How a creative, tech-empowered public will threaten slow moving brands

How a creative, tech-empowered public will threaten slow moving brands

Chris.WorrellIn the second of our series looking at the future of Britain, OMD’s insights director Chris Worrell explains how, in ‘Creative Britain’, brands need to think quickly and nimbly – because if they don’t, a tech empowered, entrepreneurial minded public will build a product that meets their needs themselves.

It feels like it has been a good week for Britain. There are (relatively) positive signs in the economy at last, the sun is shining (just a few weeks after the MET asked us to ready for a decade of ‘soggy summers’) and Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon for 77 long years.

But what does it mean to be British in modern Britain, and what will modern Britain look like over the coming years? As part of our Future of Britain project, we sought to find out.

It’s a pretty hot topic at the moment, with David Cameron outlining his thoughts shortly before the G8 Summit, where he offered a vision in which the country rejects an unthinking embrace of globalisation, exemplified by New Labour, or the timid alternative of go-it-alone Little Englandism.

Certainly there has been a real focus on emerging economies of late (one of Cameron’s edicts), and according to the ONS British companies have doubled exports to emerging economies; exports to BRICS have risen from £12.7 billion in 2007 to £27.1 billion in 2012.

We wanted to see if the growth of emerging economies had had an impact on British people’s perception of Britain as a land of opportunity. Whilst on the whole Britain still gets the thumbs up, some interesting patterns emerge.

Some 32% of Britons think that their opportunities would have been better if they had been born in India, a figure that skews higher amongst younger people. According to the ONS, India is now the second most popular destination for those emigrating from Britain. Scandinavia is held in high regard too – more people in Britain feel their opportunities are worse than someone born there than being born in Britain.

The people of Britain are definitely aware of the growth in new global forces, with 60% believing that Britain should focus on its relationship with China. Opportunities flow both ways though; a quarter of a million Chinese tourists visited Britain in 2012 and the Chinese are now the biggest source of tourism income globally, registering a 40% increase in spend in 2012.

We also wanted to understand what working in Britain will look like in the future. We have observed a real shift away from Corporate Britain to Creative Britain. Nearly half of those who took part in our study said that degrees would no longer be a worthwhile investment, whilst some four in 10 believe that being self-employed is more attractive than working for a big company. The downturn has helped to create an entrepreneurial spirit (particularly amongst a tech enabled generation of young unemployed) and in 2012 patent applications surged 29% to an all-time high.

We are also far more interested in personal as well as economic growth and well-being. Some 48% of 25-44 year olds cited flexibility as an important attribute in an employer and for the younger generation aged 16-24, over half said ‘fun’ was an important attribute in an employer – more than said financially rewarding.

When asked how they would measure their happiness 46% of our respondents said work life balance, just shy of personal finances at 52%.

So what does this all mean for the Future of Britain? Britain is changing rapidly, shaped by increasingly complex and diverse global forces. This opens up new opportunities for brands, both within Britain and beyond.

Retailers are catering for this with innovations such as acceptance of the Union Pay credit card and making big plays around cultural events such as the Chinese New Year. Indeed, Johnnie Walker whisky has opened up an embassy for Whisky culture in Shanghai, trading on their established heritage.

Brands need to think quickly and nimbly in Creative Britain – if they don’t, a tech empowered, entrepreneurial minded public will build a product that meets their needs themselves (the relative successes of Instagram and Kodak are a classic example).

Finally, brands need to understand what it means to be British in modern Britain; an anecdotal example that paints a great picture is the astonishing success of Forbrydelsen on BBC, which led to a 149% increase in searches for Copenhagen.

I really don’t think a subtitled Danish cop drama would have had the same levels of success in Britain of old. Not when we had The Bill.

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