Leading for Britain – How Britain’s brands transform Brexit into Brentrance
We all have our favourite brands, whether shopping for groceries (perhaps Innocent smoothies, Dorset cereals, Robinsons Lemon Barley Water or HP Sauce), clothes (Hackett, Superdry, Charles Tyrwhitt, Stella McCartney, Hunter) or cars (Mini, Land Rover or, for the wealthy, Aston Martin). Our preferences, the brands that engage our hearts and minds, are personal favourites. They are also universal stories. All over the world, you’ll find long-standing affection for Britain’s brands: Tyrell’s Crisps in 35 countries; Barr’s Irn Bru in Russia; Fisherman’s Friends in Thailand; Johnnie Walker in India. Britain’s brands are not only important to consumers in the UK, they inspire the world. Our brands are influential, positive forces and, as the UK seeks a new role for itself on the international stage, they are vital for our success.
Between 1990 and 2011 investment in branding in the UK trebled in value with no downturn during the financial crisis. During the same period in the UK, investment in trade marks – the title deeds of brands – grew from £4.8bn to £15.1bn per annum. According to a recent report, trade mark intensive industries account for over 38% of UK GDP, significantly outstripping industries based on other forms of IP. Britain has always been at the forefront of brand development and Brexit presents our brands with new challenges and new opportunities. Britain’s trusted brands offer consistency and confidence during this period of political and administrative turbulence. Our brands are an active ingredient in the search for a mutually beneficial Brexit settlement and are integral to the Brexit process.
Unilever CEO Paul Polman emphasises the responsibilities brand owners share – trust is a must
The increasing value and changing nature of brands
‘A recognisable brand is one of the most valuable intangible assets a company can own’, says Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). WIPO confirms that, whilst trade marks provide legal certainty over origin and ownership, the value of brands relies on a matrix of tangible and intangible assets including intellectual property (IP) registrations.
WIPO also stresses the changing nature of brands. We tend to think of brands as emblematic of businesses. However, through digitisation, social media and global communication, not only are companies managing their reputations more consciously and extending their brand reach but also individuals and new socio-economic groups are participating in the process of branding.
“Branding is no longer the purview of companies alone. Increasingly individual and civil society organisation such as charities, the world of sports and entertainment are adopting an active approach to branding” 
“Cities, regions and nations are more actively seeking to develop branding strategies”
Currently, the top three nation brands are the USA, Germany and Great Britain. A Brexit led by Britain’s brands can enhance this position still further.
Danny Boyle’s innovative brand Britain enthused the world in 2012
To secure the future of Britain’s brands there are three compatible strategies
1. Britain – an international nation brand
Following the referendum decision, Brexit presents the UK with a unique opportunity to enhance Britain’s positive brand narrative, as well as to engage with partners in trade. Britain’s global, national, regional and personal brands require a relevant, inclusive, supportive, diverse ‘brand Britain’. The post-Olympic GREAT Britain campaign has developed into just such a product. Further defining Britain’s Brexit brand is vital to the interests of our brand owners.
A positive Brexit is crucial for brands
 IPO, Fast Facts 2017
 European Patent Office and European Union Intellectual Property Office, Intellectual property rights intensive industries and economic performance in the European Union, 2016
 WIPO, Brands – Reputation and Image in the Global Marketplace, 2013
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 GfK, Nation Brand Index, 2016
2. A new relationship with a new European Union
Strong brands do not merely survive challenges, they thrive on them. Just as great military victories become part of a nation’s history, brands develop folklore of their own. American jeans and British music are two reasons why the Berlin wall was pushed over from within, not battered down from without. International brands compete by appealing across borders and cultures – they are never negative.
The EU is an organisation with which we are in constant dialogue. The nations and consumers of Europe remain individually and collectively bound up with the success of Britain’s brands. During Brexit negotiations, Britain and her multinational brands must maintain their strong connections with the people and businesses of Europe through co-operation and collaboration with EU and national customs, trade, business and cultural organisations. Britain’s multinational brands will continue to be important stakeholders in all international IP registration systems and Government must therefore maintain our position at the forefront of trade and regulatory reform in the EU and internationally.
3. The UK – creative legislation for a creative economy
Britain’s brands are successful because Britain has sought to create a regulatory environment in which they prosper. Reliable, enforceable IP rights are hallmarks of a successful brand-based economy. The guarantee of origin provided by trade marks and the value patents, designs, copyright and other rights add, validate trade and underpin consumer confidence. Through the work of The Intellectual Property Office, British intellectual property rights have always enjoyed ‘a high presumption of validity’. The unique characteristics of successful brands are, in part, a result of the high quality of UK IP administration. Our heritage of IP legislation emphasises practical values: usefulness, fairness, quality, accountability, accessibility and the need to balance the demands of the market with society’s requirements. IP rights only have value though if they can be enforced and the UK, while making strong progress through such initiatives as the IP Enterprise Court, has made no progress towards a regime where brands are well protected from misappropriation, a criticism levelled at the UK in a Government study in 2006 and still not addressed. A nimble, creative, more independent UK IP regulation system, can benefit Britain’s brands at home and set the standard for IP regulation and brand development abroad.
Unique British IP – the Harris Tweed Certification Mark is a global symbol of quality, sanctioned by innovative British legislation (in this case the Harris Tweed Act of 1993)
Towards a productive brand ecosystem
Britain’s brands are diverse – that is their defining characteristic. Each has its own, hard won values. Our brands compete regionally, nationally and globally. To succeed, Britain’s brands require a holistic approach that celebrates our differing talents. We need to showcase our role as a legislative leader in the field of brand development, whilst remaining at the heart of European and international regulatory reform, so that Brexit will allow Britain’s brands to prosper.
Great Britain: ‘attractive to brands and an attractive brand’
Britain’s strong brands can lead to Brexit success. They encapsulate a positive national image that others seek to emulate. Britain’s brands have a crucial role to play, leading for Britain in the Brexit process.
As the UK negotiates to leave the EU and strengthen trade arrangements internationally, the focus will inevitably be on key sectors of the economy. Care must be taken not to allow this “sector specific” perspective to dilute the contribution of brands.
Although brands are sources of stability and trust, they reflect the realities of the market. Natural selection dictates that only the best survive. To maintain the strength of our brands, Brexit provides an opportunity for brands to extend and develop global reach outside the EU. Within the EU, the maintenance of frictionless trade or, at the very least, trade with as little friction as possible should be our objective.
Competitive trade arrangements and the intellectual property framework, embracing both the registration of rights, the protection via unregistered rights and enforcement, will be of significance if the UK is to sustain its enviable lead. Britain’s leading role in the development of this framework in Europe and the wider world must be maintained.