Brands and Brexit in 2018

2018 promises much of the same Brexit-induced uncertainty that ultimately came to define our 2017. Nobody really knows what the future holds, and anybody who claims otherwise is talking cobblers.

Yet, one statement we can make with utmost certainty is that brands have a huge role to play in this ongoing story. Economically, socially and culturally, Britain’s businesses hold huge sway in both the short and long-term.

In a year that marks 100 years since women were given the right to vote in a General Election for the first time, 70 years since the founding of the NHS, and 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday agreement, 2018 will be momentous on multiple counts. It’s an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate some of the country’s greatest and most important achievements, but also a chance to lay the foundations for new ones.

Safely navigating the post-Brexit landscape will certainly constitute such an accomplishment, but it’s one firmly within our means. Already this year, we have been buoyed by a record level of investment in UK tech companies, and energised by reports of a robust final quarter for the UK economy in 2017 – with factory output at its highest level in 23 years. Agencies and brands will be pivotal to extending this growth in 2018, but first, a concerned UK public needs encouragement.

According to new research from BritainThinks, 81% of 2,000 adults polled admit to feeling anxious about the year ahead, with words such as ‘worried’, ‘vulnerable’ and ‘scared’ featuring prominently when asked to describe ‘the mood of the nation’. Moreover, 80% agree that ‘something needs to be done to bring the country together’, with a nostalgia for ‘British values’ – as exemplified by the collectivism fundamental to the NHS, and our unity in times of adversity like those seen in last year’s terror attacks and Grenfell tragedy – a source of pride for a country struggling with its identity.

Yet Britain’s brands can and should be another source. Quality, trust and innovation are words synonymous with our global exports - they define our national brand. To thrive and evolve, however, they need to be able to grow with scale – regionally, nationally and internationally.

Luckily, the infrastructure is in place to facilitate this, with agencies – increasingly, those with an independent, forward-thinking and can-do ethos unfettered by stakeholder interests – on hand to ensure hungry brands in cluttered markets are nimbly and accountably communicating their purpose and values with core audiences in the right places, and at the right times.

Confidence, ambition and creativity are required by both brand and agency to successfully navigate the year ahead – but what an exciting challenge! We have before us a unique opportunity to mould a future Britain that celebrates our enterprising spirit, embraces new frontiers, and promotes openness. British brands stand at the vanguard, and we’ll be there to support them with incisive, cross-media campaign strategies.