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The pace of Glasgow’s marketing activity could best be described as frenetic yet measured, and I’m not talking about the sector as a whole but, rarely perhaps, through the active branding of Scotland’s biggest city by its marketing agency.
Since its formation as the city’s destination marketing organisation in 2005, the Glasgow City Convention Bureau has been responsible for the development and implementation of the widely-acclaimed ‘Scotland with Style’ brand as well as targeting key sectors for enhancement of its economic profile, most notably in the visitor economy. The organisation is led by a dynamic team who remain respected in both the marketing and tourism sectors (the UK’s top-rated convention bureau seven years running), underscored by a hungry yet diligent approach to increase the city’s revenue derived from tourism and events. While Glasgow has been gifted the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the authorities are keen to assert its other vibrant and diverse offers against not its ‘festival-dependent’ and capital neighbour Edinburgh but also other leading UK centres and European competition.
As CEO Scott Taylor is often keen to illustrate, the city can hold its own in gaining new business against the likes of Tokyo and San Francisco, never mind the likes of Birmingham and Dublin. Next year’s Games are a spur for a new brand, this time a crowdsourced web conversation via social networks, which saw global contributions flood in (‘Clyde and Seek’ anyone?). Ahead of this month’s refreshed brand launch for ‘People Make Glasgow’, I spoke to key figures in and around the city to understand better how Glasgow is positioned to the world and also its creative strengths as a global player.
Damian Barr is a journalist (including a report on city branding for The Communication Group), host of the Soho House Literary Salon and author of Maggie and Me, a memoir on growing up gay in Glasgow in the 1980s (Bloomsbury).
Damian, what does the Glasgow identity mean to you?
DB: When I think of Glasgow, I think of Empire-building, scarily edgy music, world-class art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, grindingly poor outlying estates, a ruined shipbuilding industry, with sometimes warrantless optimism, GALLUS.
How could the Glasgow story be told better?
DB:I think it needs to be positioned not just in opposition to Edinburgh. It needs to be better historically and culturally situated.
What experiential qualities of Glasgow would you recommend?
DB:Blythswood Square hotel, the School of Art, the art museum, Barras Market, Barrowlands music venue, the restaurants and bars in the West End… getting out into the lochs easily… chips with extra salt late at night.
What creative strengths do you see in Glasgow?
DB: The art school, Glasgow uni, really cool music scene, tattooing and piercing, a can-do/f**k you attitude that’s not festival-dependent like Edinburgh’s.
Greg Clark is Senior Fellow, ULI Europe. He combines this role with being a global adviser on urban development through roles that include: Chairman of the OECD Development Agencies and Investment Strategies Forum; Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Programme; Advisor to the World Bank on Urbanization Knowledge Platform; Chairman of British BIDs (Business Improvement Districts); Member of the Advisory Board of the Oxford Future of Cities Programme; and Visiting Professor, City Leadership, Cass Business School, City of London.
Greg, what do you see as the challenges facing the Glasgow city brand?
GC: First, the Glasgow City Brand platform ‘Scotland with style’ has been very effective at repositioning Glasgow as an interesting and appealing city with its own character. This was important in overcoming the legacy reputation of a violent, hostile, conflicted city with a great past but no future.
The agency (Glasgow City Marketing Bureau) that runs the brand is a highly competent and effective agency that has used the brand platform to drive a huge increase in tourism and especially conferences and conventions, which have other positive spillovers. The agency has been tenacious and effective despite limited resources.
In addition, the brand platform has enjoyed wide spread support and adoption across public and private sectors in the city. It is a text book good practice case study in how city branding can add value.
However, the brand platform today needs to do more. First, the appeal has been stronger to the Visitor than to Residents, Businesses, Investors, etc, and it now needs to also shift into showing where Glasgow has not just ‘style’ but also ‘edge’, where is the innovation and the new dimension to Glasgow, where does Glasgow lead? At the same time, because the ‘Scotland’ brand is evolving, Glasgow’s brand will change as it is hitched to ‘Scotland’s’. That may or may not work.
What strengths do you see in the Glasgow economy and how it is positioned both within the UK and Europe?
GC: Glasgow’s key strength is its science, innovation, creative, energy and medical base underpinned by a strong a vigorous hospitality and retail offer, and by excellent higher education. Historic niches like ship management and nautical engineering/design also remain important small niches. Because Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city it benefits from clustering in the city, and because it retains a strong international and outward orientation it is a diverse and somewhat cosmopolitan city, that attracts talent.
How do you think the authorities could perhaps market the city better?
GC: The main thing is to keep on improving the product (the city itself). Glasgow now gets enough exposure, and will get plenty more, so it is the ability of the city to reveal new edges and assets, and to demonstrate continuous improvement in its quality of life that will be key.
Having said that I think there is also scope to have a better business and investor attraction function and to work more on positioning Glasgow’s leadership credential’s, e.g. in Medicine, City Systems, Urban Regeneration, Higher Education, Gastronomy. These need to be done in way which is synchronised with the visitor and tourism offer.
Connectivity is not improving as rapidly as it should, so continued work on the airport routes and the airport links are essential.
The Film and TV exposure of Glasgow has not yet caught up with the progress of the city (too many re-runs of Taggart!) and it would be a good idea to find new cultural/media expression of the city that reveal its new angles and characters.
What opportunities do you see for Glasgow beyond the Commonwealth Games?
GC: The £24m Future Cities demonstrator project will be very important in putting Glasgow at the front of the investment in the ‘city systems’ arena, and that is very good positioning for Glasgow. The location of one or more of the UK’s Catapult Centres will also be important.
The City Centre has great districts within it but is not yet playing as a whole and needs a strategy for joining up the districts and improving the public realm in the connecting spaces. Essentially, this means re-using the space in between the successful districts to drive up density and quality of place so that there will be more street life and flows and fun. The Commonwealth Games should help this very much.
Glasgow’s strategy has been clever. The creation of the new districts IFSD, Creative/Media, Convention Centre, etc alongside historic districts such as Merchant City and West End has given new character and added capacity to the city centre. The next phase is to join these together, so that the whole city centre works.
I think Glasgow needs to build up its ‘festival image’. It is a city of celebration already. But it could celebrate science, medicine, fashion, engineering, ideas, learning, etc much better. That should be part of the next phase.
We are entering a key period in Glasgow’s economic history; one where it is important to forge ahead during challenging times by building on the city’s many strengths and the opportunities that are coming our way. A real strength is the resilience of Glasgow’s tourism sector which continues to lead the city’s economic resurgence, thanks in part to our strategy of attracting a diverse portfolio of international conferences and major sporting and cultural events. Glasgow entered the sporting limelight five years ago when we won the right to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014. And while the global focus is now turning towards those Games in the wake of London’s successful Olympics and Paralympics, as a city we are continuing to work hard at attracting more major events beyond 2014.
This process really began two years ago when we became the first city in the UK to launch a formal Major Events Charter, which guarantees the provision of support for organisers considering bringing major sporting and cultural events to Glasgow. We followed on from that earlier this year when we unveiled our specific Major Sports Events Strategy, which is aimed at positioning Glasgow as one of the world’s leading destinations for sport through to 2018 – reflecting our bid to host the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Our ambitions were recognised at this year’s SportAccord Convention in Quebec, Canada, when Glasgow was named one of the world’s top 10 sporting cities ahead of major destinations including Paris, Tokyo and Moscow. We also retained our position as the number one city in the world in terms of sports marketing and branding. As a UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow stages an average of 130 music events every week. We’re a very lively city, which is probably a result of our very youthful population.
As well as acting as a magnet for young people, Glasgow’s five universities also drive forward the city’s reputation as a world-leading centre for academic excellence and quality research, particularly in the fields of medicine and life sciences –we’re currently building Europe’s largest hospital. It’s little wonder then that conventions are intrinsic to our events strategy. Business tourism secured over the past seven years has been worth more than £800m to the city’s economy; generating three million conference delegate hotel room bookings – and we’re on target to achieve the £1bn milestone in 2013.
Glasgow recognises that by making the city an attractive place to do business then conference and event organisers will return. The Glasgow business model is based on service and loyalty – the city’s reputation is built on delivering on our promises!
John Brown is co-author of PR and Communication in Local Government and Public Services, recently published by Kogan Page and was Head of PR and Marketing at Glasgow City Council from 1996-2004.
John, over history, how would you evaluate Glasgow’s efforts to market and position itself?
JB: Glasgow, a century ago the ‘second city of the Empire’ and world-renowned for its shipbuilding and engineering, has turned itself around. It had to re-invent itself, after a quarter of a century of massive decline and de-industrialisation. Marketing and re-branding of Glasgow, under the city’s public and private sector leadership, played a significant part in the city’s re-emergence as a major tourist and conference centre, the best shopping city centre outside London, and reinforcing its predominant position in Scotland as the national city for arts, music, entertainment and broadcasting. Glasgow’s recent success can be traced back to 1983, the launch of the ‘Glasgow Miles Better’ Campaign and the opening of the free-to-enter Burrell Gallery and Museum at Pollock Park. The city’s Miles Better campaign lifted the morale of the city, put a smile on the city which was both down on its heels and negatively perceived. The Burrell opening to positive reviews from London and international arts critics put Glasgow on the UK tourist map: coach tours started stopping off in Glasgow rather than by-passing the city for the Highlands. The Garden City events of 1988, European City of Culture 1990, and the City of Architecture and Design 1999, and next year the Commonwealth Games 2014 have all reinforced Glasgow’s position – and its marketing – as a city of activity, culture, architecture and design and sport. Today Glasgow is one of the UK and Europe’s top conference host cities.
How did it get from the Miles Better campaign to those on which you worked yourself?
JB: I was not involved in the Miles Better campaign, except in 1996 as the new head of public relations and marketing for the city when I had to advise the new unitary City Council to pull the plug on Miles Better, primarily on cost grounds. The reorganisation of local government in Scotland placed critical financial pressures on the city – in reviewing the Miles Better campaign, financial reality played a key part in the decision. Over one-third of the promotional costs went on rights fees – for the rights to use Hargreave’s Mr Happy image and for the slogan ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’/Glasgow Smiles Better’.
As Head of PR and Marketing, I sought on behalf of the Council to buy the rights to the slogan, but the price requested initially was prohibitively high and unaffordable in the financial climate. I thought the slogan still had marketing leverage, with or without the Mr Happy image. Unfortunately, Miles Better and Mr Happy was ditched.
On reflection, the campaign had perhaps outlived its usefulness: it had run very successfully during the critical period for the city 1983-89 and it was resurrected in 1993. It still has a resonance in the city. The campaign worked best with an English-speaking audience; the nuances of the slogan did not translate well, despite car stickers in French, Italian and other languages. My view is that its impact was greatest in Glasgow itself, boosting the city’s morale and in Scotland and the UK, where it did help to promote Glasgow. Glasgow people liked the quirkiness of the slogan with Mr Happy: it related well to the city’s population. A sub-agenda behind the slogan was ‘miles better… than Edinburgh’, the city’s unsaid rival which always looked down on its counterpart in the west.
With the end to Miles Better first in 1989 and finally in 1996, the Council and Glasgow Enterprise looked for alternatives. The ‘Glasgow’s Alive’ campaign was developed first, and soon fell by the wayside, despite its freshness to present the city as a happening place. Then in 1997, with the world’s Rotary Convention, the largest conference ever coming to the city, the Council developed a more informal and welcoming approach using the slogan ‘Glasgow the friendly city’ This was always seen as short term; it did work well and feedback from the convention delegates and visitors to the city underlined the fact that Glasgow lived up to that friendly image.
Around 2000, the city looked again at its marketing – and how it should be positioned – with a top-level working group involving the council and various public and private organisations. In 2003, the task of re-branding the city was taken up by the then Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley Tourist Board led by Eddie Friel. They developed a new award winning campaign and brand around the theme ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’. This brand has been re-vamped and is now under the custodianship of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau. Initially ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’ brand had its genesis in the work – and style in lettering – of the Glasgow architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Macintosh – the Glasgow equivalent of Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, but unlike him Macintosh died at a relatively young age with limited but significant projects to his name and it is only in the last half century he has been recognised.
But, on research, playing on the Macintosh name or theme had limited leverage for a wider audience. The ‘style’ brand has now focused more on contemporary – and Glasgow’s position in fashion, shopping, arts, entertainment, culture, design and architecture. The ‘style’ brand does not have the popular resonance that ‘Miles Better’ had, but I feel it rightly moves the city’s marketing to a new and more cosmopolitan level. The inclusion of the word ‘Scotland’ in the brand strapline is important, as Scotland as a country is more quickly identified than Glasgow as a city; so the linkage of Glasgow and Scotland with style is crucial in the city’s place marketing and branding.
As of 2013, how would you assess Glasgow amid a world of competing city brands?
JB: Glasgow ‘style’ brand is now ten years old: it has been revamped and refreshed from the first launch. But it will need to be reviewed and reassessed sooner, rather than later. The city marketplace is getting more and more competitive for visitors, shoppers, weekenders, and for businesses wishing to invest or just simply attract qualified personnel. Glasgow has significant strengths, including its universities, the new financial district and its cultural, visitor and shopping offering, but there are inherent weaknesses in the city’s infrastructure that unless addressed will impact on its competitiveness, despite marketing. Its international airport, for example, is not within the city’s boundaries and there is still no direct rail or metro access into the airport. Glasgow’s competitors are in the UK and Europe – Manchester’s and Liverpool’s marketing is a serious threat in the UK, but there are also bigger threats cities like Lisbon, Turin, Vienna, and Glasgow will continue to find it difficult to compete against the offerings in cities like Barcelona and Prague. Glasgow does benefit from the spin offs – and soft spot for Scotland and Glasgow – from the Scottish Diaspora in different parts of the world in America, Asia, and Africa.
Where does Glasgow fit among Scotland’s city brands, in your view?
JB: Glasgow has led the way in Scottish city branding since 1983 with ‘Miles Better’ and more recently ‘Glasgow, Scotland with style’. For different reasons, these campaigns have been clear and focused based on a reality in the city. The Glasgow campaigns have had greater resonance than Edinburgh’s Inspiring Capital, with its ‘Inspiring Capital’ pyramid that appears more academic, than relevant. Dundee’s ‘City of Discovery’ is an interesting place-marketing… the problem is discovery as a concept is unknown, unless it is better explained and exemplified. Is it about the past or the future or both? Dundee has a difficult task, yet there is a lot happening on the medical and digital front in the city. The work in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, such as bringing the county and the city together in some joint branding, is exciting, but is very different to the Glasgow approach.
What advice would you give those currently entrusted with marketing the city?
JB: Glasgow can’t rest on its laurels and on two, I think, exceptionally successful campaigns, ‘Miles Better’ and ‘Scotland with Style’, which have taken the city forward and changed public perceptions of Glasgow, internally and externally. The problem now for Glasgow is not its marketing, but its infrastructure. Some of the city’s offerings are looking tired, for example the Glasgow Science Centre, the Exhibition Centre although the new Hydro Arena which opens later in 2013 will help, the Burrell Gallery urgently needs a revamp, and the city’s other museums, even the recently revamped Kelvingrove although still popular is disappointing, compared to European museums and galleries. Glasgow’s pre-eminent city centre shopping centre could be at risk with further out of town shopping expansions and developments and the internet, and unnecessarily high city centre parking charges. The airport should be within the city’s boundary like Edinburgh’s, but more importantly needs direct fast rail links to the city centre. And Glasgow’s lost much of the cultural buzz that was around during the early 1990s and its reign as European City of Culture; the financial crisis post-2007 and reduced both public and private sector funding for infrastructure, culture, etc. is impacting seriously on the city’s investment for its future. The forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence – and the result, one way or the other – will have implications on Scotland’s largest city. Glasgow will have to reassert itself again, and ensure Edinburgh with the parliament does not overtake it.
In the UK’s current climate of budget cuts and policy changes, local government officials need to be aware of best practice in both broadcasting their services and responding to crises in their communities. Meanwhile, changes in the media – from the rise of social communications through to web access for older consumers – present new challenges for local councils about how to best convey their key messages and protect their “brand”. Full of expert advice, tools and case studies, PR and Communication in Local Government and Public Services is a practical reference guide to internal and external communication issues for anyone working in local councils or governmental offices. It offers a detailed analysis of the issues that are unique to this challenging and fast-moving environment, whilst reinforcing the importance of effective and meaningful communication to both local democracy and the planning and delivery of quality services.
Creative Clyde seeks to build on Glasgow’s growing status as a hub for the creative industries, delivering new jobs and economic growth for the city. Key industries involved are film, TV and radio, advertising, publishing and design, web and digital media, animation, software and games development. Creative Clyde is a collaborative partnership involving Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow City Council, Scottish Development International, Creative Scotland, BBC Scotland, University of Glasgow, Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), Clyde Waterfront and private enterprises. It aims to build on the success of the Digital Media Quarter which, over the past ten years, has seen the arrival at Pacific Quay of HQ buildings for BBC Scotland and Scottish Television, the opening of Glasgow Science Centre and Film City Glasgow and the completion of The Hub, offering top quality, flexible workspace for up to 50 companies.
Source: Glasgow City Marketing Bureau
Robert Crawford is a poet and Professor of English at St Andrew’s. His latest book is On Glasgow and Edinburgh (Harvard).
Robert, for how long has the friction between Glasgow and Edinburgh exercised your mind?
RC: A lifetime. I grew up in Lanarkshire, so it came with the territory. Certainly in my generation most people growing up around Glasgow thought of Edinburgh as exotic and slightly pretentious. There are comparable rivalries in England — between Manchester and Liverpool, say — but they don’t have such a long history as the Glasgow-Edinburgh rivalry, which can be seen as the foundational inter-city rivalry in the English-speaking world. When my book came out I did an interview with Australian radio, and I could tell that they liked the Glasgow-Edinburgh thing because for them it meant Sydney-Melbourne.
What about the respective identities of both cities and if they have contributed to that friction?
RC: Glasgow gets typecast as masculine, violent, working-class, go-ahead, (post-) industrial, warm in personality, wet but mild in climate, underdoggish… Edinburgh as feminine, calm on the surface but debauched underneath, middle-class, museum-ish, non-industrial, cool in personality, chilly and sunnier in climate, snooty.
One of the attractions of considering the two cities together is to see how far this typecasting holds up, and to play with it. The way people play with the stereotyping adds to the appeal of either city and of the relationship between the two: both for locals and visitors. Though its origins go back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it may be that the rivalry doesn’t come to be articulated in literature until the eighteenth century. Though some say that today the rivalry has become a middle-class thing, I’m not sure that’s true; certainly, it’s not exclusively middle-class. The seventeenth century Edinburgh bakers who thought they could outdo their Glasgow rivals went middle-class, and today I’ve found the rivalry relished by people from Shettleston as well as people from Morningside.
What’s your view on the respective ‘branding’ campaigns of the two cities?
RC: Glasgow’s slogans tend to trip off the tongue better, and, whether it’s ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ or ‘Scotland with Style’, manage to insinuate that Somewhere Else is miles worse or Somewhere Else in Scotland lacks that certain style. It was an Edinburgh person who first pointed this out to me. Edinburgh’s slogans backfire a bit: ‘Inspiring Capital’ sounds unconvincing after what happened to RBS and HBOS, while ‘Incredinburgh’ tries too hard and sounds a bit naff: sounds too like a marketeer’s misfire.
What future do you see for both: increasing convergence as a metropolitan region amid a world of metros rather than nations, or as remaining essentially apart in all senses?
RC: Neither. Sheer convergence of the twain would lead to a sinking blandness; to remain apart in all senses seems improbable given the shrinking distance. I see the continuing jostling in the relationship between the two as something alluring to people coming from elsewhere, while for locals each place is likely to sample the other more and more: not to taste similarity but to taste subtle and not so subtle differences.
The Marketing Society Glasgow has been created by members keen to develop a local network of connections and build a marketing community in and around Glasgow and the west of Scotland. The Marketing Society is a global network of leading marketing professional members and organisations. There are over 2,700 members across the UK with around 330 in Scotland. By building a stronger marketing community based in Glasgow it will help promote the west of Scotland as a great place to study, work and invest in marketing. This will lead to more marketing jobs, business growth and economic prosperity.
Glasgow has an enviable creative reputation both in arts and culture and also with new and innovative businesses. The various academic institutions are also highly regarded throughout the world. There is also an appreciation and heritage of craft from the days of shipbuilding on the Clyde which has now been replaced by design, digital and media expertise. In the run up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games there is an exciting opportunity for the local marketing community to build a world class reputation. The Marketing Society Glasgow committee consists of representatives drawn from city agencies such as Circuit Break, Material, The Big Partnership, Spider Online and Locofoco.
Source: Marketing Society Glasgow
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 CityMayors.com (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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