How U.K. Startups Can Improve Britain's Image After Brexit by Empowering Their Own Brands
The Brexit vote was a major turning point in Britain's national history, and the outcome will be the start of a new era. An era full of questions around the nation's global position. Regardless of what side of the Brexit fence you fall, you'll agree that how Britain is perceived by the global community will be more important than ever for the nation's future moving forward.
As an immigrant brand consultant, I assure you that Britain has an incredibly powerful brand outside this country. I've been involved in 100-plus startup investment campaigns over the past three years, and through meeting a lot of the teams involved, I know how passionately they're working toward their mission. So, why not harness that powerful startup energy to develop existing, top ranking brands and empower Britain's own global image?
The British government and other national institutions have been fighting to secure the future of the fifth largest economy in the world, but there's no guarantee of success. The jobs and frictionless trade could be saved through the sorts of discussions that go on behind closed doors, but it's no secret that across the EU there's a battle to take over the City of London's position as a global financial capital.
The big boys of the old economy still hold the power majority in global trade, and governments decide whom to trade with and how, but they lack one important thing due partly to the digital transformation of business and partly to the nature of their existence: a direct influence on the foreign consumer.
A survey shows that Britain's people are more trusted than their government.
Every year, the British Council conducts its From The Outside In survey, looking at how young people living in the G20 countries perceive the U.K. That survey shows the general appeal of the U.K. hasn't changed after the Brexit vote, with 71 percent of people still finding the U.K. attractive.
There are three other key findings within that research, post-Brexit:
- The U.K.'s people are trusted more than its government or institutions.
- Globally, people think the U.K. population are less open and more patriotic.
- Nineteen percent said they're less likely to do business with the U.K., 14 percent are more likely to do so, and 52 percent said it won't have any impact.
These findings should encourage startups to adjust what they think of their position in the global economy, recognize the strong strategic foundation they have, and consider how they can strengthen that position using branding and communications.
If the government can't rebuild Britain's positive image, then who?
The rise of the shared economy and nature of startup culture equips those involved with a powerful weapon: openness. It's no secret that almost every London workspace is now like a UN office, working toward global community. This openness is reflected in the marketing campaigns, user experiences, designs and products being serviced to the world.
Besides, the digital transformation and high connectivity of global economies made businesses part of national brands. When Tim Cook stood against the government to protect people's privacy, he executed a multimillion-dollar brand positioning campaign with zero cost.
But, why startups? How dare we have the same privileges as Apple? Below are three concrete reasons why startups can use the same tactics as much larger, globally established companies to grow brand awareness and client base.
- U.K. startups are already leading the global race to attract global investment, leveraging the "London effect."
- Startups are agile enough to adapt to the changing economic climate.
- Startups have smaller teams, making it easier to build more "human" brands.
There is an issue to overcome: Many people in Britain aren't aware of the real value of a British brand. And if they are aware, almost none can see why. I believe the answer runs as deep as it does wide: history, cultural institutions, universities, democracy and best of all, "the system." Regardless of how smoothly it works, it works.
So, what can startups do to grow together with Britain's own, national brand?
1. Show your product or service really works.
As I mentioned, people outside Britain know there is a functioning system in place that works, regardless of the people running it. We can complain about the NHS's performance or the sluggish pace of government office responses, but the infrastructure still works, and this is a huge part of external perception.
There's a certain expectation that any product made in Britain is engineered to precision and would work well. This also means there's an expectation for the U.K. to provide a topnotch brand experience across different platforms, from the product/service itself and customer relations, to social media content and ads.
Be sure to provide your customer base with the best you can offer and take good care of your product.
2. Introduce cultural codes to your customer relationships.
The general global perception of British people is that they're kind, with good manners. It's an incredibly valuable asset for any brand to use when communicating with their audience.
Simply build your business relationships, be it B2C or B2B, using your cultural communication codes like kindness and patience (yes, this really is how other countries think of Brits). Knowing that they're engaging with a brand made in Britain, people will expect to have the "English" experience they've heard of, seen in popular culture or have already experienced.
In particular, make use of the crisp British accent where possible, in video campaigns, podcasts, social media posts or direct sales activities. A clear British accent is easy for foreigners to understand, will genuinely charm your audiences and will have a positive influence on their decision-making process.
3. Balance your brand experience with openness.
I don't think there's a single person that doesn't know about the Brexit vote. It's no stretch to conclude that Brits are intolerant to foreigners and cultural differences.
In your marketing campaigns, products or services, try to create a visual and verbal language that actively avoids alienating people from different backgrounds. And no, using models from the Far East or featuring fifty shades of skin color is not what I mean.
Create a system that has something for everyone within your target market. To do so, use design as a tool to develop the right UX and UI systems, giving the feeling of both open-mindedness and acceptance.
Here's an example to visualize: Square forms convey messages evoking trustworthy feelings, while round forms remind people of flexibility and adaptability. Depending on the medium you use, picking the right usage of forms and colors can help you convey the right message simply, and without saying, "We are open-minded."
To summarize, U.K. entrepreneurs are all responsible for contributing to the future of Britain's economy and working together with our EU counterparts to develop holistic prosperity for the wider global community. Regardless of the result of the Brexit vote and inter-governmental relationships, clearly the world still trusts the British people, wants to sustain existing good relationships and to do business with them. This is a moment that U.K. startups can take advantage of and spearhead the efforts to grow U.K. economy even further.