Act 5: Provenance matters

Our research, To Be or Not to Be: Decoding The Great British Identity Crisis, examines consumers’ and marketers’ attitudes to the value of national provenance today. We will be sharing our findings from the report in a weekly series, taking a closer look at the components of what Britishness now means for brands. 

In the last four weeks, we have explored the meaning of Britishness, when the notions of it became established and how the relationship that brands have with provenance has become complicated.  We have also looked closely at what consumers think of iconic British brands and the qualities associated with them, and how best to harness heritage.  In the final part of this research series, we pull together our findings to determine how brands should respond to this British crisis of identity.

Firstly, let’s try to categorise it in different terms. Think of it instead as a crisis of confidence which has led to a weakness of intent. Difficulties in identifying sentiment towards Britishness shouldn’t dissuade brands from using it in their communications. Shying away from the challenge means you can’t reap the rewards.

We’re a nation that defines itself through constant reinvention underlined by aspects of continuity. British brands can lead the way in harnessing complex, multifaceted personalities. Consumers’ notions of heritage are comprised of a sense of solidity, saturated with reinforcing stories and traditions. But it’s when they’re combined and modernised with fresh themes and attitudes that continuity is achieved. That’s when brands can resonate with new audiences while continuing to engage the existing base.

The way this is applied, using intelligence and creativity, is what creates the unique mixture that British brands can offer UK and global consumers. It’s a powerful way to resonate with audiences, who want to curate their lifestyles with brands selected as a way of expressing informed personal choice, but with the safeness of proven market validation. These tensions allow for freedom in how brands communicate with different audiences on different platforms.

It’s no accident that those brands voted in the top 10 are exhibiting this balance, from the quirkiness of Cadbury’s TV advertising, to the individuality of Virgin’s communications, both of which are implicitly underpinned by characteristics associated with national character. Arguably the love of the BBC – aside from its status as a national institution – relates to the extremely delicate and well-honed balance it strikes between the values for which it has always stood versus the pioneering way in which it embraces the cutting edge. The digital era has only further cemented its ability to maintain a monolithic brand that feels truly individual to the user: the ‘your BBC’ message is reinforced through the ability to personalise content online and through BBC apps. The BBC represents the complex balance of regressive and progressive attributes to its core. We would strongly argue that this is a key component in the overwhelmingly positive result for the brand in the survey. Brexit has provided a moment for reflection on what Britishness represents. It also provides a choice, a fork in the road where brands can continue to assimilate in a global order of homogeneity, or can choose to refamiliarise themselves with the ingredients that make Britishness a potent force. We believe that now, more than ever, it’s time for British brands to reclaim their Britishness. It’s in the interests of brands to build on and develop the positive associations for a new era.

Provenance matters.
Provenance attracts.
Provenance sells.
Use it.

Download the full report here.