As we found in our last blog, the language of Britishness is difficult to pin down. In comparison to benchmarks of national branding such as Brazil, Bahamas and Spain, our current representations fall short.
Interestingly each of these countries uses abstract colours and shapes to express national character, rather than using a flag or icon. This week we consider how British character could be expressed in the same way, with reference to brands that have taken evocative stances on Britishness.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these brands can also be grouped in terms of three prominent national characteristics.
1) Authentic and earthy. Graphics are colourful, deep, rich and busy but above all honest.
2) Smart and bold. As could be expected from these quintessentially British brands, their message is simple, clean, candid, and to-the-point.
3) Eccentric and self-deprecating. While being arguably the most sophisticated, these designs use humour to avoid taking themselves too seriously.
All these brands seem to capture Britishness in a more evocative way than David Cameron's recently unveiled 'GREAT...' campaign or the Olympics logo.
What agency wouldn't love the chance to do our country justice?
‘Britishness’ is very much in vogue at the moment. Brought about by the flurry of recent Royal occasions and ‘that’ sporting event, the trend has stuck with us throughout the year.
Unfortunately it is often poorly done, and our national symbol, the Union Jack in particular, seems to be used without a compelling rationale.
The Olympics identity tried a different tact but sadly ended up failing in its generic pursuit of coolness and youth culture. A quirky chameleon graffiti marque, just doesn’t translate to a national celebration of human spirit as typified by the Olympic stage.
But the fault is not entirely with the marketing. Unlike other countries such as Spain and Brazil, the language of Britain is very hard to pin down.
Representations often slide into a Britain that is either old fashioned or London centric, because other meanings are often too diverse to forge a conceptual unity.
Even in the optimistic times of Cool Britannia back in the Nineties, the look and feel was very retro-punk-mod, but it was not representative of the country as a whole.
Likewise, the popular Keep Calm & Carry On stamp clearly has a spirit that resonates now, but is visually retro.
Interestingly the recent ‘GREAT…’ campaign focuses on diversity – and partially overcomes the issue of fragmentation, but there’s still no sense of a singular graphic identity for Britain.
Perhaps Britishness is amorphous, a vessel that you can’t define. It allows us to be who we are, unconfined by a singular set of values and maybe that is what makes this country great.
Next week we’ll have a look at some examples of brands that have captured a sense Britishness to best effect.
We love the latest John Lewis ad taking a nostalgic look at everyday life through the decades.
Following a respite for most of this year, nostalgia appears to be back again. Should we be worried about this trend? The last time nostalgia prevailed we were in the middle of the biggest recession since the Great Depression.
This September, Tesco invited us to look to the past with its experiential Vintage Supermarket Store at the Goodwood Revival meeting. It’s amazing to see how much some of our favourite brands have changed – but also how much has stayed the same.
McDonald's have been at it too in September introducing the 1955 burger to their menu in the UK supported by a nostalgic ad campaign referencing the brands beginnings in 1955.
With John Lewis and McDonald's both airing their ads in one X-Factor ad break the other week the nation appears to be overwhelmed with nostalgia.
Is this an acute sign of our times or perhaps a predictor of a impending double dip recession?
We hope not, but as McDonald's, Tesco and John Lewis are all currently fuelling this trend, you could be forgiven for feeling a little wary.
Last week, Design Week ran a voxpop, inspired by the recent Cockburn’s re-launch (designed by Bloom), asking the design world which iconic brands from the 70's they'd like to revive. This comes shortly after Nike announced that they were producing 1,500 Nike Air Mag's, the futuristic concept trainers immortalised in the 80's movie Back to the Future II, in aid of the Michael J Fox's Foundation for Parkinson's.
Since nostalgia is rife at the moment Bloom decided to do our own voxpop focused on bringing back our favourite brands from both the 70’s and 80's.
Prepare to go back in time with our top 10 from those memorable decades.
Ice Magic - Ice cream will never taste the same again
Babycham - I'd love a Babycham
Um Bongo – Um Bongo Um Bongo they drink it in the Congo
Pacers mint chews - Pacers is a change of taste
Speak & Spell - made spelling fun for a whole generation
Pez - Sadly vanished from UK shores - bring them back...
Chopper bike - Coolness personified and a must have in the 1970's - flares compulsory
Reebok Pumps - Just make it onto the list (launched in 1989) - they led the air-filled trainer revolution Kia-ora squash - We all adore a Kia-Ora Simon Says... - Repeat this pattern... (it may have already been revived in the form of the Google Chrome identity)