Do you put the kettle on?
01 Mar 2019 - LDN

Do you put the kettle on?

It’s time to redefine what it means to be British

Forgive the hyperbole and the cry from the heart but this is a moment in time where emotions are high and, frankly, I’m tired of watching the slow motion car crash of our Brexit demise. It’s time to rescue what we value from the burning wreckage.

Britain has lost its Mojo. We don’t know anymore who we are, what we stand for, where we are headed, what our collective values are or where we fit in the world. Our whole sense of meaning and identity has gone up in flames and our national brand has gone toxic.

Politicians are the last people we want to help us fix this. Their idea of vision is a promised land mired in policy and political dogma. And if Britain is toxic, then the political class is off-the-scale Chernobyl.

I think there’s a solution and it lies in the inspirational powers of our creative industry

Two of the finest articulations of Britishness over the last few years were Danny Boyle’s opening at London 2012 (I watched it again recently and cried even more than the first time around) and Fat Les singing “Do you put the kettle on?” in the football anthem, Vindaloo. And I wonder if the ability to imagine a better place, and the inspiration to capture the spirit and the very soul and essence of our Britishness, lies in the minds of our best writers, film makers, artists, creative agencies, designers and consultancies.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a plea for a catchy advertising campaign. Or an I 🖤 UK t-shirt. Or a few nudge tactics from the Behavioural Insights team at the Cabinet Office. Or a UK INC. brand pyramid. The problem runs so deep that it will take years to fix and requires a much deeper and honest examination of ourselves.

We need to start again, with a blank sheet of paper and go back to BRAND BASICS

When people ask “Who are we?”, “What do we stand for?”, “Where we are headed?”, “What do we value?” and “What’s our place in the world?” I simply see common IDENTITY, PURPOSE, VISION, MISSION, VALUES and POSITIONING. And that we need to sum this all up in a BRAND ESSENCE that goes to the very heart of what it means to be British, as a means to galvanise our battered nation and anchor our listless people.

Language is critical to the success of such an endeavour which is why I’m not making the call to “rebrand Britain”. I simply use these terms to organise our thinking but, of course, the moment the public sniff “brand bullshit” then we’re lost. But we can shape the language to redefine, or reframe, or re-imagine, what a new Britishness could look and sound like.

I don’t have all the answers but the solution needs to be rooted in the best of our past, present and future

It needs to be come from us all, the masses not the elite.

The revolution will not be an advertising campaign but wherever it comes from, the opportunity must be to create a new, modern, confident, forward looking and perhaps a little more humble version of OUR COLLECTIVE SELF.

Perhaps it will drive a new people’s movement. I recently gave my time to one of them, United for Change, to think about what they stand for. Maybe we need a Festival of Britain 2.0? Or a British version of the American Dream?

I thought I knew a bit about politics, people and Britain but actually I know zilch, nothing, nada. What I do know is that we need to find inspiration and a new truth from somewhere that isn’t called Westminster. So that we can look back on a sorry moment of self-immolation and say that together we found a better place to call home.

Stephen Mooney
Client Partner, Forever Beta