“Having basked in the glory of the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Brand Britain now needs to figure out how to capitalise on opportunities provided by the increased pace of globalisation and also address the unique challenges open markets present.
Britain now stands at the intersection of tradition and innovation spurred on by globalised markets, which can be an uncomfortable place for some established domestic businesses. But numerous benefits in the form of lower prices and increased product variety, to name a few, appear to outweigh the short-term pain in the eyes of the consumer.”
– Ina Mitskavets, Senior Lifestyles and Consumer Analyst
Brand Britain has enjoyed a veritable revival in the aftermath of the London Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the birth of Prince George; events that boosted the UK’s profile overseas. This also enabled British brands to use themes of heritage and nostalgia to their benefit, both domestically and abroad. However, whilst appeals to the past are still highly marketable, other factors are becoming more prominent for shoppers when distinguishing companies and brands they consider to be British. For example, companies’ financial responsibility is now as important as British heritage in the eyes of the consumer.
The London Olympics has also been a chance to celebrate the face of modern Britain as more diverse and forward-looking than ever before. Indeed, the increased pace of globalisation is changing not just the ethnic and cultural make-up of the UK population, but is also having an impact on a variety of domestic consumer markets. Whilst British brands have long been associated with superior quality, entrenched savvy shopping mentality means that quality products with British origins may no longer be a match for the lower prices offered by global competitors.
With mobile tools, today’s shoppers are better informed than ever and can compare prices at one retailer when shopping at another. This means that consumers no longer accept second best, with companies that do not live up to their expectations punished more severely than in the past; a trend made more extreme by globalisation exposing business model weak-spots. Consumers should therefore be the ultimate beneficiaries of the increased pace of innovation and lower prices, with a higher variety of products and options to choose from.
The ‘prepare for the worst’ mentality that developed during the worst of the economic crisis has encouraged a desire to scrimp and save, but also steered consumers towards seeking the familiar and the tried-and-true. This has undoubtedly been welcome news for British companies and brands, and especially those that emphasise their British heritage, traditional methods of manufacturing, and any other markers of Britishness that people could identify to help them make a decision when they shop. Britishness is especially effective when marketing to older consumers, who put more trust in the quality, safety and value for money they associate with products that are ‘Made in the UK’. Perhaps it is simply something that they are used to, something that provides extra reassurance and comfort.
Younger generations are less wedded to Brand Britain and are thus more likely to appreciate the consumer benefits that globalisation affords and see it in a more positive light, be it a greater variety of products and cheaper prices in shops, or growing cultural exchange and trade with other countries. The rise in usage of social media has played an important part in expanding young people’s horizons and perhaps explains why they are less likely to feel that open markets have been a disadvantage on the whole.
This dichotomy of views between the two extremes of the age spectrum will need to be addressed eventually by brands and politicians alike. Whilst at present older consumers are the most likely to vote either at the polling booth or in the shops with their wallets, the younger generations are already starting to redefine consumer-business relationships and expectations will shift even further in the near future.