Flying the British Flag

The extended bank holiday for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee may be over, but brands that make the most of their British origin do well, according to new research.

Lucy Handley

Virgin Media’s brand value has gone up 64% between this year and last, coinciding with the introduction of a union flag to its logo, according to Brand Finance’s list of the most valuable brands of British origin.

While not an Olympic sponsor, it is also cleverly associating itself with sport – such as by hiring sprinter Usain Bolt to star in its TV campaigns with founder Richard Branson.

Similarly, Mini, which has been using a union flag on its roof, has climbed up the list from position 39 to 37. Although it is now owned by German company BMW, it still uses its British heritage in marketing campaigns.

While some brands which originate in the UK are now foreign-owned, such as Mini, Cadbury, O2, Orange and Asda, most are not: of the top 50, only 12 are owned by overseas businesses.

But as UK consumers may be unaware that these brands are now owned by US or European firms, it makes sense for them to use their heritage in marketing.

As Brand Finance’s valuation director Bryn Anderson points out, people were concerned about what might happen when Kraft took over Cadbury. While that takeover has certainly had its controversies, Cadbury is still seen as a valuable brand – having jumped up the list from number 34 to 31.

Businesses that use their origin as a selling point outside the UK are also rising up the ranks. Burberry – which uses British actors, musicians and models in its advertising campaigns – has jumped from 41st place to 34th. This is the second-highest jump of the survey.

The brand keeps things fresh by appointing new models frequently and often chooses up-and-coming talent – one of the stars of this year’s autumn/winter campaign is folk musician Roo Panes.

Marks & Spencer is also making forays overseas into India and China, but marketing director Steve Sharp warns that it must not make too much of its Britishness in those countries – rather that it is one card in the ‘marketing armoury’ that it will use when appropriate.

So while the union flag seems set to be a part of many brand campaigns in the run up to the Olympics, companies must be careful not to ‘push patriotism down people’s throats,’ in the words of Sharp.


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