Scotland’s should forget tourist cliches claims branding expert


By Andrea McCallum

SCOTLAND should stop relying on shortbread and tartan to sell itself to the world – according to a branding expert.

David Guy, business director for the Edinburgh branch of marketing firm Billington Cartnell, said Scotland should take a leaf out of Ireland’s book and promote the warmth of its people.

And he said VisitScotland’s current approach was failing to exploit the perception of the Celtic nations as warm and friendly.

Mr Guy is in the running to become the new strategist for Brand Scotland.

His employer is one of a number of agencies shortlisted for a 400,000 pound tender from VisitScotland to devise a new strategy to market Scotland to the UK.

The company – whose clients include Bank of Scotland and Famous Grouse – said they made a point of “[steering] clear of tartan, caber tossing and shortcake clichés” and used Ireland as an example to look to.

He said: “Ireland have managed to capture the emotional warmth of the people, which we think is a killer selling point and something Scotland should tap into.

“Some of the VisitScotland work in Homecoming wasn’t that emotional. It wasn’t about that warmth you get when you come to Scotland; it was more functional.

“The brand proposition for VisitScotland has not quite nailed it.

“When you see a brief for VisitScotland, it’s trying to do everything: you can go shopping, you can go to the Highlands, you can see dramatic scenery, you can play golf – and it’s like a smorgasbord of everything.”

VisitScotland will hold its annual Expo at the SECC in Glasgow on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Phillip Riddle, chief executive of VisitScotland, said visitors would see all aspects of Scotland at the expo.

He said: “You have to start from the customer, and in our case the visitor.

“The Californian might be interested in something to do with ancestry and family ties, whereas that’s not going to play that well in China.

“So for a Chinese market it may be the cultural heritage, such as golf, so you would push that.

“Somebody from the north of England, they’re familiar with Scotland, so they’re going to be interested in ‘Well, what do we do there? What are the activities?’. We need to adapt accordingly.

“We will promote Scotland to those people accordingly, trying to do it on an almost individual level because that’s what gets results.”


  1. The old chestnut of Ireland’s warm and friendly people hasn’t held up for a long time. Most visitors to that country, including Irish Americans who were already steeped in that particular myth, come home firmly grounded in the understanding that the warm and friendly types emigrated round about the beginning of the previous century.

    I’ve been to Scotland, and know full well that the shortbread, biscuit tins and all, the golfing and tartan are far more attractive than the population, it’s crime rate, drug abuse and corrupt government. If I want to spend time surrounded by leg over artists, there are plenty of other places to go where they are actually charming.

  2. Oops, missed a prime example to cite until after my last post. Had to laugh, your attempt to find ways to hype your country as a tourism go to, on the same page as a headline about how Scots are more likely to be murdered than Europeans. Thanks for the laugh.

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