Lansons Conversations

BOGOF – Was Cameron was right to stand by Brand Britain?

As the fallout to Cameron’s recent move at the EU summit continues (not least within his own government) it’s worth taking a step back and looking at it from a brand perspective. Was Cameron was right to protect the British brand by fighting against the single currency?

As a brand it’s always a dangerous game selling oneself short and not protecting your value. Under-selling your services can mean the difference between those who survive a recession and thrive in its aftermath and those who feel the hard hit of price cuts and drive themselves out of business.

If we look at retail price wars, there are numerous textbook examples of brands that have been compromised for short term gain. While the initial buzz can deliver returns, competing on price is harder to maintain in the long-term. Once brands realise that they can no longer afford to keep cutting their prices they return to the normal margins. But consumers are so used to how cheap it is that when the time comes companies can soon find themselves losing customers as they are no longer willing to pay full price and will happily switch to a cheaper version. So its viability as a long-term strategy tends only to be for those who can truly afford to do it. If you know that you can’t sustain this momentum you need to have other USPs and values which make you different from your competitors.

Competing on price should be left to the big boys but we’re even beginning to see shades of concern within the major supermarkets – continuous offers and price cuts begin to take their toll and can start to affect the overall outlook and strategy of the company. What happens when you can cut no more – if price is all you have what other brand values do you have to fall back on?

So how does this lead back to Brand Britain? The City of London is one of the Britain’s major selling points; Cameron felt that signing up to the EU treaty could potentially harm the City of London as a financial centre. He was also under pressure from his party to make the ‘right’ decision. Cameron believed he was doing the right thing in the interest of the people and the country – he felt that buying into the treaty would be selling Britain short, and while a BOGOF offer looked nice in the short term perhaps this wasn’t the right decision for the overall long term strategy. There’s also a risk of us not being able to maintain the momentum of the other big players and possible that his customers (finance houses) would switch to a cheaper option (leave the UK). Sceptics say we’ll now be left out in the cold and for more than just the winter, but getting the EU back on its feet is going to take some time…and we all know it’s not over yet.

An additional consideration for “brand Britain” is the looming independence referendum in Scotland. Whether his decision strengthened or weakened these ties, only time will tell.

Taking the high road can be a lonely journey, but it’s clear that for Cameron protecting the brand and continuing to try to add value was what was on his mind. Now was this just a bulldog with a big head? We will have to wait and see…