The chance to decide whether we Leave or Remain in the EU is nearly upon us, but are we any wiser as to the potential impact on the ‘Made In Britain’ Brand?. When we think of ’Made in Britain’ we are talking not only about brands that are produced and manufactured here but also the concept of ‘Britishness’; the power of Country of Origin and national identity.
The ‘Made In Britain’ label is potentially worth £Billions to British business but will it have the same standing and gravitas if the UK were to leave the EU? A Leave decision could signal the beginning of the end for the Britain brand as Scotland look to reopen the debate on independence if the vote goes in favour of Brexit. Is 'Made in England’, or Scotland or Wales, as powerful and marketable as ‘Made In Britain’?
It’s this step into the unknown that has not only the business community, but the population at large, fearful of what the future might hold. It appears that the debate has thrown up more questions than answers, and this lack of clarity manifests itself in anger and confusion for the general public who are often denied the true facts of the consequences, from either side. It seems no-one really knows. It’s a gamble, but one that will have a huge impact on our economy.
The Leave campaign have assured us that exit from the EU will offer more opportunities to UK businesses, allowing more unrestricted access to world markets. Those on the Remain side counter this argument with the pledge that we will be stronger as a partner in the EU trade bloc and weaker if we turn our back on the richest single market in the world.
The effect of Brexit on the strength of the £Pound may be felt immediately but the overall impact of Leave on Brand Britain may not be apparent the morning after or even in the following weeks or months but in years to come.
Analysts will watch with concern how the global markets react if Brand Britain was no longer an integral part of the wider portfolio of Europe. Whether the market allows Britain to function productively as a single brand rather than one that is part of the wider European concept remains to be seen.
A departure from the EU could signify a weakening of the ‘Made in Britain’ brand, the decision appearing as a backward step and an isolationist approach that could leave us in an economic wilderness. A reputation has to be built up over many years, and with a large part of our export going to the EU we could be damaging the reputation of the brand in the minds of our continental European neighbours and indeed the wider world.
In 2014 Britain ranked 6th in a worldwide survey of reputable country’s of origin. The research outlined the four key areas that signified the strongest countries of origin; authenticity, differentiation, quality standards and expertise. Each camp in the EU Referendum could claim that these key areas are made stronger by following their preferred chosen path. However a Leave vote could irreparably damage the world’s perception of the British identity and therefore our reputation as a trustworthy brand.
It is also important to consider that a strong country brand has a halo effect on the consumer brands that carry the flag of that country. In the 21st Century, brands that demonstrate a progressive and outward looking philosophy are more likely to be the brand of choice of the more ethical and ecological minded Millennial consumers, the 18-24 age group, 60% of whom would vote Remain. If the country of origin is held in high regard then so are the brands that are associated with it.
“The trust people have in a Brand is built together with the trust they have in the place of origin”.
Leave or Remain - the whole Referendum experiment may have tarnished the reputation of a once solid Brand, the consequences may have far reaching implications for Britain, its industry and its economic strength.