Feature

With one week until the Scottish vote, is Brand Britain facing crisis?

As Scottish voters go to the polls in the independence referendum on 18 September, brands are considering what impact the result may have on business. We asked six marketers whether they believe Brand Britain is facing an identity crisis.


Jemima Bird, Commercial & operations director, Moss Bros Group


@jpd26

From 2011 Britain felt like it had its mojo; a massively celebrated royal wedding followed by a much-loved Jubilee. Cock-a-hoop over golden sporting moments, from Bradley Wiggins on the Champs elysees to a winning Olympics, a parachuting-with-James-Bond Queen and the world's best music and theatre. Andy Murray's tears of joy marking an end to the 77-year search for Wimbledon glory and a home Ashes win. To top it off, Kate popped out an heir.

Then, a screeching halt. We didn't get the World Cup. We got spanked 5-0 in an Ashes whitewash. England crashed out of the World Cup. Andy didn't retain his crown. And to top it off, Scotland has been deciding whether to leave (please don't go).

We're not facing an identity crisis, it's more that a long, glorious summer has become a bit of a chilly winter. Should Scotland vote to stay, then, like the England cricket captain nearly knocking a century in this summer's third Test against India, I think we will all start remembering how "Great" we really are.


Mike Cullis, Managing director, Soul 


@souldlondontweet

A NatCen survey in April stated that we're only "somewhat proud" to be British. How British.

The rest of the world seems to like Britishness. Our rich heritage combines with world city status - for many, London, England and Britain are interchangeable. Our brands are testament to this: the BBC is revered globally, Japan worships Paul Smith, and Hollywood stars love Wimbledon. Germany values Britishness too - after all, BMW bought Mini and Rolls-Royce.

Britain still has meaning globally. Britishness is "owned" by companies from India to Scotland - the latter remains dear to many Americans in search of the ancestral castle, regardless of devolution.

We've always had a mixed identity, and Brand Britain will continue to evolve. The answer seems to be in our global identity, and as a nation we need to learn how to appreciate that mix.


Tom Knox, Chairman, DLKW Lowe


@tomknox

The "Britain is GREAT" campaign has done a great job for UK Trade & Investment, and I suspect that the niceties of which countries are officially part of our great nation are lost on most export markets.

The world is quite comfortable with us calling ourselves the United Kingdom or Great Britain, and doesn't much care about what the revocation of the Act of Union of 1707 will do to our constituent parts.

In the (as polls suggest) unlikely event of Scotland voting Yes, Scottish brands will be presented with some immediate opportunities, but the truth is that they already have a distinctive Scottish identity.

The biggest problem with a Yes vote for Brand Britain could be visual identity - the potential loss of the Union Jack would surely change the way the world sees us and undo more than 200 years of brand-equity building.


Jemima Bird, Viki Cooke, Co-founder, Britain Thinks


 

Almost whatever happens in the Scottish Referendum, the result will be more devolution to nations and regions and a stronger sense of local identity. Brand Britain battles with a firmly held belief that the Palace of Westminster is primarily interested in London and the South East, often at the expense of other areas.

Our work at BritainThinks shows that Britain feels a growing antipathy toward London. In our recent study "Capital Gains", 35% of people outside the capital feel negative about it and one in five would rather see London become independent from the rest of the UK than Scotland.

The sense of Brand Britain diminishing was further reinforced at the Commonwealth Games, where national teams competed against each other.

If Scotland votes Yes, then Brand Britain is history.

If it votes No, Brand Britain may still be history.


Tim Hunt, Marketing director, Guardian News & Media


@velvetshark

Brand Britain is at a crossroads.

The heady summer of 2012 saw national pride at an all-time high. But as the post-Olympic glow has faded, belief in all things British has eroded, as evidenced by the discontent expressed at the European elections and declining trust in brands such as the BBC.

As we ramp up to the ultimate test of whether Britain really is "better together", it will be interesting to see whether recent successes like the Tour de France's three-day visit to these shores have done enough to keep Brand Britain riding high, or whether the Scottish voters will choose to turn their back on it entirely.


Chris Gorell Barnes, Founder and chief executive, Adjust Your Set


@cgorellbarnes

Brand Britain is constantly evolving. Uniqueness in ideas has never been stronger; it has cleverly benefited from post-recession entrepreneurialism. The Brand Britain identity, strengthened by the Olympics, seems more prominent than ever.

The likes of James Bond and Downton Abbey bring millions of tourists to the country and many brands have created an identity through their British heritage. Burberry's signature trench coat and Marks & Spencer's "Leading ladies" campaign are examples of communicating strong British roots via intelligent digital content featuring innovative technology.

Ranked second on the "soft power" index, Britain's influence on the world is clear. However, the Scottish vote will have an impact on this. With the general election next year and talk of a referendum on its membership of the EU, Britain could be left to redefine its brand and what it means to be British.

Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more on membership, visit www.marketing-society.org.uk