Britain as a brand: beyond left and right
As the post-austerity UK elections approach and many citizens lament the lack of real choice, Bob Sheard, director of Fresh Britain branding agency, explains how treating Britain as a brand could help to create a long term vision for the nation.
Sheard explains how brands without a vision end up managing themselves, rather than leading. He says, “We’ve been frustrated watching the election debates because it’s pretty much the same thing. None of the parties are actually articulating their vision for Britain, all the debates are in the minutiae of policy and that’s based on the now, not the future. As a consequence of that, there’s very little differentiation between the parties in the debate. Little choice will lead, by all accounts, to a coalition, and all a coalition represents is a country that’s being managed rather than a country that’s being led.”
Sheard argues that recognising that Britain is a brand, and treating it as such, would help to forge a long term vision for the nation that would eclipse the confines of left and right and would give the public greater choice.
In relation to brands, Sheard says that the creation of a vision stems from determining what their core strengths are, or where they differentiate themselves from the competition. The next step is to look at the marketplace, what it needs and how that need can be met by the brand.
In the case of Britain, Sheard says, “We looked at a post-austerity world, what it needs and whether Britain can create or supply it. In British history we’ve been very inventive, but the last time we were able to connect our invention to our commerce was probably the industrial revolution. Since then we’ve had great inventions but we’ve not necessarily connected them to commerce.”
Fresh Britain identified invention and innovation as a quality that makes Britain unique, this is explained in more detail in a video produced by the agency titled, A Fresh Post Austerity Vision for Britain. The video outlines an apolitical vision that places emphasis on educating the younger generations and facilitating inventions to meet the world’s future needs. Sheard says that this ‘intellectual capital’ could make Britain the third largest economy, overtaking Germany and Japan.
Sheard says, “We’re currently at six billion people on the planet, and we’re going to be at nine billion by 2050. It’s taken us 5,000 years to get to six, and it’s going to take us another 35 years to get to nine. That’s going to create all sorts of needs around the world, therefore, why can’t we, as a nation, apply our invention to solving those needs.”
Fresh Britain hopes to bring attention to the ‘vision vacuum’ in the current elections and is drawing from its own experience as a branding agency to imagine an alternative. While many nations are making tentative steps in the nation branding area, there is potential for this to become a much larger aspect of the way nations are run. Sheard says, “I don’t think people talk about the country as a brand at all, if they do, they do it without understanding the meaning of what a brand is. So yes, Great Britain, or the UK, is definitely a brand. If you thought about it in those terms it would make the people who are managing that brand make decisions in a different way.”