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The long view for UK heritage brands. Has a 'new reality' arrived?

Imagine for a minute that you’re responsible for the medium-term success of a ‘heritage’ brand in the UK. A well-loved destination, perhaps; possibly an iconic institution or maybe a purveyor of products or brands exuding classic ‘British-ness’. Safe to assume your success depends on ‘packaging and promoting’ British provenance and/or a dependence on a largely older, middle or upper class audience.

From the depths of recession, where are the opportunities? Or the threats we need to be aware of and prepared to respond to?
Rule one, in our opinion, in the new reality is that as marketeers it isn’t acceptable to concentrate 100% of our attention on ‘selling today’s product’. Of course, it never was, but extreme situations require especially enhanced performance to help ensure that we survive and thrive. So, what trends are going to magnify the effects of recession and take away our livelihood? Or offer up the greatest opportunity?

In the new reality, the first thing to accept is that things have changed. Big style. They are not ‘going to’. They have.

It doesn’t feel like it here, but globally the middle class is growing, significantly. But not here in Europe and certainly not in the US. With China and India leading the charge, more than 90% of the world’s middle class will live in emerging markets by 2030, up from 50% today. That’s not much more than 15 years away. What are you doing to understand the demographics and behaviour of the new middle class?

Have you started to plan how your brand is going to be aligned? As a tourist destination how will you need to position yourself for a new breed of foreign visitor from a number of different countries and continents, without alienating your domestic, regional audience? As a direct mail provider to consumers turned on by British-ness, how can you ‘package’ our past, present and future to diverse audiences with a very different view than your current audience?

And power is in the hands of the consumer. Wherever in the world they are. This is just as true whether your customer lives 10,000 miles away or is a frequent visitor from round the corner. By 2013, for example, more than two billion mobile users globally will have made a purchase via their handsets. By 2020, a third of consumer purchases are expected to be made online.
You will need to find exciting new ways to engage with digital consumers and improve their experiences. And you’ll need more advanced real-time insights to better serve this dynamic, fragmented market.

One key will be to pick the right ways to interact with online consumers, manage conversations appropriately, and make the best use of digital consumer data. And the really successful will have found a way to enhance transparency and become more collaborative in their interactions with customers, online and off.

It might have started out being called ‘user generated content’. Now it means that your reputation and certain of your success will be in the hands of your customer/visitor, not you. The particular challenge for traditional heritage brands and destinations will be to adopt technology and channels without appearing ‘fake’ or disjointed.

Toes are being dipped; the Queen has her Facebook page and Royal Mint use Pinterest – but the really interesting developments that result in real engagement and commercial benefit are yet to come.Overall the key to success will lie in your ability to adapt to change at all levels – global, national, local and personal.

With continuous innovation, those that serve tomorrow’s consumers will need to drive brand value and revenue through greater engagement with increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy consumers, wherever in the world they are.
Investment, innovation and collaboration will be the watchwords for successful brands that succeed in the new reality.

Welcome to the future!

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