Warning for brands courting patriotism

Brands have been warned that jumping on the ‘brand Britain” bandwagon to exploit the patriotism that will swell from this summer’s Jubilee celebrations and Olympics without building it into a deeper strategy are “missing the point”.

Virgin Media

A host of brands have launched marketing campaigns in recent months to tap into attention that Britain and Britishness is to receive domestically and internationally in 2012.

Labour leader Ed Milliband recently called on the Prime Minister to introduce a “Made in Britain” mark to support British manufacturing.
Brands, however, been warned that unless the association with “brand Britain” goes deeper than a logo, or union flag on the packaging, the association will reflect badly on the brand.

Morgan Holt, senior strategist at brand consultancy Wolff Olins and chairman of the Branded Content Marketing Association, says: “Those brands that see ‘Britishness’ as a brand asset are missing the point – those using it as a brand platform will be better served by the association.”

“The danger is if you take a trivial approach or for something static, like the Olympics, it can feel shallow very quickly. If you make your brand too ‘April 2012’ by aligning with Olympics and the Jubilee then by April 2013, you’re going to look superficial. You want the investment to last,” he says.

Jeff Dodds, executive director of brand and marketing at Virgin Media, which adapted its corporate logo to incorporate the Union Flag last year says that there are some brands – like Virgin – that have the “right” to tap into ‘brand Britain’ and others that don’t.

Dodds says: “If you want to unlock the Britishness of a brand, you have to be a truly British brand – we have that Britishness to unlock through being a British company, led by Richard Branson, and our sponsorship of Britain’s Got Talent. That allows us to change our logo in that way but other brands perhaps don’t have a right to do in the same way, and might be treated cynically.”

The logo change was always viewed as a temporary measure for 2012, but Dodds says there is now “serious consideration” about keeping it on beyond this year.

John Lewis will begin to rollout 4,000 products carrying a “Made In UK” mark to identify products that are manufactured in Britain this month.

Hilary Lovie, John Lewis brand innovation manager says the mark is both a long and short-term initiative for the department store as it’s a way to better communicate something the business has being doing for a long time. It also ties in with its sponsorship of the Olympics.

Jochen Goller, director of Mini UK, which is involved in the VisitBritain GREAT campaign and an Olympic partner through owner BWM, however believes that not enough brands are shouting about being British.

He says: “In my opinion, the British trump card could be played a lot more. It’s very British to be understated and some brands are hesitant but they shouldn’t be – it’s a trademark that should be used.”

British inspired marketing initiatives are popping up all over the place, examples include:

VisitBritain: Launched a £25m part-Government funded ‘GREAT Britain’ campaign to boost tourism.

Sainsbury’s: Is hosting a family festival in Hyde Park in partnership with Disney to celebrate the Jubilee in June.

Waitrose: Launched a range of sandwiches, cakes and merchandise all inspired by Britain and created by British designers.

Dwell: The furniture retailer is introducing a “Cool Britannia” range of Brit inspired home furnishings including “traditional” and “British punk” designs.

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