The Weekly Reflektion Week 30 / 2020

I studied at Strathclyde University and every day, during the term, from 1977 to 1981, I walked from Central Station across George Square towards the University. I passed by sandstone buildings blackened by the soot of the industrial city unaware of the Georgian and Victorian architecture. I walked past the City Chambers without realizing that this was one of the most beautiful buildings in the UK. Glasgow changed in the eighties and went from embarrassment about its past to optimism about its future. The Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign was the catalyst that started the process of change.

What are you doing to realize the potential in your organisation? What are you doing to inspire the people in your organisation? Do you understand what can be achieved if you have the right focus?

Glasgow’s miles better was a 1980s campaign to promote the city of Glasgow as a tourist destination and as a location for industry. It was inspired by the Lord Provost Dr. Michael Kelly and John Struthers of the Scottish advertising agency Struthers Advertising. The central theme of the campaign was the phrase “Glasgow’s Miles Better” wrapped around the cartoon figure of Mr. Happy. It is regarded as one of the world’s most successful attempts to rebrand a city and received a number of domestic and international awards.

Glasgow had a reputation as a dirty declining city with a hard drinking and hard fighting population. Heavy industry, in particular ship building was no longer competitive, and unemployment was steadily increasing. The tenements that housed the population were becoming ghettos. Glasgow had been plagued with organised crime. ‘The Tallymen’ and their extortion activities were once feared throughout the city and despite successful efforts to curtail these in the 60s and 70s Glasgow’s reputation was still suffering.

Glasgow’s Miles Better captured the imagination of the city and its people. The message was simple, it was eye catching and it got attention both in and outside Glasgow. The message was further reinforced when Edinburgh city council refused to have the Glasgow’s Miles Better symbol advertised on their city buses. This petty attempt to derail the Glasgow campaign became a major talking point including being the subject of an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The city council started a program to sandblast the sandstone buildings in the city centre. The dirty exteriors soon regained their original beauty and people started to believe that something positive was happening. Efforts were made to pull down the tenements and create better housing and local communities. The campaign focussed on the positive aspects of Glasgow, the relatively mild climate, the industrious population, its environment (more parkland per head of population than any other city in Europe) and its suitability for enterprise. Over the next years investment in Glasgow increased and new industries and services were established. Tourism increased significantly creating more jobs and wealth for the city. Glasgow was named a European City of Culture in 1990 and is now recognized as a creative and cultural centre of European importance. The Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign also coincided with the opening of the Burrell Collection in 1983. This unique art collection was donated to Glasgow by the shipping magnate Sir William Burrell and is displayed in a building specifically designed for the collection. A building that was named as Scotland’s second greatest post-war building in 2005. The Burrell collection further enhanced Glasgow’s cultural reputation.

How can you realise the potential in your company? What symbols should you use to inspire the people in your organisation? What are the positive aspects that need to be highlighted? What are the negative aspects that need attention and need to be fixed? Are you up for it?

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