Thought Leadership

Focus on Edinburgh – Simon Farrell, Managing Director of Tayburn

Tom Holmes

Founder & Chairman


Following our recent feature City Brand Leaders – Edinburgh, we interviewed a select group of leaders from Edinburgh’s top agencies to help focus on the Edinburgh brand and consider their own agency vision.

Creativebrief Founder & Chairman Tom Holmes talks to Simon Farrell, Managing Director of Tayburn

Simon Farrell, Tayburn

TH: What does the Edinburgh brand stand for?

SF: If we’re talking about the “Edinburgh – Inspiring capital’ brand, I’m not sure it stands for anything at the moment. It seems to have lost its way over the past few years and I don’t think it resonates with any of its intended “visit, invest, live, work, study” audiences. However, if we’re talking about Edinburgh the city, I can’t think of many other European cities that are better places to visit, invest, work and study. As a proud Mancunian I’ve done all four of these things and have benefited from them all. I love working and living here. And my family and friends love visiting me here.

TH: How do you think Edinburgh should position itself?

SF: I don’t think it should. That’s the problem with the “Inspiring capital” brand. In fact it’s the problem with many city brands. Any attempt to position a city in such a singular way to all audiences is always going to fall short of the true that city holds in eyes of so many people. Is Edinburgh an inspiring capital? Yes it is but isn’t that hugely under selling its reputation as the home to the world’s greatest art festival. Home to one of the world’s best Universities. The number one place to live in the UK. The emphasis should be on improving and building on the rich tapestry of assets that make Edinburgh Edinburgh. Rather than trying to position the city, let its reputation grow through the experiences of all.

TH: Are the city’s brand values reflected in your own agency culture?

SF: Possibly. We certainly embrace the city’s heritage as a place for innovation, creativity and thinking. And the pioneering spirit and ambition to go beyond Scotland is a trait we share with many who come from here. But our agency culture is more reflective of the mix of people who work here. And they’re as likely to come from Glasgow, Fife, Manchester, London or Sydney as they are Edinburgh. So maybe we more reflective of the values of Edinburgh during the festival.

TH: What makes your agency offer different?

SF: Like most other agencies, we constantly struggle with trying to articulate our own unique point of difference. Obviously our people make us different. The areas of expertise we focus on makes us different. The way we go about brand strategy and creative execution makes us different. But fundamentally we do similar things to many of the other agencies in Edinburgh, Scotland and London. 

So rather than focus on different, we try to focus on better.

Simon Farrell, Tayburn

Our ambition has been to rank ourselves against the best in the UK (and therefore arguably the best in the UK) from a creative perspective and an effectiveness perspective. And that leads on to the next question….

TH: Why should clients consider sourcing work from Edinburgh agencies?

SF: They shouldn’t. They should source work from the agency that will do the best job for them. If clients are looking to work with a creative and effective brand consultancy they should consider working with us. Not because we’re in Edinburgh. But because we’re one of only two agencies in the UK that are ranked in the top 10 for creatively and effectiveness. We happen to be based in Edinburgh. The other has offices all over the world. Obviously many of our clients are based in Scotland but we also work with clients in Manchester, Liverpool, London, Geneva, Miami, Istanbul and Connecticut. And I’m sure it’s not because we’re based in Edinburgh.

TH: What sort of clients do you want to attract?

SF: We’re lucky enough to work with a wide spectrum of clients tackling issues from serious Governmental policy to selling kids sweets, dealing with large corporate utilities to small family-run charities. And the sheer diversity of projects we work on really keeps us curious and the ideas fresh. However, the best client relationships and the ones we’d want to attract more of are the ones built on mutual respect, a desire to make a difference and a commitment to the long term. I’m glad to say that’s representative of most of our client relationships.

TH: What work have you done recently makes you really proud?

SF: Lots of things. In fact I’d say everything we do adds value so anything on would be up there.

TH: What Scottish brands do you most admire and why?

SF: I’m a bit biased here but we recently completed the brand and communication strategy for Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. It’s got another 18months in the making but I have no doubt that it will become the most admired and important Scottish brand of this decade and something that will leave a lasting impact on the country.

TH: Are there any local marketers who have inspired you?

SF: There are plenty of top class marketers in Scotland on both the client and agency side, and I wouldn’t want to name names for fear of leaving someone out, but I’ve found the quality of the Marketing Society membership to be exceptional and collectively that membership has inspired me.

TH: What business would you most like to win?

SF: Manchester United; enough said.

TH: Thanks Simon.

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