I fulfilled a long held ambition today; I finally watched a ship being launched on the Clyde. It’s as well I did too as it might be the last one for quite a long time. HMS Duncan, a 7,500 tonne Royal Navy type 45 destroyer looked pretty impressive against a cobalt autumn sky as she slid surprisingly quietly into the water for the first time. I’m a born and bred Glaswegian and building ships is what Glasgow does, or at least used to do, so it is with a little embarrassment I admit it has taken me until my 40th year to witness one leaving a yard in person. I enjoyed today’s spectacle in the company of my father and my eldest son, three generations of McCallum watching what will probably be the last ship launched on the Clyde. Aside from the fact Glasgow only has 2 shipyards left and both are dependent on a naval contract for 2 aircraft carriers that is currently ‘under review’, the way of launching ships is changing too, in the future they will be built in a dry dock and ‘floated’ rather than launched. So today really was a final piece of history. My son asked as we left when was the next ship being launched, unable to give him an answer my dad remarked that when he was young ships were launched on the Clyde literally weekly. At one time Glasgow was the home of shipbuilding for the entire world. A centre of knowledge, experience and a byword for excellence it was the driving force for most of that industry. How times change. A lot has been written about how that industry has declined so much, after all it’s not as if ships aren’t required anymore, they are.
What’s undeniable is the market changed, requirements altered, the competition got better and other competing industries improved. We’d do well to heed this lesson today in our industry. We are, undeniably, going through a period of change just now. The needs of our clients are changing, the media landscape is very different compared to even 10 years ago, consumer habits aren’t as predictable as they once might have been, established brands are taking a battering and companies that no one had heard of a few years ago are now amongst the biggest in the world. It’s not that marketing isn’t required anymore, it is. It just needs to be built differently. To not only stay afloat but to prosper in the heavy seas we are currently all experiencing might require us to ditch our old ways and embrace new ones. Having a glorious past is no predictor of a glorious future. If we as an industry aren’t able to adapt to what is happening around us we also might find ourselves worrying what we’ll do if the government decides to spend its money elsewhere….