Scotland: Acquiring Global Growth Through Cultural Affinity Targeting

It is fair to say that Scotland has taken the main stage at a global level, from hosting the Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup to intense global interest around the Independence Referendum. Research from the Scottish Census in 2011 tells us that 83% of Scotland’s residents claim to feel Scottish rather than British, and that 94% of those born in Scotland choose ‘Scottish’ as their official national identity.  Research also tells us that this feeling of Scottishness carries even when people emigrate.

This Year’s USA Tartan Week will take place in April, featuring the New York Tartan Day Parade on Sat April 9th. This event celebrates The USA’s connection to and friendship with Scotland, highlighting in particular Scottish heritage and a strong pride in that lineage. The event continues to grow year on year with the parade attracting thousands and featuring Belhaven, a Scottish lager, as the ‘official beer’ of the event.  Furthermore, the USA is not the only country to celebrate its Scottish ancestry, with International Tartan Day being observed in Australia on July 1 2016. With over three million Australians being either Scottish or of Scottish descent, these events allow ex-pat Australians to commune and connect with their rich common ancestry.

However, these are not the only ‘Scottish’ events and traditions that are celebrated worldwide. Scotland has a number of unique traditions that are recognised globally including the Highland Games, Hogmanay, the wearing of kilts and the traditional Burns Night (or Burns Supper celebrations). Burns celebrations take place around the birthday of celebrated poet Robert Burns on 25 January every year, and are established internationally as “an opportunity to bring people together… preserve traditions, and recognise our Scottish identity.” (link to BBC) .

Thinking about this, we decided to conduct some research around global conversations regarding Burns Night celebrations.

From Russia to Costa Rica

The first thing we noticed was an incredibly broad range of global locations showing pockets of conversation. As expected, higher volume clusters featured English speaking nations like the USA, Canada and Australia.

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However, interesting and unexpected locations included Costa Rica – where the occasion is more likely to be celebrated with a dram of fine whiskey than a forkful of haggis.  And Mongolia, where a full Burns supper was enjoyed featuring music and recitals, much as we would celebrate the occasion at home.

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Address to a Haggis

In American culture the conversations largely surrounded discussion of the unique symbols and aspects of Burns Night from an outside point of view, such as how strange haggis is.

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Insights for Global Market Exporters

  • New Market Penetration: Burns Night is an opportunity for people to celebrate their Scottishness. If you are a brand exporting Scottish products (such as haggis, whisky, Harris Tweed, smoked Salmon) or marketing our destination features (highlands, golfing, heritage) then having access to an understanding of conversations by geographical area and locational themes presents excellent opportunities. From existing market growth via specific targeting of territory consumer groups based on their unique affinities to our country, our occasions and our commodities.  To new market opportunities where previously unconsidered consumer interest is tracked through conversational listening and analysis.


  • Existing Market Growth: Accessing rich qualitative social insight can inform new, affinity-based market creation as demonstrated above. It can also maximise existing diasporas and ex-pat communities.  By harnessing the particular emotional connections that are displayed on social media around the work of Burns, the features of Burns as an occasion and perspectives associated with Scottish heritage, identity and culture, companies may begin to build influential and highly-engaged communities around their brands and products, through feelings of mutual identification and connectedness.


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  • Framing the Occasion: DI observed multiple conversational threads seeking information, from ‘how to stage a traditional Burns Supper’ to ‘looking for ideas for hosting a more ‘alternative’ Burns Supper’, ‘where to purchase Haggis locally, menu and cooking suggestions’, and ‘what on earth one does with leftover haggis?’.  Scottish brands already tap into these themes via the curation of marketing collateral and content for the domestic UK market. But look at all of those latent global communities who wish to understand how they revere the Haggis and recognise Robert Burns in their own inimitable style.


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  • Tourism Triggers: tactical social targeting of emerging marketing communities is now a capability at the fingertips of all Scottish destination operators.  As a method it is proven, effective and most of all cost efficient.  Taking the time to understand and target each community via their own unique representations, characteristic and translations of Scottish cultural identity and heritage will only deepen any connection that is made.

In summary: Our methods don’t just seek to identify geographical clusters of existing and potential consumers, but to also understand why they are united, in what ways they are like-minded and the emotional affinities that bind them. Brands needn’t wait until January 2017 to capitalise on these methods of global community exploration.  With Tartan celebrations in April (US) and June (Australia), there are opportunities here and now to engage social listening and digital behavioural intelligence to truly understand and harness the cultural nuances between different communities with a shared interest in Scotland and Scottishness. From Boston to Manhattan, and Sydney to Melbourne.  The way these communities experience and express their Scottish heritage may well differ and savvy brands can use our methods to deliver highly targeted communications direct to the right audience, in the right place, at the right time.

An Ode to Brandwatch

Disruptive Insight conducted this research using the Brandwatch Analytics Platform. We established a global search capturing all social media mentions around the term “Burns Night”, “Burns Supper” and the hashtag #burnsnight.  Our data period spanned 20-27th January to allow for people preparing and making plans for the night (taking into account that people might not actually celebrate on the night itself, and allowing for people to reminisce after the event).

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© Disruptive Insight 2015.