Interview with Cat Leaver

Director, Brand Scotland

Tell us about yourself. How did you end up in your current role?

Originally from the Scottish Borders, I studied in Glasgow, held a number of marketing related roles, voluntary positions like TEDxGlasgow and seven years in a digital agency, before starting in my current role as Director of Brand Scotland. Working in a dynamic agency environment with international clients allowed me the opportunity to develop my commercial awareness alongside my strategic and marketing skills. I was afforded a unique insight into the inner workings of businesses from major blue chip companies through to public sector organisations, working to support them in shaping digital transformation and marketing strategies that drove tangible results.

But, it was a combination of my network and fate that led to me being in the right place at the right time when Brand Scotland was being created. I was considering my next move and what I wanted to do when I heard about the ambitions for Brand Scotland. A groundbreaking new initiative for Scotland, it offered an unparalleled opportunity to work across our national organisations promoting the best product there is – our country. The role was well positioned for the experience of a private sector professional who could take on the challenge of enhancing the country’s reputation and identity, with an understanding of the power of brand and digital. I applied and the rest, as they say, is history.


What brands are you most impressed by at the moment? Any campaigns which have particularly caught your eye?

There have been so many companies turn their operations to support communities and the economy. It’s incredible to see such force for good despite the challenging times. From manufacturers switching to the production of PPE to drinks companies delivering hand sanitiser, our sense of community and social responsibility has never felt so acute.

The ones who have really caught my attention are the likes of BrewDog, who are not just talking a good game, but walking it. They’re building on a history of innovative thinking and smart business choices that challenge the norm. Pre the current pandemic, they’d announced their ‘Cans for Equity’ initiative, whereby anyone can exchange 50 cans of their beer for a share in the company, incentivising recycling and sustainable business practice. And, in light of coronavirus, they have brought in a number of initiatives to support the industry like the BrewDog Kickstart Collective, the co-founders have shown leadership by committing to forgo their salaries for the rest of the year with many of the senior team also volunteering to take pay cuts, they’ve created their NHS packs donating all profits to NHS charities and volunteered their trucks and drivers to do home deliveries to those in isolation in their local community.

From a campaign perspective, I’m not usually one to go for the political but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC) latest campaign video is refreshingly bold, hard-hitting and youthful. It captures a movement in America and faces into tough challenges and multiple crisis. 


Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry?

There’s some obvious big names like Sheryl Sandberg – I was lucky enough to visit her ‘Lean In’ organisation on a leadership mission to San Francisco back in 2015 and was hugely inspired by how she faced into challenges of gender equality in the tech sector and has created a global movement for change. On top of that, her career successes speak for themselves.

From a place brand and marketing perspective, Rebecca Smith, Director of New Zealand Story, has a deep understanding of the interdependencies of a country’s reputation, its people, products and businesses, and has long been a pioneer in this space.

Closer to home, Gillian Docherty, CEO of DataLab, is a champion for Scotland’s data sector and ambition, Polly Purvis, Chair of CodeClan, is an outstanding ambassador for digital talent and growing our tech workforce, and entrepreneurs like Celia Hodson are designing businesses for good – her company Hey Girls tackles period poverty whilst delivering sustainable sanitary products.

The thread that unites them all – purpose and passion.   

The one campaign you are most proud of during your time with your organisation?

I am immensely proud of our ‘Scotland is Open’ campaign which launched back in March 2019, facing into the major challenge of that time – Brexit. It represents a lot of hard work and effort by the whole team and is a symbol of the power of a place brand narrative to capture the zeitgeist and create a meaningful emotional connection.

Maneuvering complex stakeholder feedback, whilst retaining creativity and feeling, the output was a piece of creative that really resonated with our audiences. It was a bold statement that unequivocally let EU citizens know how much we value our relationship with them. It demonstrated that we are a country that is open, welcoming, inclusive, multicultural and compassionate. And across the world, people engaged in huge numbers with our message.

The campaign exceeded all targets set and generated an incredibly heart-warming response. It demonstrated the power of collaboration – when partners can align behind a common goal and dare to be bold. As a marketer, there really is nothing better than working on a campaign that is about positivity and connection and seeing that reach and affect your audiences on a global scale.


Cat is taking part in the Creative Challenge Client v Agencies event at this year's Amplify Virtual Festival.

Sign up here.