How does Scotland’s marketing compare to the rest of the world?
In the second of our 2024cast series, we asked a series of marketers based in Scotland how they thought our country stacked up against the rest of the UK – and the world – in terms of marketing output. Marketers from Frame, Edrington, Clark and more share their viewpoints on where we are and what we can be doing better.
We’re a hugely talented bunch
“In many ways the Scottish marketing sector encompasses all the things that are great about us Scots. We're generally a gregarious, creative, and sociable bunch and the sector is reflective of that, as evidenced by the abundance of marketing meetups, social and networking events taking place at just about any day somewhere across the country,” enthused Kirsty McLaren, Digital Account Lead at Clark.
“We have an absurdly healthy marketing scene here in Scotland, and new graduates are very lucky to enter an already close-knit community. Several times in my career I've crossed paths with the same people, and it's always encouraging to see a friendly face or hear the same names come up in conversations.”
The Scottish marketing industry as a whole is one with similarities to ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’: you are probably only a few LinkedIn connections away from knowing at least half of the industry.
One of the best things about marketing in Scotland is that the wealth of talent is spread across the whole country; from Inverness to Dumfries and Galloway.
“I’d say we’re a smaller community but with the ambition and drive to do good work,” summarised Frank Gormanley, Founder of Forever Great.
Scotland creates great marketing campaigns
London may be thought of as the creative hub of the UK, but with such an immense level of talent, it is no wonder that great work is coming out of Scotland, proving it is not where you are…it’s what you do that matters.
“I’m fiercely proud of the Scottish marketing sector. I’m privileged to be able to work with clients who produce work from a hyper local to global level, and I can confidently say the work that I see coming out of Scotland stands shoulder to shoulder with any other territory,” said Ewan MacGill, Associate Director at Frame.
We should be proud of the amazing work that has come out of Scotland: and from the Irn Bru Christmas ad, to the absolute earworm that was ‘Why do you keep on running, boy’ (the anti-smoking ad from NHS Scotland), we’ve proved that we can turn our hand to anything. What other country could send a haggis to space or create a ‘Pantone pee chart’?
For Richard Wardrop, Head of Marketing at Vault City Brewing, the major industries and huge companies in Scotland give our marketers the opportunity to do great things: “Our highest selling beer, vodka, and soft drinks are all produced by Scottish businesses, which allows many brands to tap into their Scottish identity and connect with the nation in a unique way. Major industries like whisky present further opportunities for Scotland’s marketing sector to showcase creativity and innovation at a global level. I believe this creates space for Scottish agencies and helps Scotland’s marketing sector punch well above its weight.”
Room for improvement?
We may be creating good work: but how do we fit on the global stage?
Graham Milne, owner of Spiritmedia, noted “There may be some developments that we adopt a couple of months after the initial event”, before adding “but there is a lot if ingenuity (even if some of the invention is driven by necessity)”.
Fast-paced work can mean it is difficult to keep up with best practice and new ways of thinking.
Frank Gormanley, Founder of Forever Great, suggested that capacity is a major issue, alongside fear of being seen as not on the ball. “I don’t think we’re always great at sharing best practice, experience, or our own struggles with trying to ‘keep up’ with the ever-changing marketing landscape - simply for fear of highlighting any vulnerabilities. In terms of the rest of the world, I’m too concerned about what’s happening here at home and doing all I can to support my clients with my own skills,” he admitted.
Frank isn’t alone in these views, and raises a great point: as an industry in Scotland and further afield, we need to be more open about our experiences and sharing vulnerabilities. In 2024, the team at CIM Scotland will look to do more to give you a chance to share your thoughts and put forward concerns, so we can help you grow.
We mentioned earlier that Scotland has a talented pool of people, who we can all learn a lot from…but is that enough?
Kirsty McLaren, Digital Account Lead at Clark, warns that our tight-knit community can be a double-edged sword: “Scotland is a small country with big ideals and lofty goals, and the same is true for the marketing sector here, but our tight community can, at times, tip over into the insular. I don't think this is a uniquely Scottish challenge - the same can be said for the London bubble - but it's important to lift your head up and gaze beyond our borders.”
How we can make 2024 Scotland’s best year in marketing
So, what can we do in 2024 to make sure Scottish creativity remains high and that we are up-to-date with developments? The overwhelming consensus is that to stay on the front foot, we need to look outwith our borders.
“I would always encourage a global outlook and learn from great work everywhere in the world,” suggested Nicola Thomson, Global Marketing Capability Lead at Edrington.
Sometimes looking at how things are done in a different region or in a totally different industry can help spark new and fresh ideas.
Industry websites such as The Drum, Campaign, PR Week and Marketing Dive can help you to keep an eye on what is going on across the world, what trends are taking place in the industry and learn more through thought leadership articles.
Podcasts are also a great way to learn more about what is happening in marketing, and really get to grips with areas of interest. As well as CIM’s podcast (which discusses key issues, share stories and provides tips) there are a huge host of podcasts out there on a wide range of topics: so if you’re looking for campaign inspo, to how to handle a tough situation as a marketer, to learning what skills you need, there is bound to be one that suits you.
Social media is a great place to get updates from marketing experts around the world, from LinkedIn to Threads. And many offer emails as well to give updates and suggestions straight into your inbox (which can be great if you don’t have the time to search for news stories, trends and inspiration but you are keen to stay up to date!)
Finally, another way for Scotland to continue to grow is to look at who we hire. “Consider those from further afield who can work remotely. Chances are they’ll offer a unique perspective and a slightly different take. Widening the scope of the Scottish marketing horizon benefits us all,” proposed Kirsty McLaren, Digital Account Lead at Clark.
Scotland has a dynamic and inspiring marketing sphere, but we can see that there is opportunity for improvement in 2024. If there’s anything you’d like to see us at CIM Scotland do more of to help you and your journey, please get in touch with the team.