A few months ago the British public (and global audiences) were horrified. Burning, rioting and looting spread through the streets of major cities in England (just to be clear on the focus here). A mist of chaos descended on the country that swept out of control.
Several days passed and the mist cleared. The clean up operation and soul searching then began. Difficult questions were posed. What does England stand for? What does England want to stand for? What values does England have? What values does England want to have? Answers have yet to be found to these deeply profound questions. Not good.
A Great Britain advertising campaign was recently launched by David Cameron at the New York Stock Exchange. It focused on how great Britain is. Shopping is Great. Heritage is Great. Creativity is Great. Music is Great. Countryside is Great. Technology is Great. This great list goes on. Wonderful. Great advertising. The campaign aims to raise the UK’s profile prior to the 2012 Olympic games. To showcase our fine and wonderful land beyond Olympic-related associations if you will. Culture, heritage, innovation, sophistication, music, shopping etc. Brand Britain is all of these things. Right? No more than a few weeks ago chaos reigned on the streets of England. Sorry to say so but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (to a lesser extent) will probably be tarred with the same British brush.
So what’s the point? Brands operate a number of levels. People, goods, services, cities and countries to name a few. Irrespective of the unit of analysis similar brand principles apply. Brands are a cluster of values. These values are brought to life through behaviour, communications, visual identity etc., across brand touch points. There is clearly a disconnect between the internal and external British brand (apologies to other UK countries apart from England). From the inside out there’s clearly unrest. People are unhappy, frustrated, disillusioned and disenfranchised. The manifestation of these emotions being riots. From the outside in the British Government is trying to paint a very different picture. One of serenity, heritage and sophistication. Confused?
How can we reconcile the associations this campaign aspires to create with the values that were brought to life via the behaviour on our streets? They just don’t fit. True this was a minority. Yes, the unrest is not representative of Great Britain but these are the scenes that were beamed across the globe. These scenes fuel a clear brand marketing outcome. A brand which is not credible. A brand which could be conceived as shallow. Worst still, a brand that is confused.
Irrespective of the whether your brand is a good, a service, a city, country etc., build your brand from within. Make sure you have a credible brand promise that can be consistently delivered across all customer touch points. Your staff need to understand and buy into the brand promise. If they don’t it won’t work. Your brand will be inconsistent and disconnected. Start with the values. Get these right then the brand campaigns can start. Don’t brand from the outside in. If you do, confusion will reign.