Proud to be British – an opportunity not to be missed


With the Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee approaching next summer, patriotism in Britain is on the increase. Both events will be celebrating Britain and what it means to be British, and will hope to have the same unifying affect that we saw with the Royal Wedding earlier in the year. I certainly have a renewed sense of national pride – it’s hard not to when (dodgy politicians and rioting youths aside) our capital city is soon to play host to the world with the arrival of the greatest sporting competition on the planet!


This increased public spirit and rejuvenated patriotism has presented a fantastic opportunity for innovative marketing agencies. Consumers full of patriotic fervour are drawn more and more to companies who celebrate or acknowledge their British heritage; no longer is the Union Jack seen as a negative or a marketing faux pas, but a positive, and something companies are becoming more keen to associate themselves with.


The challenge facing brands and marketing agencies, therefore is how to tap into this patriotic zeal and translate it into profit. But what makes this challenge more difficult is ensuring that any activity achieves this and, at the same time, respects the strict marketing regulations (particularly regarding ambush marketing) that have been set for businesses that are not official sponsors of the London 2010 Olympic Games.


Some brands are blazing the trail, with Vodafone recently unveiling its ‘London’s Calling’ campaign with a series of black cabs emblazoned with the Union Jack and Vodafone’s logo offering phone charging services to customers. We have also seen Nestle associate themselves with the Olympics sporting legacy in a bid to boost their image.


Virgin Media has adopted a more subtle angle with its recently revamped logo. By incorporating the Union Jack Flag into its logo, the business is visibly celebrating its British roots whilst also drawing in customers with a renewed pride in what it means to be British. Virgin’s executive director of brand and marketing communications, Jeff Dodds, explained: “At Virgin Media we’re extremely proud of our British heritage and wanted to find a way to symbolically remind people about all the fantastic things about our nation. With Britain celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and hosting the Olympic Games next year, we believe there is no better time to show our pride and excitement about what it means to be British.”

In the past the UK has generally tended to shy away from overt displays of patriotism but it now seems that, with the approaching Olympics, we have thrown aside our old inhibitions and are ready to embrace our national identity. It will be interesting to see which brands will be next to recognise and make the most of this Olympic and Jubilee-inspired national pride spreading across the nation –  without stepping on any sponsors’ toes, of course.



The true price of social media

So everyone knows by now that social media is kind of a big deal. And most brands have grudgingly started to engage in one way or other – some more successfully than others. The issue now then is that many brands are just paying lip service to it.

Sceptics take note though… Last week, Nestle discovered exactly how much damage can be inflicted on a global brand that fails to have a watertight social media strategy, when they became the unwilling target of a viral and social media campaign launched by Greenpeace.

The campaign was designed to undermine Nestle’s Fairtrade claims by drawing attention to its use of palm oil sourced from Sinar Mas – an Indonesian company accused of illegal deforestation. 

It all started with a viral spoof of Nestle’s famous ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat’ ad, in which an office worker was seen to bite into an Orang-utan’s finger, instead of a chocolate wafer finger…. Within hours however, Greenpeace and anti-Nestle activists has turned the viral into a fully-fledged social media attack on the brand, with people using Twitter and Facebook to openly criticise the confectionary giant and call for a boycott on its products.

So far then, all pretty standard techniques for social media campaigning… The point at which it became a social media crisis for Nestle however, was when the brand tried to shut down social media by either deleting posts from its Twitter and Facebook pages, with one company response reading: “We welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic – they will be deleted.” A later comment from the company then read: “Social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go. Thanks for the comments.”

The company’s poor attempts to manage the situation through social media resulted in a massive drop in the price of Nestle shares just 24 hours after the campaign broke, as noted on the Viral Agency blog. Coincidence? Perhaps… but almost certainly a contributing factor.

The lesson from this then is that NO brand can afford to just pay lip service to social media. Social media experts now need to form a pivotal member of any communications team.  Undervalue the impact that the medium can have at your peril.