The resilience of Brand Britain

by Simon Atkinson
Brands & Media

If you are reader of British newspapers, much of what you are about to hear will come as no surprise. Britons’ confidence in their country’s place in the world is in sharp decline. Prior to the EU referendum, 63% of us described the UK as a ‘force for good’ in the world. Today that figure has tumbled to just 49%.1 We’re split down the middle on whether Britain should even bother trying to ‘punch above our weight in world affairs’. And, now that the country has finally left the European Union, Remainers are in a particularly glum mood: 70% of them say Britain’s influence around the world will decline over the coming years.

But our work with commercial organisations often reminds us of just how resilient big brands can be, and when we put ‘Brand Britain’ under the spotlight and look at how it is seen from the outside, our country has more brand equity than perhaps many of us give it credit for.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at the long-running Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brands Index. The latest results show some turbulence. France drops from second to fifth place in the league table, while the US has fallen further still – from sixth to tenth.2 Yet, back at the top of the rankings, it’s the UK who moves up to take France’s second spot on the podium, powered by improved ratings on the culture, people and tourism categories. (It’s worth noting that, as on the football field, this is another arena where Germany outshines us, holding onto first place for the fourth year in a row.)

British museum ceiling and tourists

Brand Britain in silver medal position

Anholt-Ipsos Nation
Brands Index (NBI)

Source
Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brands Index

Base
20,019 interviews online in 20 countries with adults aged 18+, 7 July – 31 August 2020

The study highlights the strong and enduring international reputation of Britain’s institutions

And that’s not the end of it. The British Council’s research on the soft power of leading nations is titled ‘Reasons to be cheerful, part 4’, and with some justification. This international survey of educated young adults across the G20 countries finds Britain top of the charts for the first time ever.3 The UK is seen as a good place to study and to work. Not all our international respondents are overly impressed with the actions of the British Government, it’s true, but the study nonetheless highlights the strong and enduring international reputation of Britain’s institutions.

These two studies also show China joining the US on the list of countries seeing their brand image taking something of a battering. The British Council report finds China falling from 11th to 17th in terms of overall attractiveness, while also slipping from 23rd to 35th on the Anholt-Ipsos Nations Brand Index.

These contrasting fortunes of different countries serve as a reminder that there is no room for complacency. We need to acknowledge the areas where Britain is seen as a clear leader – as is the case when it comes to respect and tolerance for those of different faiths. However overall, the picture is of Britain being strong across the board as opposed to a standout leader in many individual categories. Perhaps that’s a good thing. But Britain will still be looking out for how it can shine in the post-Brexit era. In the words of Alistair MacDonald at the British Council: “It also needs to be recognised that the hard work of maintaining that lead, of building a truly ‘Global Britain’, is just beginning.”

Simon Atkinson

Simon Atkinson

Chief Knowledge Officer