The Scottish referendum: Will we lose our national brands?

Industry News By Josanne Griffin-Mason, 18th September 2014

Today, the future of Scotland will be decided upon in the referendum vote. We’re here to talk about what Scottish independence means for businesses using nationalism at the heart of their branding.

The value of product origin

Brands use heritage as a means of uniting their audience or authenticating their products.

IRN-BRU is perhaps the most famous example. Bold marketing campaigns driven by ‘Scottishness’ have made IRN-BRU the number one selling soft drink in Scotland, allowing it to directly compete with global brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi. If a ‘yes’ vote does succeed today, IRN-BRU sales could soar even further as retailers make extra efforts to stock local products.

Regardless of outcome, Scottish producers that hold a strong social media presence can benefit from the increased visibility Scotland is receiving right now. Although IRN-BRU is keeping tight-lipped about their views regarding Scottish independence, young and politically active social media users are engaging with Scottish brands on the issue and claiming their affinities to the brands they support.

The British heritage

If a ‘yes’ vote wins, UK businesses that base their marketing around ‘Britishness’ are going to need to change paths a little, and this is likely to involve running separate ad campaigns.

For British Airways, an independent Scotland could bring them extra custom as the Scottish National Party has pledged to cut Air Passenger Duty (APD), the tax charged to those departing Britain. Undoubtedly, a selling point like that could really drive sales, and businesses of all types should be looking for unique ways to sell their products amidst the potential political and economical changes ahead.

Torn and lost identities

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has perhaps announced the most startling business input on the issue of Scottish independence. The bank’s £355 million1, purpose-built campus on the outskirts of Edinburgh will be abandoned as the company heads down south to London if Scotland votes ‘yes’ today. In fact, five of Scotland’s largest banks have declared they will all be crossing the border due to the financial ties they have with English banks.

Businesses that find themselves in a situation like this are likely to suffer, particularly at first, as they face charges for terminating property leases early and lose good employees who are unwilling to relocate.

The key takeaway is to prepare now for both outcomes. Even if today sees a ‘no’ vote, the issue of national independence has caused a stir and the debate won’t end here.

1 Financial Times, 2014. Symbol of Scotland RBS caught in crossfire. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 18th September 2014].