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Glasgow. From slum to style capital

Glasgow. From slum to style capital

By Clark Turner 

The transformation of Glasgow Tourism through its marketing has been one has been one of the great success stories of recent years.

Blighted by associations of poverty, unemployment, bad housing and deep-fried Mars Bars, the Scottish city realised serious action had to be taken on the back of research carried out five years ago.

Findings showed that while there were many positive comments made about the city, it was the reasons people gave for not visiting that were of concern.

One major problem identified was awareness of the positive attributes of the city. Potential visitors were aware of the city’s Capital of Culture status back in 1990 but had little knowledge beyond that.

The solution was to deliver consistent messaging to highlight the assets of good shopping, entertainment and landmark architecture. The result was the creation of the ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’ brand in 2004.

“It was about the fusion of the past with the present to deliver both a emotional and rational message,” explained Glasgow City Marketing Bureau’s Head of Marketing, Tom Rice (pictured).

“Architecture, design and the Glasgow style movement, led by Charles Rennie McIntosh was the anchor to a stylish, dynamic and energetic presentation of the city.

“It was grounded in a USP that we could deliver as much as Gaudi is associated with Barcelona, or Sir Christopher Wren with London.”

Strategic planning involved adopting a ‘style pyramid’ involving 10 million people, filtering key messages down from exclusive style setters down to style followers.

“It was an unusual approach for a destination to take, but we were looking at the long term to build awareness and reputation,” explained Rice. “But it was importance for us to get the style setters talking in a positive sense.”

Initiatives to deliver the ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’ positioning have included the formation of a Design Collective.

The group of designers and businesses have exhibited in the Glasgow Lighthouse Scotland's Centre for Architecture, Design and the City. They were also represented at London Fashion Week – the first city outside of London to take the initiative to do so.

The result of appearing at such an influential event, according to Rice, was a real financial return for designers and for the city as a whole working across a range of clusters and communications groups.

Additionally, the influential art, photography and ideas magazine ‘Next Level’ has played a key role in allowing the city brand to reach style adopters. Working editorially and placing advertising, the October 2007 edition of the magazine carried 220-pages devoted to the city.

In reaching an audience interested in sports, the city was able to build on its hosting UEFA Cup final in May 2007.

“The focus of our electronic strategy is on our website, which is one of our main communications tools,” Rice said. “We’ve shifted the focus so now it’s more about communicating the experience of ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’ rather than simply being an information led reference tool.

“We quickly realised the potential for experiential content and hosted a world first with a city music podcast. We’re also developing a series of films to showcase the city and eCRM developments are planned for the future.”

The findings so far on the success of the ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’ brand are positive.

New research undertaken by TNS Travel & Tourism for Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB) has revealed that perceptions of Glasgow among the UK ‘style set’ have significantly improved over the last two years.       
The research shows that there has been a 13% swing in Glasgow’s favour among ‘UK early style adopters’ in response to the question “What UK and European cities would you consider visiting?” compared to when the same question was put two years ago. 
The research also indicates a swing away from Barcelona (by 13%) and Prague (by 22%) among these same key influencers, suggesting that they have “been there and done that” and are now looking for fresh inspiration for their short breaks.
There are also signs that these early style adopters are visiting Glasgow as never before.  In Wave One of the TNS research only 11% said they had visited the city in the past 12 months, but by November last year this had risen to 20% - equating to approximately 150,000 visitors.
Since the launch of the Glasgow: Scotland with style brand in March 2004, occupancy of Glasgow hotels has also been climbing steadily from 70.8% in 2004 to 71.5% in 2005, 74.3% in 2006 and 77.4% in 2007.
“Research always has to be a starting point in building our long term commitment to the brand and building a sense of place,” Rice explained. “We’ve made some in roads but have much further to go in both the domestic and international market.”

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