"During great sporting spectacles involving English teams - from FIFA's Football World Cup to the Webb Ellis Rugby Union Trophy to The Ashes Test Cricket series - one cannot help being overwhelmed by the breakout of patriotic English flag-waving throughout this green and pleasant land. But it's not just the big sporting events, we're also witnessing a smaller but growing annual rash of red and white around the 23rd of April – St George's Day – in pubs, clubs and shops up and down the country.
So as a Destination Brand Developer, based in England, I have to swallow hard when people I meet tend to confuse Britain with England and I'm not just talking about our American friends. I'm also pointing the finger at some of my own compatriots right here in this land of ours.
And with the continuing onslaught of globalism triggering the opposite effect – tribalism - it's time, fellow place pioneers, to build an England brand – a brand that's different from the Britain brand. A brand that's unique, with a built-in future focus – worldwide!
Differentiate or Decline
The big question is: How can England differentiate itself, not only at home but also abroad?
I believe the first key is to avoid doing what most nations and destinations tend to do: try to be all-things-to-all-people. Next, England must focus on its primary strength and not on its secondary strengths. And finally, it mustn't just promote its glorious past but invest its past in order to fashion a fabulous future.
So let me cut to the chase and tell you what I think England's big brand idea should be - and why? And it's not the obvious - England's picture postcard geography, or its long and illustrious history, but its people – specifically, the language of its people – English – its mother tongue and its greatest export. 'The Lish' – my nickname for the English language – is considered by many to be the 'software-for-the-universal-mind' and soon, the defacto standard on the Internet.
A good test for a big brand idea is to ask: Does it have an enemy or competitor? Well, one of the Lish's brand extensions, American-English, is threatening to dominate the globe, thanks to Brand America's mega media brands – Hollywood, CNN and Voice of America to name just three brands. That's the bad news. The good news, however, is that England can recover its leadership status by positioning itself as the source of 'The real thing', 'The authentic and original', the 'Home of the world's language'.
The Human Touch
The Lish touches all aspects of human endeavour in the English-speaking world: medicine, law, business, technology, culture, education, government - the list goes on and on. It has generated brand extensions the world over – from American-English to Australian-English (Strine) to Singaporean-English (Singlish) to Indian-English (Hinglish) to Caribbean-English to Urban Rap. Not forgetting its local varieties – Scouse, Geordie, Brummie, Estuary English, Cockney, Shakespearean English, Legalese, Shorthand and Texting to name just a few, with many more varieties and innovations already in development, and more to come in the future.
Meanwhile over at the icons.org.uk website, you'll witness first hand the confusion between the England and Britain icons – from a cup of tea to the Spitfire. And while you're there please read and vote for the Lish's iconic Oxford English Dictionary – Brand England's universal symbol for “English Spoken Here”.
Now let me think, for my next overseas trip, which flag shall I stick on my knapsack – the Union Jack or St George's Cross?"