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30 May 2007

Scotland the Brand

Scotland: a proud nation with an international reputation. You would be hard pressed to find a country with such a wide spectrum of achievement globally and such a strong identity for a country of only 5 million people. Besides the global traditional appeal of tartan, The Highlands, bagpipes, the kilt and many other unique selling features, we have a proud record in education, the Scottish enlightenment, economics, inventions, medicine, engineering and right up to the modern day the quality of Scottish graduates and talent is just one reason why chose Scotland as its first engineering centre outside the US. We have a parliament that most people accept should have more powers, a renewed national pride and talk of sportsmen and women competing under a Scottish flag for the first time in the Olympics. On many fronts, Scotland has achieved much and still achieves much. Scotland the brand is strong and growing.

Having now covered the sales pitch, can anyone with half an ounce of common sense in PR explain to me why major international companies think it is trendy to ditch the word "Scotland" from their name.

We had the rather excellently named "Scottish Telecom" rebrand itself as "Thus" (snigger)
We had the very descriptive "Bank of Scotland" partially rebrand itself as "HBOS".
and to cap it all the biggest success story of recent years, The Royal Bank of Scotland is now the non descript "RBS". Yes, one of the world's biggest banks with not only "Royal" in its title but also the nation of its founding and headquarters now looks like an abbreviation of "ROBS".

In May 2005 I received a new bank card from them which had "The Royal Bank of Scotland" on it.
In August 2006 my other account had a new card and on it was RBS (big letters) and in minuscule font was "The Royal Bank of Scotland".
and in May 2007 the anonymisation was complete with the replacement of the first card and nothing more than just "RBS" on it. No mention of the valued Royal title, no mention of the country where it has its origins and headquarters.

I see no movement from the Bank of England to rebrand itself as TBOE or BOE nor Bank of America to rebrand as BOA. With the notable exception of BA who thought it was trendy to ditch the British flag for a while from their planes (a PR disaster) most other national airlines have their country's name on them - they are proud to fly the flag and promote their country abroad rather than be an anonymous 2 or 3 letter acronym (TLA for the few who like them).

When as a country we spend millions of pounds each year promoting Scotland the brand and how proud we are of what the last executive called "The best small country in the world" should we not be making more of our nation's name in major brands and companies rather than silently subsuming it within letter combinations that mean so much less.

One of the most famous Scots of all time, and once the world's richest man, Andrew Carnegie also became known as a great philanthropist founding 2,800 libraries around the world and giving away much of his vast fortune. These days the Carnegie brand is still strong. Nearly 100 years after his death, his name is still used because it means so much to so many people and is such a respected brand.

If only the same could be said about how some companies treat the name of our country.

Yours For Scotland,


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