ‘experiential marketing’ to connect with and excite consumers, and Edinburgh has tremendous potential and a great opportunity to gain competitive advantage through exploitation of the ‘festivalisation’ of the brand. The ‘zeitgeist’ and ability to constantly redefine the cultural ‘here and now’ through creative activity and special spaces in the city (especially through the festivals) represent Edinburgh’s primary route for setting and articulating the brand in new, distinctive, and compelling ways and to key target audiences. The vibrancy of a dynamic creative and cultural sector and scene in a city such as Edinburgh – continues to provide a strong pull for those looking to live, work, study, invest and visit a city. For destinations standing out from the crowd (in a non-cloned / individualistic way) is vital to achieve competitive advantage – Edinburgh has a head start on many cities on this basis. The hospitality and retail sector need to match and extend this individualistic or ‘boutique’ characteristic in terms of offer and consumer experience. There needs to be a joined up and ‘in the round’ holistic experience drawing on this ‘tailor made’/distinctiveness in the city to reinforce the brand. The city needs to continue to seek out and develop complementary brands in terms of hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, venues, and retail operations. The city also needs to invest in the cultural infrastructure and public spaces to reflect the objective of enhancing the experiential nature of the destination (high quality, and bold design of spaces and new performance spaces and facilities).” 

LB: “Culture and creativity are one of Edinburgh’s greatest assets. They are unarguable. Many aspects of our culture and creativity are tangible. They enable the city to place a distinctive proposition into our primary markets for foreign direct investment, talent attraction and retention, and the business and leisure visitor economies.” 

FL: “Creative and Cultural businesses need to be at the heart of any developing brand and how it is being delivered. Our creative voices are unique and vital in ensuring long term sustainability and success for the city. Edinburgh’s Festivals make an enormous contribution to Edinburgh’s reputation as one of the most attractive and inspiring cities in the world. From their beginnings in 1947 the Festivals have been instrumental in transforming Edinburgh into a cosmopolitan, outward-looking and welcoming city – brand values that other world cities would die for. Individually, Edinburgh’s Festivals are leading cultural brands in their respective fields. Together, they are an unparalleled cultural, marketing and media machine that creates millions of attendances, hundreds of millions of media viewers, cultivates complex and enviable brand partnerships, and generates acres of press coverage across national and international markets. Edinburgh’s Festivals are our world-leading cultural brands with expertise, vision, impact and international recognition unmatched by any other cultural events on the globe. They are distinctively Scottish and yet profoundly international, drawing artists, audiences and media from every continent and over 70 countries each year. They are cultural platforms, forums for national and international debate, economic powerhouses, drivers of ambition and creators of cohesion. They represent Edinburgh at its most confident, its most open and its most creative. They articulate the city’s message in an experiential manner that no other city in the world comes near to.”

Some of Edinburgh's leading brands

  • Aegon UK
  • United Distillers
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Kwik-Fit
  • McVitie's
  • HBOS
  • Skyscanner
  • Tesco Bank
  • Schuh
  • Younger's

Some of Edinburgh's leading agencies

  • The Union
  • RAPP
  • Jump
  • Carat
  • Spirit Media
  • The Gate Worldwide
  • The Lane Agency
  • New Haven
  • Ten Alps Vision
  • Blonde
  • Story
  • Billington Central
  • Leith Agency
  • MediaCom
  • Bray Leino
  • Family
  • Line
  • Golley Slater
  • Stripe Communications
  • Realise Digital
  • Nile
  • Tayburn
  • Precedent
  • LBi
  • Dynamic Advertising Group
  • Hay Smith Advertising

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Guest Author

Andrew Stevens



Andrew has advised a range of partners and agencies on urban development and place strategy in the UK. In particular he works as a researcher on urban policy. A senior editor of (since 2004) he has written widely on city branding, as well as for The Guardian, Time Out and others. His books include The Politico’s Guide to Local Government (several editions, in translation) and a chapter in City Branding – Theory and Cases (2010). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Member of the Regional Studies Association, Urban Economics Association and Urban Land Institute.

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