Putting Britain Back Together

By Clark, Nicola | Marketing, October 28, 2009 | Go to article overview

Putting Britain Back Together


Clark, Nicola, Marketing


The latest 'Moody Britain' report shows consumers are angry at banks, politicians and the media, but have a positive attitude to retaking control of their lives. Nicola Clark looks at the key lessons for brands.

British consumers could be forgiven for breathing a collective sigh of relief. The nation has survived the financial Armageddon which was played out on a daily basis in a media that many feel should share the blame for the country's woes. The maxim that fear of failure is often worse than failure itself rings true, and the picture that emerges of British society in the first half of 2009 is of a country picking up the pieces and looking ahead.

However, the latest 'Moody Britain' research from McCann Erickson confirms that consumers feel angrier than ever. Let down by banks, politicians and the media, the public is in a less than buoyant mood While various pundits have continued to pontificate on the exact shape and form of the ever-elusive of recovery, for consumers the ups and downs of the FTSE 100 are not the definitive indicator of the state of the economy. In fact, for most, this has been a personal - almost imagined - recession, and recovery in sentiment in many ways supersedes our collective obsession with economic indicators.

The first recession of the 21st century existed within a media context of rolling news channels and an unprecedented fixation with the internet. The limitless publication possibilities of the web led to a feeding frenzy in the media, and, at the end of 2008, it was awash with words such as 'meltdown' and 'collapse'. So it was understandable that many consumers were panicking.

However, the Moody Britain report is not entirely gloomy, despite all the redundancies and other pressures that many consumers have faced in the past 12 months, often through no fault of their own. The research reveals that some consumers are 'appreciating the collective cultural detox' following the credit-fuelled excesses of the boom years. An increased emphasis on the home is evident in the research and there is a clear feeling that many are taking stock and reassessing their lives, in particular spending habits.

As people ditch status brands, and in the context of a collective guilt over the credit crisis, brands need to adopt a fresh sensitivity and convince consumers they are genuine.

The myth of the Blitz spirit

'The government is making me hate this country. I used to be dead proud of being English and now I hate the place. I don't want to move away because I love Newcastle and my family and friends, but I hate England I hate being English. It's so embarrassing ... the whole world laughs at England.'

Moody Britain respondent

Appeals to the 'Blitz spirit' might make British consumers feel good, but this sense of communities working together to overcome adversity is largely imagined and based on myth, according to Moody Britain.

The research revealed little sense of unity in recessionary Britain. Although 44% of consumers said that they believed the UK economy would be in a better state in 12 months, only 27% claimed their personal finances would improve in the same time frame. It is vital for brands to be aware of the difference between the economic recession and consumers' 'personal recession'.

There is no feeling that Britain is 'in it together', and for many the recession will be over only when they feel financially secure, regardless of what Robert Peston or Mervyn King might be telling them. The continuing disconnection of the country from its own citizens is clear - 20% of consumers value 'being British' even less as a result of the recession.

The rise of the canny consumer

MoneySaving Expert founder Martin Lewis the 'most searched for individual online' in the UK in the last quarter of 2008, according to Hitwise data. Indeed Lewis beating Barack Obama by 11%, illustrating the prevalence of the canny consumer. …

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