Keep Calm and Carry On (Being British)

Recently I was asked to write a deck on “What it means to be British”. In the same week that Queen Elizabeth II becomes our longest reigning monarch (proving it is still possible to come across someone who has been at a firm longer than it takes to soil a pair of socks), the British agenda feels a pertinent topic.

The 2012 Olympics were a pivotal moment in our history, where for once we were not ashamed of our Britishness, but embraced it. We screamed at TV sets up and down the country:

“The Spice Girls? YES.  London Taxis? YES.  The National Health Service? HELL YES!”

Realistically, we are a country of opportunists. We adopt the habits of our European and US counterparts. From rampant commercialisation such as Black Friday and fast food/informal dining, to our most watched and loved TV series. A recent report stated that 62% of UK millennials watch more content from the US than they do from their homeland (source: BrandRepublic).

Nonetheless, we have our own strong internal cultural influences. Our continental cousins often puzzle over our sense of entitlement to own our own home. The right to love saw same-sex marriage legalised before a raft of other world economies and the right to healthcare continues to underpin support of the NHS.

We’re a country where a former drug addict turned comedian can become a fairly respected political journalist (see Russell Brand) and a jobless graduate can become a millionaire businesswoman from the comfort of her bedroom (see Zoella).

But what defines us? Since 2013, our Future of Britain initiative has been looking into the modern influences and influencers shaping our country. As I type this, here in the OMD Insight team we’re currently working feverishly in planning future instalments. Watch this space.

For now, I’ll turn externally. The Mirror this year ran a study with over 5000 Brits, capturing the top 50 things that make you British. These translate roughly as the below:



(Source: The Mirror)

For brands and marketers, the only interesting implications there are the desire to queue (how can you occupy us as we wait patiently?), our love of satire, wit and irony (brilliant for snappy and reactive tactical messaging) and the fact we’re unable to complain effectively (stand down eagerly primed CRM team, you are not needed here!).

Most striking for me however is that what appears to make us British is a lack of trust in authoritative voices.

A recent study by The Guardian illustrated that only 24% had a high level of trust in broadsheets, 16% in the government, and 12% in the tabloids. Conversely, our Queen still retains moderately strong levels of faith, with one in two claiming to have a high percentage of trust in her (source: The Guardian).

Trust is a huge part of being British. Our favourite brands are tried and trusted, with innovation, utility and ‘Britishness’ at their very heart. Superbrands cited Dyson, John Lewis, BA and Boots alongside “sexier” brands such as Virgin Atlantic, Haagen-Dazs and Rolex. The former all being classed as a ‘safe pair of hands’.

In this new media age, a brand who can be trusted implicitly and explicitly, in everything from their tone of voice to their ethics, mission and product quality will succeed in a long and happy relationship with us Brits. Funnily enough, just like her Majesty.


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