In a year where brand Britain has taken on a whole new dimension many companies are looking to trade on a British heritage in the belief that it offers a significant commercial advantage.
As the country basks in the glory of what has been a phenomenal year celebrating all that is indeed ‘great’ about Britain, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the new marketing trend of heavily promoting a British association is one that is being openly applied by a number of players whose claims of credible British provenance are questionable.
Not all businesses which have been quick to exploit the appeal of ‘British’ manufacturing and craftsmanship are being entirely honest in their communications … When you dig deeper, how many of these brands can truly be defined as a veritable and plausible Team GB brand, flying the flag for British industry?
Firstly, it is important to identify what actually constitutes a thoroughly British brand. If we are to be literal about this, then being British should only apply if the company remains under British control. Anyone reading the financial pages of the nationals will be aware that a large number of classic British businesses are now under foreign ownership. There are many brands whose history is rooted in the UK or who may refer to the fact that they are UK based and who indeed may have an undisputed UK heritage. But to qualify as being a full-blown British brand, surely the relationship with Great Britain should permeate throughout the business rather than just relate to the origins of the company?
If we are going to define who may be eligible to cite the British brand claim, perhaps the following criteria should be considered:
- The parent company that owns the brand, must be British owned
- The products must be physically manufactured in the UK (accepting that some of the components / raw materials might need to be imported into the country)
- British transport companies should be used to transfer the product to its customer outlet destinations
- Product innovations such as a unique design / treatment which extends the life of a product, should stem from British research and development and in effect be ‘UK’ patented
- Added kudos can be derived from the formal approval of the product by British opinion former bodies relevant to the industry sector. In the physical security market, brands which boast the prestigious Secured by Design accreditation underwritten by the UK Police Force may be deemed to be more steeped in British values
In the current market, upon closer inspection, many brands which are inferring the ‘Buy British’ call to action, are in reality duping their customers. A number of players have moved their production out of the UK, citing the ability to streamline costs abroad, as the rationale for the relocation.
But surely in a society where companies are being encouraged to increase the level of transparency in their dealings with customers more should be done to put in place clearer British brand guidelines? When consumer research is telling us that brand integrity is being held in such high regard by our clients, how can so many brands be allowed to continue what effectively constitutes the dissemination of misinformation.
This becomes all the more critical when we examine the positive impact the true British brands play in the UK. Aside from the obvious benefits relating to the creation of jobs in roles across a myriad of disciplines ranging from manufacturing to marketing and sales, British brands also play a vital role in protecting our heritage. With so many UK manufacturing players being acquired by international conglomerates, there is a real risk that Best of British manufacturing could leave our shores for good. We should be doing everything possible to ensure the skills that have been honed and passed down from generation to generation remain an essential ingredient in Britain’s colourful industrial heritage. And, at a time when we are seeing consumers re-embracing the integrity associated with smaller independent players (who have eschewed the hard nosed marketing tactics of larger rival brands and survived the economic downturn) surely these die hard British manufacturers should be allowed to enjoy some payback for their long term investment in UK industry.
Jacksons is certainly not the only British manufacturer to abide by the ‘British brand’ code of conduct and we congratulate all our colleagues who remain committed to maintaining the same high standards associated with authentic British manufacturing. Our fear is that too many customers, whilst believing they are supporting a British brand, are perhaps unwittingly adding to the demise of the UK manufacturing industry.