Bold, Brave and Brilliantly British; Being a British brand icon in 2016

When someone says iconic British brand, which comes to mind? Twinings, which in fact holds the world's oldest continually-used commercial logo? Cadbury’s, who back in 2010 caused controversy with their takeover by US food company Kraft? Burberry, the luxury fashion brand famous for its chic, understated British style?

Although for many these brand powerhouses may epitomise everything it means to be British, their influence is largely testament to their longevity. But in the face of long-standing challenges to British identity and unity as explored by Marketing Magazine back in 2014 (a topic perhaps never more current than today), the question of what it means to be a British brand in 2016 is a poignant one.

The fall of an ageing icon

In a recent article by Marketing Week, the question of whether British Home Stores (BHS) could regain its former standing as an iconic British brand was a key topic of conversation. Having suffered numerous financial difficulties and recently filed for administration, Marketing Week have argued that the case of BHS ‘will become a cautionary tale for established UK retailers’.

Despite various attempts to re-invigorate its ailing brand through new offerings including food halls and beauty products in the style of the more successful M&S re-brand, BHS had struggled to bring its image into the the 21st century.

According to Cecylia Grendowicz, a strategist at branding agency Brand Union who was interviewed by Marketing Week, ‘the problem for BHS is one of image. A broad and multifaceted offer works very well for department stores like John Lewis and Debenhams but in the case of BHS it smacks slightly of desperation.’

With an apparent lack of investment and reluctance to focus on marketing as key problems for the brand, the fall of BHS has marked the start of a potentially difficult year for British icons. With huge competition from other more “glamorous" department stores like John Lewis, who year upon year steal the hearts and minds of British consumers, Marketing Week warns that other ‘historic British fashion retailers […] could also be at risk.’

It’s in the name

Every year Superbrands commissions independent research into the biggest and best brands in Britain in both the B2B and B2C sector. This year British Airways (BA), the official flag carrier airline of the UK, has been hailed as the number one brand in both league tables.

Based on characteristics such as quality, reliability, and distinction, the research demonstrates that long-standing household names often still win votes when it comes to being the most trusted British brand.

According to Stephen Cheliotis, the chairman of the Superbrands Council speaking to the The Guardian, ‘younger brands, such as the social media giants, are sitting on the sidelines making little impact as a huge battle takes place among trusted, traditional brands seeking to remain relevant and retain their positions among the brand elite.’

So what made BA so successful in both the B2B and B2C rankings?

According to Cheliotis BA’s brand is ‘refreshed, refocused on innovation and invested to remain attractive and relevant’, demonstrating that age is in fact not an obstacle to remaining an iconic British brand. With BA boasting the winning spot for the third year in a row, there is a lot that the likes of BHS can learn from their success.

As domestic and international attention focuses on Britain and Britishness in the coming year, here’s to hoping that the nation’s iconic brands remain as bold, brave and brilliantly British as ever.

Bold, Brave and Brilliantly British; Being a British brand icon in 2016