SCOTLAND: THE CONSUMMATE CONSUMERS - Curious, rich and confident, the Scots are the perfect audience to advertise to. Andy Barnes investigates

When I lived in Sydney, I regularly travelled by ferry to the suburb of Manly, famous for its rugby team and fantastic surfing beaches. As you got off the boat a huge sign hung low in the ferry dock proudly proclaimed: ’Manly, seven miles from Sydney and a million miles from Care.’

When I lived in Sydney, I regularly travelled by ferry to the

suburb of Manly, famous for its rugby team and fantastic surfing

beaches. As you got off the boat a huge sign hung low in the ferry dock

proudly proclaimed: ’Manly, seven miles from Sydney and a million miles

from Care.’

The same sort of thing could also be said of Scotland today. In this

respect I don’t mean the old, cliched view of Scotland where porridge,

pickled eggs and haggis are presumed to be the only things ever eaten,

where it’s obviously taken for granted that heather grows rampantly on

every street and where dreich weather (Scottish for dull and horrible)

shrouds the country almost all of the time.

No, when I think of Scotland I think of it as a lively progressive

place, populated by people every bit as intelligent, witty and go-ahead

as can be found in London. A place where, almost uniquely, people have

successfully integrated the best of the old with the best of the new and

where constant change is a way of life, not something that’s thrust

intermittently on a group of poor, unsuspecting souls.

That’s why Scotland is seen as such an ideal test market area by most

fmcg manufacturers. People there aren’t afraid to try something new and,

given its geography, any test can be relatively easily contained within

the area. Representing almost 10 per cent of the UK’s population,

Scotland is of sufficient size to give a realistic indication of

national consumption while at the same time being one of the best

’value’ places to invest in because of the Scots’ natural love of all

media, particularly television.

As such it is possible to influence any desired sector of Scottish

society relatively easily with a minimum wastage and at a low absolute


In doing so advertisers must remember the one golden rule about

successfully advertising in Scotland and that is that it’s not a

separate region of the UK or (worse still) England, but a separate,

quite distinctive country in its own right. Research undertaken by

various different bodies has highlighted time and again that commercials

produced specifically for Scotland work far better than off-the-shelf

ones - although the audience is sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate

that this is not always possible.

Disposable incomes are higher than average in Scotland because of the

relatively low level of home ownership, although this may change in the

medium term as a result of the present hectic activity in the housing

market. Households are bigger in size than average which inevitably

leads to higher overall consumption, although some of the products and

some of the purchase patterns are idiosyncratic, to say the least.

So, for example, Jo Brand, Channel 4’s star comedienne, says that

Scotland is her favourite country by far as her natural Catholic guilt

is suppressed by the whole population’s way-above-average scoffing of

cakes, sweets, buns, fizzy drinks - in fact, anything sweet at all. Even

saccharin tablets like Hermesetas sell best in Scotland, although I’ve

never yet discovered whether this is people making things sweeter

without extra sugar or whether it’s that very small percentage of Scots

who try desperately hard not to eat sweet things yet still crave the


Fast food is also very big business north of the border, with the local

fish and chip shops still dominating the market. In such establishments,

all the normal sort of ’extras’ - like the aforementioned pickled eggs -

are sold, plus two other very Scottish items. Mars bars, which are fried

in the chipper either neat or covered in batter - a rare low-calorie

Scottish delicacy - and Askit Powders.

These are liver salts designed to cleanse the body after all that eating

and drinking. Suitably refreshed, any Scot can retire to their bed in

the sure and certain knowledge that their unplanned excesses will be

magically worked out of their system during the night. Also fundamental

to any self respecting Scot is a love of a quite unique fizzy drink

called Irn-Bru, which is drunk in gallons by them all. Containing more E

numbers than one could possibly imagine, it now has a sister product

called Diet Irn-Bru, which seems like an oxymoron if ever there was


It’s not just fmcg products that thrive in Scotland, though. Scotland is

without doubt the second biggest financial market in the UK, has a

booming travel market driven primarily through the rapidly developing

Glasgow airport and has become a major centre for telecoms companies.

Home furnishing stores such as Behar, Capones, Landmark, Reids and

Sterling continue to flourish in Scotland alone, while the

double-glazing boom which sagged in England with the fall from grace of

Everest, never affected its Scottish counterparts, Penicuik and C. R.


As you would expect, alcohol plays a big part in the Scottish market

with Scotland having its own brands that are positioned at a distance

from their English counterparts - even from when they are made by the

same company. And last but by no means least, there is a huge media war

going on in Scotland at present with all the popular English dailies

trying to steal market share from the ever powerful Daily Record.

As every Scot knows, the last two lines of their unofficial national

anthem, Oh Flower of Scotland, are ’but we can still rise now and be a

nation again’.

The song was penned at a time when the Scots were massively oppressed by

English tyranny and every ounce of bile that could be produced was

directed at their oppressors. In 1997, however, Scotland is very much

one nation, strong and confident, united under one common banner with

its own elected assembly - a reality of the near future.

Given this strength in the Scottish market and the apparent disunity

that reigns in England, perhaps it would be an Englishman who would

write such a song today while looking jealously over the border at the

undoubted success that Scotland now enjoys.


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