This article originally appeared on Campaign.
Is our Brand broken? Arguably Britain has been riding on a high since the 2012 Olympics. We welcomed the world with open arms and showed it what we’re made of – a rich, colourful and successful culture.
Today we face the opposite issue. For nearly half of the voting population and the nation at large, the news they woke up to on 24 June left them stunned and somewhat lost. It’s like the past few decades of brand equity have been wiped out along with the value of sterling.
We thought we knew what leaving the EU could mean for our image and reputation in the world – closed off, narrow-minded and arrogant – but I don’t think we quite realised how much it could impact our identity as a nation and as individuals. Right now, Brand Britain looks to be in shambles and it needs to pull itself together before it truly crashes and burns.
A brand in crisis mode needs leadership and clarity above all else. After the recent weeks of confusion and concern, we now have this missing piece for Britain with our new prime minister Theresa May. Regardless of her political position, May has shown an understated strength and unflappable focus among the hysterics and hyperbole.
Under May’s predecessors, Britain (and its politicians) had become directionless – filling its people with uncertainty and no little fear. Perhaps the steady and gentle hand of a woman is what we need to avert disaster and focus on the task ahead – and it would seem that Theresa May is not wasting any time.
As she works to heal the wounds of Brexit and unite a divided country under the banner of Brand Britain, there are some hard questions for her to answer. What is Britain’s purpose? Why does it exist outside and beyond our nation states? And why is it such a pull to people outside of Britain itself? May has an opportunity to help the people of Britain reconnect with their identity, reframe the values that define our culture and to position Britain’s role in Europe and the wider world for a new era.
What we really need is a demonstration of what British means, not on a national level but a personal one. The people are not one big homogenous group. There are so many flavours and accents; it’s not as simplistic as just being young, old, rich or poor.
Values such as multiculturalism and openness are divisive and being fiercely debated by everyone, both in good ways and bad. Independence is the new black and we seem to be clinging on to unity. Does this mean we want autonomy over collaboration? Do we really want to go it alone?
Prior to receiving our new prime minister, I wasn’t sure who would stand up and take a stance on these issues to lead us forward. At one point I felt the Queen could be that calm and steady voice we were crying out for, yet her brand, whilst integral to Britain, is above and beyond the political landscape, which made me think it’s exactly where Brand Britain needs to be too.
Yes, big decisions like those the country made on 23 June will inevitably shape our image but we cannot let them define our story nor hold us back.
As May has said, she wants the economy and the country overall to work for everyone, not just the few. Brand Britain is for the people of Britain; it’s not just a tool for the political elite. That means we must all start to take a personal interest in the brand as it belongs to all of us.
We need to consider not just what it can do for us but what we can do for it. Using Britishness not just as a badge but as an invitation to think independently, work collaboratively and do things differently.
It’s an interesting time for our country. No doubt there will be trouble and good times ahead but it’s how we weather the storm. It’s how we lead ourselves through this with a new story to tell. One that redefines the values we hold so dear and embrace some new ones along the way.
How Theresa May sets the tone over the coming weeks and months will be fascinating to see. I hope that her first confident steps (and promises) are a sign that she can help us redefine what it means to be Great in our own modern and inclusive way.
Rana Brightman is a strategy director at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @rana_banana