Author Archives: Julian Stubbs

The Fabulous Faroe Islands

It’s not often these days we get a chance to really get off the beaten track. Well I’m lucky enough to be doing just that. I’m visiting the Faroe Islands, having been asked to give some thoughts on how this group of 18 islands could market themselves more effectively. First question a number of my friends ask is ‘where are the Faroe Islands exactly?’ Some even mistakenly think its somwhere down by the Falkland Islands. Well no, there is no imminent threat of invasion by Argentina – not unless the Argentine army gets particularly badly lost. The Faroes are actually located midway between Norway, Iceland and the tip of Scotland, in the middle of the Atlantic. Indeed it’s the rugged location that has made this place what it is. Flying into the small but modern Vagur Airport you’re treated to a close up view of fjords, mountains and small remote coastal villages. It’s thrilling. And nothing pepares you for the freshness that hits you the moment you step from the plane. You realise you are really in the mid atlantic. One of the charms of the Faroe Islands is the down to earth nature of the place. My hire car was rented through a smaller local company and after having made payment online (actually via paypal) I was sent a mail telling me my car would be in the short term car park, keys in the glove box and good luck! As I said charming. The drive to Torshaven is dramatic, full of mountain passes and deep subsea tunnels. The engineering alone is impressive. The scenary on the drive is ever changing as is the weather and the light. Thankfully the roads are good and within an hour I arrive at the best hotel on the islands, the Hotel Føroyar, which also happens to have the best restaurant on the Faroes as well- Koks. On my second night I’m treated to a truly stunning eight course meal (four starters, two main courses and two desserts) and each course is accompanied by carefully chosen wines and even a beer. If you visit the Faroe Islands, you don’t need to eat poorly. Art, culture and music is a big topic in the islands. Check out the G Festival, which is held every July and billed as the most unique music festival on earth. If you get a chance take some time and listen to the music of Eivør Pálsdóttir and Gudrid Hansdottir. Enchanting. So how would I sum the Faroes up? Well firstly it’s a lot closer than you think. It’s just a two hour flight from Copenhagen airport, with the local airline Atlantic Airways. In terms of what the Faroe Islands offer, it’s a place that goes beyond the imagination and senses. It’s special. Worth a visit? Absolutely.

Place Branding. Is Breaking Bad good or bad for Albuquerque?

Thanks to my oldest son, I have become hooked, as it were, on the hit AMC television show Breaking Bad. Now as a rule I try and not watch too much TV – I actually prefer a good book. But Breaking Bad is compulsive stuff. The show is set and produced in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and follows the story of Walter White, a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the beginning of the series. He turns to a life of crime, producing and selling methamphetamine with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, with the aim of securing his family’s financial future before he dies. It’s compelling viewing – but aside from being a great show what is the impact on the setting – Albuquerque, New Mexico. It presents the city in an interesting yet contrasting light: on the one hand being very middle class America, swimming pools and suburbia and on the other as a hotbed of drug dealing, crime and Mexican cartels. It also shows the consequences, which are sometimes utterly appalling, of the choices the characters make. But, from a place branding perspective, is it good or bad for Albuquerque? Would I want to live there or even visit? But what about the power of television and film? I have a theory. New York City cops act the way they do because they have seen how New York cops act in the movies. Similarly, film and television can have a huge impact on how a destination acts in terms of their marketing activities. In a marketing sense, nothing can have as great an impact on a Destination Brand than careful usage of mass media, especially film and television. When we visit cities such as London, New York, San Francisco we more or less know what to expect based on the media picture we have been influenced by. As a kid I watched programmes like The Odd Couple, Streets of San Francisco, Kojak and Bergerac. Films like Bullitt, Puppet on a Chain, Notting Hill and any of the James Bond movies all brought destinations and places to life in vivid technicolor. It made me want to live in New York, visit San Francisco and travel the world. That’s the impact of film and TV on our lives. UK tourism has enjoyed a huge boost from increased visitor numbers to TV and film locations such as The Da Vinci Code, Gosford Park and Balamory. Frighteningly, I am told 20% of Americans visiting Scotland do so because they’ve seen Braveheart. The Harry Potter films alone have led to a 120% increase in visitor numbers to Ainwick Castle in Northumberland, a significant increase in tourism to the region. Consider the impact of Miami Vice. You can arguably say that undercover narc cops Sonny Crocket and Rico Tubbs helped save south beach from being torn down 30 years ago. When the show first aired in 1984 Miami was at a low point following race riots, the influx of drug cartels and a rise in violent crime. The show, directed by Michael Mann, almost reinvented the city as a star in its own right. His famous edict of the show no earth colours carried over into real life and all the decrepit south beach hotels did themselves up in pinks and blues and the district exploded back into life.   So what about Breaking Bad? With its seedy plot of drugs and crime is it good or bad for Albuquerque? In some respects the sage advice of P.T. Barnum, the great American showman, could apply: ‘I don’t care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name right!’ “When Breaking Bad began airing five seasons ago, we were less than thrilled by the subject matter, which is based on a fictional character and story,” says Dale Lockett, head of the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau. But given its popularity, “people are traveling to our city to see the locations featured in the show and then spending time at our attractions, restaurants and hotels,” he adds. One local tour operator, the ABQ Trolley Co., added a three-hour, $60 per person Breaking Bad tour timed to the shows season premiere – and promptly sold out all seven scheduled departures. Without doubt it seems whatever the subject matter, TV and film are powerful mediums and brand carriers for locations and places. Added to that its just a damn good TV show. Anyway, thank god it’s now over. I can return to reading my books.

The Next Big Thing

John Simmons, of the UK based writers group Dark Angels, asked me if I minded being tagged as part of a project called “The Next Big Thing” by the Scottish writer Kate Tough. The project is a way of spreading news around of what writers are up to in their writing lives by blog, facebook, twitter, email. Basically each writer who is tagged has to answer ten questions regarding their next personal writing assignment. Here is John’s blog on the topic. Here’s a link to Kate Tough’s site Anyway, here are my ten answers to ten questions regarding my next writing project: What is the working title of your next book? Stockholm Syndrome Where did the idea come from for the book? Working on a clients brief a few years ago. It was for a very well known denim jeans brand and I came across the phrase Stockholm Syndrome at the time and for fun wrote a radio play around the idea. Then I put it on the shelf for five years. What genre does the book fall under? A black comedy / thriller. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Actually someone like Robbie Williams, the singer – never seen him act- but he has the right ego and chemistry. For the female lead it’s a Swedish version of Julia Roberts – about the age she was in Pretty Woman. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? An advertising man’s personal life, career and business falls apart in a single day and he has six days to fix it- and ends up changing his whole life and beliefs. Oh – and he ends up saving the world. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Much prefer self published- why hand over responsibility to people who are largely redundant nowadays. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? For the book version – about two months- started it when I took off for a round the world trip in January and February 2010. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The Adventures of Goodnight And Loving – Leslie Thomas. Love that book. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? There’s a big love interest- the whole plot takes place in Stockholm Sweden and there’s a major international crisis going on at the same time.

Celebrating the City (Part 1)

As people who know me will tell you, one of my personal passions in life is Liverpool football club. Anfield, the kop and that song by Gerry Marsden always stir me. And Liverpool itself is a great city going through a dramatic urban renewal. So why was it that two weeks ago I was in the stands at Fulham watching them play Everton? Well firstly to see Everton (who are Liverpool’s local rivals) hopefully lose but secondly I have a bit of a soft spot for Fulham. Maybe it’s their colours (I’m a bit black and white in most things in life). Maybe it’s Craven Cottage, which is a rather friendly little ground on the banks of the Themes. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that you can actually get tickets fairly easily. Probably it’s a bit of all of these, but it’s also the fact that Fulham is situated in London a city I love. Now London has always been a great city, but when I was growing up in the 1970s it was not exactly a pretty place. The architecture consisted of either dusty Victorian relics of a successful era long gone, or awful second rate Le Corbusier like concrete blocks. It was grim. Nowadays however London has found a renewed vitality and dynamism when it comes to architecture and urban renewal. Visit Docklands. Or the area around Chelsea Harbour. Or look at the Shard, the Millenium bridge or the O2 arena. The city is positively brimming with dramatic architecture, positivity and most importantly life. I had a day or so down in Docklands recently and it’s become a mini modern 21st century city in its own right. Go across the river to the O2 arena and take in an event there. The restaurants are full and buzzing and the area feels vibrant and alive. Head back down river to Chelsea and walk around the harbour or just watch the cities skyline. The whole city from east to west is vibrant. Olympic Effect? The question is has the Olympics had a significant impact? Well in terms of tourism and visitor numbers everyone will tell you the Olympics has both a positive and negative effect. Positive in terms of the focus and attention the city gets during the games. Negative in terms of other regular tourists tend to stay away to avoid the potential traffic chaos and high prices. But there’s another more important effect that might just be worth the nine billion pound price tag. And that’s the effect it has had on Brits themselves. From the opening ceremony Britain suddenly seemed to have discovered its identity again, an identity they have probably been seeking since the days of empire and the dramatic changes that brought about. The opening ceremony, Isles of Wonder, so brilliantly staged by Danny Boyle, seemed to capture the essence of modern Britain. Quirky, creative, humorous, multi cultural, different. The Times described the Ceremony as “a masterpiece” with The Daily Telegraph saying it was “brilliant, breathtaking, bonkers and utterly British”. London has always been a great city, but a great city that’s been through highs and lows. This summer might just have seen its re-emergence as leading the world.

The importance of sports & cultural events

Sports and cultural events can often be a huge success factor in a Destination Marketing programme. Just look at the Montreux Jazz Festival or the Cannes Film Festival. Such events are big drivers and brand builders for those destinations. Look at some of the worlds great Place Brands such as Liverpool, Manchester, San Francisco, Barcelona and New York and they have often become synonymous with certain sports and teams. Stockholm badly needs a great sports team. If you were to ask a random sample of a thousand people around the world to name a great Stockholm football club, I’d be surprised if 1% could even name one. Stockholm does have three pretty average football teams, AIK, Djurgården and Hammarby. The best advice, from a destination viewpoint, would be to merge them into one decent club and re-name it Stockholm United (I guess this would cause a dilemma for the the supporters as they would have to be called something along the lines of the black and blue army with a green bit). Stockholm does have one of the world’s absolute premier cultural events, The Nobel Prizes. However the event suffers from a well known Swedish trait of being overly modest and as a result the prize is vastly under-leveraged as an event. The Nobel Committee are very rightly concerned about not over exploiting the prize, but they could certainly make more of this great event. Alfred himself was quite a marketeer. Read any of the world’s main newspapers or websites on the day after the awards have been given out, and there will be little, if any, coverage. It’s a huge opportunity to position and promote Stockholm that is sadly missed. Julian Stubbs will be covering this subject as a guest speaker at the Professionell Idrott Event Day being held at Nalen on October 8th, 2012. The event is arranged by Sport & Affärer in collaboration with Stockholms Stad.