Launching Brand Scotland

In the run-up to COP 26, we're throwing back to this 2018 Award entry from Scottish Government, VisitScotland, and Scottish Enterprise, outlining the launch of Brand Scotland. Four years later, Brand Scotland is leading the way in sustainable development, and we're excited to have Claire Prentice, Head of Brand Scotland Marketing, at City Nation Place Global to share her experience of putting SDGs at the centre of their strategy and balancing the challenges of collaboration and competition. Get a sneak preview of where it all began here...

Globally, awareness of Scotland is low, but where people do know of the country they look upon it fondly. Research has shown that perceptions of Scotland are somewhat dated, with attributes like history and natural landscapes most commonly sighted. In a world that is changing rapidly it was time for the team to tell the world what Scotland really has to offer. A strong place identity for Scotland is at the heart of achieving the country’s economic and political objectives to grow trade, secure FDI, welcome international students, increase the value derived from tourism and attract and retain talent. The identity needed to present the more dynamic and modern attributes of Scotland, as an innovative, progressive and inclusive nation, alongside the rich history and heritage. Scotland is Now was the first step on the journey towards ‘Brand Scotland’.

Pooling expertise to tackle the challenge

2017 research found that Scotland ranked as low as 15th as a European tourist destination for Americans and little was known of the nation beyond castles and whisky. It was also found that American investors had little knowledge of Scotland as a cutting edge country for inward investment. Those surveyed did not rate Scotland’s creative industries or think of it as a ‘forward thinking’ place. The decision was made, therefore, for Scotland’s national organisations to pool resource, talent and expertise to address these challenges head on. Scottish Government, VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise (/SDI) and Universities Scotland came together to form Brand Scotland and launch the first ever global, national campaign - Scotland is Now - designed to build awareness of Scotland and change perceptions, motivating audiences to become advocates of Scotland and to visit, live, work, study and to do business with. A strong digital presence telling people’s stories was absolutely essential. The importance of content and social media in creating and maintaining a public persona and building reputation was pivotal in driving advocacy. Despite reputation change being a long-term goal, a brand uplift study in the month immediately following launch revealed that over 55% of respondents found #ScotlandIsNow “unexpected” and 20% said it challenged how they felt about Scotland. 

A new director, with private sector and commercial experience, was brought in to lead the cross-agency Brand Scotland team Brand Scotland exists to deliver brand activation – an awareness and affection for the country and a consistency in tone that runs through the various pillars of marketing activity, in order to drive reputational value and stimulate new and sustainable growth in the Scottish economy. The strategy leverages the existing talent and resources of the public and private sectors, driving considerable efficiencies and amplifying reach. The makeup of the dedicated team consists of strategists, marketing professionals, content creators and media managers. There is an equal representation from across the partner organisations, illustrating the commitment of the lead partners to Brand Scotland’s success.

Launching the brand

In a short period of time (5 months) and with a moderate investment, the Brand Scotland strategy has already delivered results. The hero film that launched the campaign achieved over 10 million views in the first day and is in the top 10% of YouTube masthead videos of all time. There have been over 105 million views of campaign videos, more than 22,500 followers on completely new or refreshed social channels have been accumulated. There has been a 37% uplift in web traffic from key markets. SDI referrals from NYC and San Francisco are up 100%, and £400k of accommodation revenue is directly attributable to Scotland Is Now.

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