As a nation Britain has suffered from brand decay, largely around football, holiday makers abroad, even the Iraq war. But recent riots, televised and sensationalised around the world have even had the head of Visit Britain and British Tourism on television defending the nation.
The problem that the British brand faces is that it stands for dysfunction. Dysfunctional coalition government, dysfunctional ethnic tolerance, dysfunctional society, even a dysfunctional Royal family (although they have made strides in recent years). It is difficult to think of a nation that so clearly re-enforces its stereotypes with the rest of the world. In the past, I’ve even been asked by chief executives to steer clear of national advertising campaigns that feature the Union Jack in shop windows, just in case it incites antisocial behaviour against the store brands in question.
The truth is, none of the above is reflective of the majority of British people. Nor is any of it actually true of Britain. In fact recent community action in response to the riots have proved the exact opposite. So why does Britain get such bad press? Well, this is where politicians are actually focussed more on their own internal agendas, rather than their primary responsibility as brand ambassadors of Britain.
In any other industry, this level of negativity towards a brand would have been assessed against business performance, and crisis management initiatives deployed accordingly. It is a wonder why the role of championing Britain is left in the hands of mid weight tourist board executives.
Arguably, one could cite an inability to influence a nations perception in any way during a national crisis, and the sheer scale and transparency of the situation simply makes it impossible. However I can’t help feeling that over the next 3-months, we’ll probably see another British Tourism campaign and Olympics campaign running overseas, trying to drum up business, and I wonder if a longer term brand plan for Britain might be a more fruitful starting point.