Brand Britain Takes A Bashing From Brexit

It once came as a surprise to most Brits that the country's goods and services have a high value attached to them abroad. Flamboyant designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen recently quipped to me in a conversation about exporting that the irony is that we Brits are great at assuming everyone thinks we're "pants". However, go out there and test the waters and foreign markets generally think we're super cool and trendy or wonderfully old-fashioned with a promise of heritage.

It's not just a one-off. I interview a lot of company heads about export and they will typically reveal that Britain has a far better image abroad than its own citizens give it credit for. That's why it's a little alarming to see how research from JWT could be impacting this positive vibe the union jack emblem has when attached to our goods and services. 

The headlines from its research sum up how a few more people have come to terms with Brexit and think it may work out -- it's still only about one in three people who are optimistic. However, the secondary piece of research looked at how Brits see themselves and how others see us. While nearly a third of Brits think the country could be summed up as "fair," less than 10% of Italians, Germany and Poles agreed.

Conversely, only 10% of Briton thought the word "nationalist" would sum up the country up compared to 39% of Italians, 30% of Germans and 31% of French people. Put very simply, we may have started to become accustomed to the country being well regarded abroad and have little idea that the vote to leave the EU has seen us labelled as nationalist rather than fair.

It's a big deal for British brands that have been trading on that quintessential British feeling of fair play, decency and quality. And what's worse, this is what the UK public voted for. Interestingly, the JWT research now says that while 50% of Brits surveyed would vote to Remain if there were another vote, a mere 37% would still vote to Leave, with 13% on the fence.

Whatever happens in the next couple of years of trade talks between the UK and the EU, British brands will have to accept that "Brand Britain" is lacking a little shine now that a tiny majority have voted for Brexit.

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