Bright: Putting the Outer Hebrides on the map and keeping it there

57.7599° N, 7.0194° W.  The outer edges of squares 62, 68 and 74 on the average AZ Road Atlas. Between Malin and Fair Isle on the Shipping Forecast’s mesmeric litany. A string of islands off the west coast of mainland Scotland.

You’ve probably heard of the Neolithic Callanish Stone Circle and the perennially stylish Harris Tweed. Up there, on the Atlantic edge of Scotland, where the air is so pure it reaches the soul

Our job was to put the Outer Hebrides on the map. Our job now is to keep it on the map, build the brand, intensify the islanders’ commitment and involvement and put it on more peoples’ radars.

Part of this job involves bringing together, collating, and negotiating disjointed efforts and conversations; find common themes, identify strands of attraction; and, within our creative solutions, allow for each island within the chain its own distinct elements of personality. And, indeed, help to define those characteristics.

If you have the pecs, especially well toned calf muscles, you can cycle the 185 miles from Vateray, at the south end of the chain, over Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, Nourth Uist, Berneray, Harris and Lewis to the northernmost ‘butt’. You’ll need that six-pack or a pre-arranged bike rack for the northern hills of Harris, otherwise the journey is reasonably flat and the wind is at your back.

Along the way, as our way-signing, trails and leaflets will help you discover, there’s so much landscape, culture, wildlife and distinctive architecture to explore, along with the island communities.

Bright was initially tasked with creating a distinctive brand for the islands and have continued to work with the team to develop and apply it. We’ve become not only the brand guardians but also partners in the enterprise of making the Outer Hebrides a ‘must-do’ tourist destination.  Just as each time we leave to the singsong Gaelic salutation “gus am bi sinn a ‘coinneachadh a-rithist” (“till we meet again”) we sincerely hope the visitors that we help attract to the islands will return again and again to explore more.

We’re lucky in that much of our work in interpretation and branding takes us beyond the city walls of our hometown Edinburgh to inspiring locations across the UK and Ireland and further afield.  A sense of place is key to a very large amount of our work – evoking it is our expertise and our passion.

Becoming a long-term partner, as we have done with Outer Hebrides Tourism, allows for a deepening understanding of place, people and challenges and the natural, incremental development of trust and reassurance. Confidence in what they have to offer has palpably grown amongst those on the island who benefit from tourism. There’s been a marked rise in the positive use of social media, especially Instagram: not surprisingly with views to die for.

As well as the analysis, the brand compass, the toolkit, the creative – the usual stuff – there has come – from us – a growing affection and a real sense of caring and ownership building alongside our understanding.

That’s our approach, our hallmark: we get immersed.  Here, in the Outer Hebrides, that has meant feeling the wind in our hair, breathing in the scent of peat and seaweed, marvelling at the summer’s midnight sun and the winter’s borealis, tasting the local dram, tapping our feet to the fiddle and accordion and taking the time to speak to people and seeking to understand the nuances in these islands of dual language and subtle differences.

There have been times – we have to admit – on the brink of the Atlantic, that our spirits have soared with the often-sighted white tailed sea eagle. At the same time, season by season, and now – by extended season – visitor figures have grown well ahead of projections.