I have been doing some work this week on our key brand messages for the year. As I may have mentioned, I work for a global brand whose roots are not British, and one of the requests of my board is to accentuate our (non-British) heritage while making it clear that, unlike some of our competitors (and many civil servants and ex-London mayors, if you believe the newspapers), we pay a huge amount of taxes in this country.
Marrying these two points is not easy, nor am I convinced that they really matter to our customers.
Which makes me think about what is happening in the UK this summer. We have had the wonderful Diamond Jubilee long weekend, where I willingly joined in the fervent flag-flying on the banks of the Thames for the river pageant, followed by boisterous singing of God Save the Queen in The Mall as our monarch came out for the much-demanded balcony scene.
To see streets and houses adorned in red, white and blue was a joy…but will we all start buying British?
To see people adorning their streets, houses and cars in red, white and blue was a joy to behold, and I wonder if the same feeling of unity will happen during the Olympics and Paralympics (which presupposes that we don’t win the football European Championship in the meantime).
But does it mean we’ll all start buying British now, or only those who contribute directly to our country’s coffers?
A few weeks back, I attended the British Inspiration Awards, a typical Park Lane-hotel awards dinner (although this one was not a black tie do), where the great and the good came out to drink, eat, be merry while being compèred by Richard Madeley.
It was fascinating to see some of the award winners – Ron Dennis of Formula 1 fame, Norman Foster (the architect) and Gerry Anderson (creator of Thunderbirds), but what caught my attention was when Ron Dennis made a special point to say how proud he was to be British.
I agree, but is that in itself enough to encourage people to buy a British brand over a foreign one? I’m not convinced.
Looking at my own customers, at the people in my local supermarket and the high street, despite the national fervour, I am far from convinced that being British – or any nationality for that matter – is a key determinant in customer choice – especially in this highly price-led economy that we all face today.