Post Brexit is brand Britain still fit for purpose?
If the GREAT Britain campaign defined the nation as a brand, what effect has Brexit had?
“Everybody is trying to create a narrative that serves their own agendas, which isn’t the same thing as ‘let’s build a great Brand Britain’” says Ian Millner, global chief executive of ad agency Iris, referencing the discord that has followed the EU Referendum.
So where do we go from here?
According to Millner “We have to start with asking ‘does Brand Britain matter? And it does because it creates a lens that people look through when they’re thinking ‘do I want to invest in Britain?’, ‘do I want to buy British brands?’, ‘do I want to move to Britain?’ and so on.
In Design Week Alex Berry puts the spotlight on research into the UK’s ‘country-brand index’. The research, from FutureBrand, shows the UK ranked 12th in the list of top “country brands”. (Countries scoring highly as ‘brands’ are more likely to draw tourism and be more attractive to do business with.)
According to Berry “one of the strongest scores the UK got was within the “made in” sector which assesses perception of the quality of the goods the UK produces. Currently, the study shows that the UK ranks 9th overall for the dimension “would like to buy products made in that country.” If the decision to leave the EU does have a negative effect on demand or access to UK exports as the remain campaign claimed, this perception may start to weaken.
FutureBrand’s research also showed that brand UK relied on an overseas perception that it was a good place to live and study. If Brexit makes this harder or less attractive, then brand UK may be hit and its standing in relation to other ‘country brands’ will be diminished.
Radley Yeldar’s GREAT Britain campaign was launched in the runup to the 2012 Olympics. Described as the UK Government’s most ambitious international marketing campaign ever, it was extremely successful in changing perceptions, attracting overseas investment and visitor numbers. Against a background where nothing can be taken for granted, is it time to re-examine and refresh it?
Toby Hoare, Chief Executive of J. Walter Thmpson Europe has some positive words to say about Britain’s brand heritage. “Above all, it still stands for heritage, good quality and reliability.” And he sees a silver lining in our likely exit from Europe. “Brands which cultivae their Britishness could gain from Brexit. Of our respondents 65 per cent said that British people will feel a stronger sense of national identity and 57 per cent said that there will now be more interest in “buying British”.
However he adds that the same poll revealed that three in four consumers believe the “essence” of Britain will now change, with many saying that this will be for the worse.
Whether all this means tough times ahead for British brands – or a new era of opportunity – remains to be seen.