To be British means many things: taking the rain in our stride, screaming at the footie, enjoying a cold lager and stocking up on PG tips are some to name a few. Consumer brands often play upon this resilience and emotional attachment.
What is more interesting is how British B2B brands connect with their audience when pivoting on national values. Here, we look at some of the most successful British brands, what makes makes them so quintessentially British and how they keep driving their success forwards.
Famous for their bright yellow impact, there is little more that screams Britishness than the tractors, loaders, forklifts, excavators, dumpers and drivetrains that JCB carries in its armoury. The classic sight of a JCB digger trudging along on a local motorway on a rainy day typically evokes pride in our steadfast work ethic.
As one of the top 3 manufacturers of construction equipment in the world, JCB is now a truly global brand but remains a private company. At the heart of the brand JCB still remains a family-run business maintaining a sense of true British culture: hard-working, restless innovation and sheer ambition to push the company towards new levels of success.
While the British representation is obvious and explicit it is still a worthwhile endeavour to consider the nature of British representation at what is an absolute behemoth of a brand, employing over 40,000 employees and hosting over 280 aircraft. The story behind British Airways epitomises a determination in the face of adversity. From a low point in 1981 when British Airways were facing real financial struggles (losing £140mn, or £200 a minute), the business managed to pull off an entire u-turn and become the world’s most profitable airline by 1996.
The emphasis on putting people first and on efficiency resonates with being British and the company portrays this strongly in both brand and culture. Understated at times, the brand and communication styles impresses by being both succinct and sharp. The airline is a thoroughly brilliant example of a great British B2B (and B2C) brand.
BAE Systems is the unquestioned beast of British engineering and a very successful high tech exporter. Employing over 88,200 people with 33,000 in the UK, the company is at the forefront of technological innovation, producing some of the most sophisticated defence items in the world.
BAE Systems holds a remarkable heritage with roots tracing back to 1560 showcasing a microcosm of Britain’s industrial history – leveraging ambition, technology and advanced intelligence helping to project Britain’s power on a global scale. BAE Systems supports British athletes in achieving sporting excellence while also generating huge exports in cutting edge technology and engineering solutions. Precision, Focus and Completeness are three themes that are conveyed by BAE and hence this brand is a prime example of doing things the British way.
As the world’s third largest supplier of enterprise resource planning software, Sage group is one of strongest software companies. In 2006 the became the largest supplier of accountancy service software to small business.
Sage began as a modest British startup with big ambitions, like many other business champions and now has over 13,000 employees. Staying true to it’s British roots, Sage has an admirable policy of helping the next generation and has given away over £1mn worth of software to high schools, universities and colleges since 2008.
Providing a ‘hand up’ rather than ‘hand out’, while nurturing ambition is a core British value and this is clearly a cornerstone of the Sage brand. As a growing and deep-rooted British tech company, there are few doing a better job than Sage at the moment.
From being in business since 1696, Aviva has grown to serve 34mn customers around the world and 16mn in the UK. Combining life insurance, general insurance and asset management under one powerful brand, Aviva seeks to make a positive contribution to British society freeing both customers and employees from the fear of uncertainty.
At the forefront of Aviva’s British identity are the long-held sponsorship agreements the company has honoured in British sport. As the title sponsor of premiership rugby for 8 years from 2011-2018, Aviva has become synonymous with Saturday morning games, a strong emotional driver for many Brits. The company has helped to accelerate the prestige of Premiership Rugby both nationally and internationally and beyond the spotlight, Aviva has supported grassroots rugby.
As the UK enters a new economic landscape, the 5 companies listed above should stand as examples of how staying true to British values will help drive commercial success.