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What does the referendum mean for Scottish brand managers?

22 September 2014 | 10:32 am

The historic 85% turnout for the Scottish Referendum on Friday has been matched by engagement on social media, not just in Scotland and the UK, but also around the world.

Since August 5 there have been more than 7 million tweets about Scotland, with more than 1.5 million posted in the 48 hours before polls closed.  With 10% of voters claiming they were still undecided in the final polls there were still votes to compete for right up to 10pm.

Whilst the result was a clear ‘No’ vote, with 28 out of 32 regions returning a majority in favour of keeping the union, the ‘Yes’ campaign has dominated social media. #VoteYes has been tweeted 1.1 million times, whilst the #BetterTogether hashtag received just 224,000 mentions.

The last two months has seen Scottish and British constitutional politics dominate headlines. As a result Scottish brands have been propelled into the spotlight, something that social media managers are constantly trying to achieve.

We share three observations for the Scottish brand managers to consider:

1) Increased Awareness

“You can’t go wrong if you’re a Scottish brand and you are the number one story on CNN”, Marketing Week’s Mark Ritson wrote.

The Commonwealth Games, held in Glasgow in August, and the Ryder Cup starting on September 23 will both, along with the referendum, ensure that Scotland has the world’s attention for the foreseeable future.

We expect pages such as #ScotlandHour, a monthly tourism chat for those planning to visit Scotland, to succeed and for more to proliferate.

2) Enhanced sense of identity

Highland Spring already enjoys the title of ‘Britain’s favourite bottled water’.

They sponsored Chris Hoy during his cycling career, who might now be remembered as a Scottish, rather than British, cyclist.

Andy Murray and his team will have to address the question of whether he considers himself to be a British or Scottish player. At the moment there is an inconsistency in his public image, due to his support for independence, as well as confirmation that he would play for Great Britain in the Davis Cup match against the United States in March, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

Tunnock’s Teacakes was widely criticised on Twitter when Boyd Tunnock signed an open letter claiming a business case for independence had not yet been made.

3) Clear differentiation

A 300-year-old union might well have been brought to an end. This could lead brands to take advantage of the ‘rebelliousness’ associated with a more nationalist Scotland.

Possible brands that could take advantage of this would be Tennent’s (‘Scotland’s favourite pint’) and Irn-Bru, who have already had a good year for numbers.

Irn-Bru enjoyed marketing success during the Commonwealth Games with their ‘Born To Support’ advertisement, showing off Scottish fans’ eternal optimism.

In the build-up to the referendum, AG Barr deliberately refused to comment on the question of Scottish independence. The Scottish National Party were forced to withdraw an Irn-Bru style T-shirt that backed independence that they were selling at their party conference in March of last year. This was a shrewd move by AG Barr as it allows their marketing team to move forward, post-referendum, without risk of contradicting themselves.

Irn-Bru’s Twitter page is full of retweets of people celebrating all things Scottish, and it calls itself ‘Scotlands other national drink’

With the Yes campaign left to think about what might have been, and how they can move on, we can also consider what the next move for social media managers might be.

If it had been a yes:
RBS would have had a branding crisis, as the Royal Bank of Scotland announced that, in the event of a yes vote, they would move their headquarters to England.

Marketing of Scottish brands would have inevitably moved towards talk of national entrepreneurship, along with new opportunities for business.

Because it was a no:

British tourism and small business can breath a sigh of relief, as the Union Jack, the world’s ‘most recognisable flag’ remains intact.

Social media managers of Scottish brands (who may well have supported a ‘Yes’ vote) will look to reassure their buyers, focusing on the continuity and stability of the economic union.

Made.com, an online furniture company made a marketing error when they released a special offer celebrating Scottish independence:
“As a little patriotic inspiration for the newly independent country, take a peek at our selection of blue, Saltire-inspired products below.”

Right idea, but wrong result, they then apologised on Twitter,

The uncertainties about the economy in an independent Scotland, such as the question of currency, were not helpful for business. Now, with the certainty of an intact union, speculative waiting can be replaced with positive promotion. “Businesses need to reconsider what is Scotland and how they should position themselves in the mind of customers” says Dr Hultman, Associate Professor of Marketing and Global and Strategic Marketing Research Centre Director at Leeds University.

How Scottish businesses choose to now position themselves crucially needs to be reflected in their strategies on social media, in order to ensure effective marketing and engagement.

CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform built for enterprise.


Related: Four things every CEO needs to know before jumping on that political bandwagon

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