Case study

Cromarty Firth Port Authority

Securing the future


Cromarty Firth’s port was home to an old naval base in the Scottish Highlands; a naturally deep harbour with calm, sheltered waters. After navigating the highs and lows of 40 years of operations, the Port sought to strengthen its offer to business, and its connections with the local community.


To survive in the face of private development plans the Port had to change, it had to become more open, both commercially and locally. The question was how: how to change perception, how to communicate a commitment to change and how to convey to everyone from energy companies to cruise operators that the Port was ‘open for business’.

Cromarty Firth


The key to any repositioning project is first to understand existing perceptions. Emberson Brand began with an in-depth survey of stakeholders to gain valuable insights. Emberson Brand began the journey with positioning, built a new brand and set about regaining trust through a consistent communications strategy.

“I suppose they are like a police force as you might say. They can be a bit heavy-handed at times”

– One of many similar stakeholder perceptions of the Port at the beginning of the project.


The Port referred to itself as Cromarty Firth Port Authority. Moving away from this authoritative image would require the removal of ‘Authority’ from the name. Instead, the new position would be centred around the Port’s Trust Status and a greater focus on serving stakeholders, adopting a more open tone in its language. It placed the Port in the context of the Firth itself (a national, strategic asset) as a guardian of it for current and future stakeholders.

As positioning is intangible it needed bringing to life via a brand. To help reflect the values of trust, transparency and openness, we explored new options for the fundamental brand building blocks – logo, colour palette and typography. The anchor motif dominating the old logo was replaced by the mouth of the Firth, looking out into the world beyond. A new warmer colour palette more closely reflected the natural environment of the Highlands location – its mosses, heather and mists framed by sea and sky, while the typography was given more personality.

A strong, consistent communications strategy formed the final, most crucial part of the puzzle – making customers aware of the change. In place of cold corporate photos our advertising imagery adopted a simple, more human illustration style, paired with inclusive messaging.

These press and outdoor media campaigns were fantastically received by the local community and have successfully changed stakeholders’ opinion of the Port of Cromarty Firth. Today the Port is an internationally-recognised organisation, seen as a true modern Trust Port, operating at the service of its stakeholders.


“By winning over hearts and minds Emberson’s work helped us to win the fight against the harbour revision order.” Bob Buskie – Chief Executive, PoCF.