A Yankee Millennial with a Marketing Degree…What Caught My Attention in Scotland?

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As an American traveling for weeks in Scotland, I expected to see American fast food.  But brand USA is deeper than burgers; I was surprised to see establishments like this one scattered throughout Scottish cities:

Due to my education in marketing, I became curious about Scotland’s style of promotion. I’ll share what caught my attention . . . the idiosyncratic contrasts to America. How do private and public entities connect with this notoriously obstinate populace?

As far as I could tell, TV ads are not the answer. In contrast to the U.S., popular sporting events have almost zero ads. The 6 Nations Rugby Tournament draws a huge viewership from a hardy, nationalist fan base. But if you don’t want to miss a second of the action then you have to wait until halftime to use the toilet (I didn’t hear euphemisms like bathroom or restroom).

Scotland vs Ireland rugby match broadcast in Glasgow bar

Even the Super Bowl broadcast here in the UK doesn’t fill media timeouts with advertisements. Instead, audiences get newscaster coverage of local pubs populated with NFL fans.

How about print? Newspaper publishers here, like their American peers, seek new tactics to stay relevant in the digital age. The Jan. 12 edition of The Sunday Herald offered a free CD of Celtic music, promoting the Celtic Connections festival. I bought three copies of the paper.  Admittedly, I was more interested in the free CD than I was with the ongoing Brexit drama.

Scotland’s national paper (The Scotsman) went a different route:

That’s right. What better way to lure subscribers than the country’s own lifeblood?

If you think this free-whisky strategy is a wee bit iniquitous, then you’re a long way from understanding the Scottish psyche. Ads in popular public places, like this restaurant in Edinburgh, promote whisky-flavoured condoms.

In Scotland, whisky’s cross-promotion potential has no limits. Whisky-flavoured condom ads include a warning not to drive while using this product.

Public-sector communications are noticeably more prevalent. A common emphasis is safety. Since the health care system is fully funded by the government, there’s a vested interested in avoiding unnecessary accidents. Messages like these are typical:

A final anecdote. I met a sales-marketing rep for a food company – we both are 26 — whose outlook tells me that millennials share common traits. A Glasgow native, she is paid handsomely to travel the world, with ample time to explore clients’ countries. Sounds like a dream job, right? Despite the perks, she wants to leave the corporate workforce to work for a non-profit that supports renewable energy and sustainability education. This falls right in line with results of the recent Deloitte survey on company loyalty among millennials.

As marketers wrestle with the conundrum of how to deliver meaningful ads to millennials who favor purpose over profit, don’t forget the default pitch in Scotland: coat everything in whisky.

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