• Transform magazine
  • March 22, 2019


Place branding: Edinburgh

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Scotland’s bustling capital city of Edinburgh has a lot to offer students, tourists and arts fans. With a new place brand, it is seeking to harness the same enthusiasm for the city among businesses. Amy Sandys reports

Every August, comedy fans, arts enthusiasts and revellers descend on the Scottish capital to take part in the city’s annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Spanning 25 days and, in 2017, featuring 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows across 300 venues, the Fringe a vital part of the city’s fabric. But comedy lovers are far from the only crowd that Edinburgh seeks to attract. The city’s cultural links and bespoke, unique spaces lend themselves as well to the UK’s business tourism scene as to comedy. Affordable, accessible and varied in its outlook and resources, the same credentials which make Edinburgh host of one of of the world’s most varied festivals form the basis of its ‘Make It Edinburgh’ place brand campaign.

For Marketing Edinburgh, the body charged with promoting the Scottish capital as a desirable destination for myriad stakeholders, attracting event planners from a wide range of UK-based business is the natural step in promoting Edinburgh as the business tourism capital of the UK. Its online and print campaign, ‘Make It Edinburgh,’ positions the city as a suitable business destination with an intriguing mixture of heritage, future-focused optimism and a vibrant cultural scene. These factors are part of the city’s unique sense of place, on which Make It Edinburgh plays.

Focusing on its cultural credentials rather than just its venues, says Amanda Ferguson, head of business tourism for Marketing Edinburgh, is what attracts businesses to Edinburgh ahead of other UK cities. “Traditional campaigns in destinations, not just Edinburgh, have focused a lot on the infrastructure,” says Ferguson. “Edinburgh has been very strong in differentiating itself from its UK competitors, but for this particular campaign its moving that messaging beyond the basic infrastructure to, ‘Why is there a business imperative to hold events in the city?’”

The future of business tourism to Edinburgh does not rely solely on the city’s cultural heritage. Edinburgh has always been a hub of learning and new industry; its vast contribution to the development of modern medicine and life sciences is, given its relatively small size, a unique achievement. Ferguson says, “Edinburgh was the hotbed of where [research] was happening and where key inventions and discoveries came from, and I would say that continues today. There is still that thirst for knowledge and creativity and sense of discovery that comes through in the companies setting up in informatics or life sciences.”


This legacy resonates in modern business practice. From encouraging the placement of startups, to forging links with universities, to fostering a sense of belonging through which business can truly feel at home in the city.

Despite the established presence of traditional UK industries, entrepreneurial young graduates across Edinburgh are motivated to begin their own projects thanks to the city’s startup culture. Marketing Edinburgh is keen to harness this energy, says Ferguson.  With a strong technology sector, and vibrant finance, renewables and sciences industries, alongside four universities, optimism and future-focused learning is woven into the very fabric of Edinburgh. “‘Make It Edinburgh’ is repositioning and informing the target market that this is what Edinburgh stands for,” says Ferguson.


But, the destination campaign is not without its challenges. “The past couple of years there’s been incredible uncertainty in the market, and this continues with the challenges of Brexit and the potential threat of a second independence referendum in Scotland.” Anyone visiting the city off the strength of ‘Make It Edinburgh’s’ place brand, however, would be forgiven for knowing such obstacles existed in the first place.

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