What does ‘Made in Britain’ suggest to you? For many consumers, it suggests craft, style and quality, with perhaps a modest sprinkling of good humour, too. For many British companies, having a Made in Britain label is a key part of their brand identity, helping them sell more products and export into established, new and emerging markets. But with Brexit looming uncomfortably large, does a Made in Britain label still carry weight?
For many brands, Made in Britain is a crucial part of their brand equity and a key message in their communication to customers. But with the UK constantly being bombarded by the prospect of Brexit (hard, soft or however it eventually comes), how is that impacting ‘Brand Britain’ — both here and overseas? Rather than reinforce British values, could our exit from the European Union actually cause something of an identity crisis for UK brands, leaving them unsure of what they really are?
Perhaps not. New research that looks at consumer perception of British brands suggests we may be unduly worried. Over half of the consumers surveyed said Brexit will have no impact on how they feel about British brands and products. What’s more, 39% said it would make them feel more positive about them. In fact, the data suggests that rather than a seismic shift in brand perception post-Brexit, it could provide “new opportunities” for British brands.
The numbers don’t lie. Brand Britain is a modern-day marketing success story, with British-made goods worth billions of pounds in exports each year alone. If a product has a Made in Britain label on it then it literally stands a better chance of selling — the research shows that three in four people think a Made in Britain label would make them more likely to buy a product.
The Made in Britain label — attached to everything from furniture and chocolates to Saville Row suits and cutting-edge tech made by homegrown startups — clearly carries strong associations of quality and provenance, and is highly prized all over the world.
How It’s Seen Abroad
What exactly do we mean by brand Britain? Cool Britannia? Something that harks back to the old-fashioned post-war years? It can be tricky to define, but there’s some research to help us out.
The US is one of our biggest trading partners (and is the largest consumer market in the world), so how do our friends over the pond view British-made products? According to the latest research, for American consumers, there’s one word which sums up their perception of UK goods: quality.
It’s the most common positive trait associated with British products, followed by heritage. Interestingly, Americans are nearly twice as likely as Britons to associate British products with stylishness, suggesting one window of opportunity for brands looking to break into this lucrative market.
It’s not all that surprising, then, that US consumers’ perception that British brands exude quality, heritage and style means their favourite British brand is luxury fashion house Burberry.
How It’s Seen Here
In the UK, consumers value British brands along similar lines as the Americans. Three in five Britons associate British products with quality, and 60% of British women see Made in Britain as a stamp of heritage.
Americans, however, find British products “more unique” than Brits do. When it comes to preferred British brands, the nation’s favourite brand of all is Cadbury, followed by Marks & Spencer and Burberry.
What Should British Brands Take From This?
Clearly, there is much to enjoy for British brands wanting to draw on provenance as they seek to define their brand equity. Research shows that consumers associate many positive things — particularly quality and style — with British-made products. What’s more, they’re willing to buy such products over non-British-made ones. But it has to be done right. As with all forms of marketing, it will only work if it adds some tangible value.
Tellingly, the survey, which polled 2,000 British and 2,000 American consumers, found that while Burberry was the favourite British brand among Americans, one in three US consumers couldn’t name a single British brand at all — so perhaps brand identity for British products isn’t quite as strong as it could be.
While Brexit is set to have significant political, economic and cultural ramifications, research suggests it will do little to shake the strong associations people have with the Made in Britain label. It could even improve them.
The key, then, might be for brands to worry less about Brexit, at least from a marketing standpoint. Instead, they should concentrate on maximising their brand perception, focus on core values and get their message out with clarity, distinction and, you guessed it, style.