With King Charles’ big day coming up this Saturday, there’s been lots of debate around the soft power that brand UK wields on an international stage. British brands are a part of this; an encapsulation of Britishness that is projected around the globe. In this context, we’ve been thinking about what Britishness might mean for British brands.
Firstly, brand personality. The quirky British sense of humour, a tongue-in-cheek take on life, is something that many ‘classic’ British brands are famous for – whether it’s Walkers crisps ‘cheeky chappy’ humour fronted for so long by Gary Lineker, or Mini’s playful, unconventional design, or the code-breaking style of the late Vivienne Westwood. And of course, the Queen taking tea with Paddington. This playfulness is part of British culture, and managers of British brands could explore the opportunity to inject more of this entertaining ‘Britishness’ into their brand’s personality.
Secondly, the idea of inclusivity in comms. Clearly this is a politically charged topic. But consumer research that we have conducted recently does confirm that the British identity is perceived as more multi-faceted than many other national identities. There is an opportunity for brands to express their Britishness by embracing this diversity and by representing the authentic stories of the varied people that make up the UK. The food retailers have done a good job of this for a while, with campaigns such as Tesco’s food stories and Sainsbury’s Christmas Gravy Boat song, whilst Cadbury’s ‘donate your words’ partnership with Help the Aged is another great example of brands being more inclusive.
Thirdly, the need for a sustainable strategy is on many brand managers’ agendas; so, is there a uniquely British take on this? King Charles is set to make sustainability a defining characteristic of his reign, kicking things off with the choice of vegan, cruelty-free holy oil for his sacred anointment as King. Brands could explore which aspects of sustainability are relevant for their category and consumer. It could be about local or independent – for example, indie brands in personal care such as the Inkey List are transforming the beauty category with a local, sustainable, clean positioning. It could be going back to artisanal crafts and traditions, for example the trend in tailoring services so that you can buy one suit ‘Made for Life’. It could be tackling plastic head on, with Lush being a great example of a brand pushing the boundaries with its range of solid products and a packaging-free ‘Naked’ store.
Fourthly, the spirit of innovation. The recent ‘Unicorn Kingdom’ campaign was much derided, but there is an opportunity for brands to champion this idea of Brits as entrepreneurs and innovators to the benefit of their own business within the wider equity of Brand UK. This might be about comms- telling the personal stories of the people behind the brands- for example innocent smoothies. Or of course, innovation; did you know that even back in the 1700s, Brits were the inventors of the toothbrush and the vaccine? There are of course plenty of examples of innovative British brands, big and small: GSK, Dyson, Virgin, Child’s Farm, Huel, Monzo etc- but to be British, perhaps all British brands should have that spirit of innovation at their core.
So, as we settle in front of our TVs or smartphones on Saturday with a bag of King Prawn Cocktail Sensations crisps washed down perhaps with Fullers Limited Edition Coronation King’s Ale or a glass of Pimm’s Coronation Edition, we should have a think about what opportunities there are to build more ‘Britishness’ into British brands: a playful, quirky sense of humour, a belief in inclusivity, a desire to take action on sustainability and an appetite for innovation.