This article originally appeared on Bdaily News.

Britain has been seen as a progressive, democratic, and collaborative world leader for many centuries. A force of strength and pride that has always been in control visualised through brand Britain and its clear and consistent message.

However, things have changed. In a few short years, the power of the British passport has dropped from first to sixth, the value of the pound has plummeted, VisitBritain predicts turbulent times for tourism, and fewer new nurses to fewer students are coming here from the EU.

While not everything can be blamed on Brexit, you only need to walk the high street to see the countless ‘help wanted’ posters in cafes, pubs and restaurants. The reality is, Brexit has undoubtedly had a negative effect on the country.

From Clarity to Confusion

From the day Theresa May moved into No.10, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ was her assurance to the country of her ability to broker a deal with the EU. While not exactly the most powerful line ever conceived, its definition lay in doubt.

The Leave side, made up of 52% of the voting public (at least in 2016), supporters from nearly all parties, Independents and more, view Brexit as a withdrawal from the EU. But unfortunately, that’s where the alignment ends. From here, it schisms into deal, no deal, economic alignment, backstops, hard border, to Irish sea borders. The permutations are endless.

The Remain side, in favour of keeping the UK in the EU, is just as conflicted on what type of deal should be brokered – doing the best for Britain while also ensuing the democratic will of the people is respected. Simply put, Brexit is highly convoluted, and it’s creating an identity crisis for Britain.

At the highest level, both sides of the debate want the same thing: a Britain that is a successful global leader. However, both sides have very different views of what Brand Britain represents. Remainers tend to see Britain as a modern, progressive nation with influence and an ecosystem of nations it partners with, inviting in many different inputs and perspectives to help shape the culture. Leavers, on the other hand, tend to see Brand Britain in a more static way, as a badge or mark of authority. A ruler, or hallmark, so to speak. Something which I personally feel is old fashioned and not how brands are successful these days. But like a company working in silos, these departments envisage very different pathways to getting there. And this lack of unity and collaboration results in the loss of control over your own future. This country, the Union, has lost its unified voice, and with result, control of its brand identity vanished.

Who is Britain?

The British flag has long been a representation of British unified morals and ideals. After Brexit, our visual identity has conflicting narratives. Being seized as the visual asset of all sides the divide, the British flag sits as an amalgamation of all parts. When stakeholders see and promote the brand differently, you lose control of the narrative, and brand identity is broken.

So, how does the wider world see Britain now? Are we still the progressive collaborator? Or have we fallen into the right-wing populist collection of nations? Questionable posters around immigration, Nigel Farage – the face of Brexit in the EU Parliament, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May, Arlene Foster, yes to the backstop, not to the backstop, yes to the single market, no to the single market. Every piece of information that Britain feeds to the world is a contradiction and generating more confusion around the national brand identity.

The Problem?

When uncovering a brand, we work so hard to make sure the brand aligns with the values and personality of the entity. It is also vitally important to ensure that it is not positioned with something that will represent the brand in a negative light. Owning control of this is key. Without control, your brand can be tied to movements and conversations that do not represent who you are and can cause irreversible damage. Toyota learned this the hard way when it became associated with violence and terrorism through the imagery of Toyota jeeps being used to carry munitions and fighters.

Britain’s Future Brand

It is easy to look at Brexit and even the wider world with concern and negativity right now. But it is not all doom and gloom. The British are a resilient people. We may not always agree on everything, but we agree that we want the best for the country. In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of Britain’s purpose in the world, why it exists outside of this country and why it draws people in. We know our purpose and where we see our place in the world. We just need a unified agreement on how to get there to end our identity crisis and regain control of Brand Britain.

 

For related pieces by Rana Brightman, check out What Brexit would mean for the EU brand and The impact of Brexit on Brand Britain