Insight: McCann Worldgroup UK – In climate of global uncertainty, Brits resolute, proud and unexpectedly optimistic

Against a global background of isolationism, uncertainty, and mistrust, today’s Britons demonstrate unexpected confidence in their nation and belief in the potential of foundational institutions and major brands for stability, truth, and leadership finds a new research initiative ‘Truth About Britain’ launched by McCann Worldgroup UK .

The study, designed to track and analyse the British consumer’s mood over the next 12 months, uncovers a surprising uplift in optimism about local community and the nation. While many aspects of British life – ranging from brands, friends, media, politicians and British institutions – are subject to intense scrutiny and sensitivity, there is an overall renewed optimism and pride in Britain today, with 69% saying that despite its faults, Britain is still a great country to live in.

Global uncertainty, personal hope, national pride
57% of respondents agreed that “home is my sanctuary because the world feels like a scarier place.” Indeed, the further from home, the more negative and worrying the world appears to the British.
• Only 1 in 3 Brits (37%) said that they viewed the mood within the broader community as positive
• Only 1 in 4 (25%) said they viewed the mood within the country as a whole as positive
• 3 out of 4 (76%) said that people are generally angrier nowadays

Revealing further contrast between national perspective and individual circumstances, the research reveals a wider sentiment among the British public that on a personal scale, most respondents are relatively positive
• More than half (55%) rating their current personal mood as individuals to be positive.

This positive attitude is compounded with an enduring general sense of pride in their nationality and quintessential British institutions (such as the BBC, the NHS, and the Royal Family)
• 61% of respondents claimed to be proud to be British.
• Almost half (45%) felt that Britain provides good opportunities for the individual, a massive increase since 2007*, when only a quarter felt this was true (27%).
• 69% also felt that despite its faults, Britain is still a great country to live in – the highest level since 2010*

‘Britain’ – what it means by region.
The data revealed directional tendencies that distinguished particularities within and across regions. These provide a template for understanding the macro-level forces at play in Britain today as well as emergent future indicators.
• Regionally, the greatest pride in being from Britain was apparent in East Anglia (72%) and the South West (71%), with the least pride felt in Scotland (55%) and the Northeast (50%).
• The Northeast and Wales are least likely to report that Britain provide good opportunities for the individual (29% for each versus 45% average). The Southwest and London (57% and 55%) were most likely to agree.
• Those in the Northeast and the Southwest are most likely to agree that they have experienced ‘increasing levels of gender equality in the workplace’ (43% and 40% vs. 34% nationally)
• Overall Wales (55%) and the Northeast (52%) are most likely to report feeling “more socially isolated than in the past”, while those in Scotland report this the least (32%)

Who are today’s trust-makers?
Brands, business leaders, and politicians are all felt to have become less truthful over the course of the last 20 years. Most mistrust is reserved for Britain’s political class, trusted even less than car salesmen to tell the truth. Reassuringly, in an era of ‘alternative facts’, the public still expect Government agencies to defend the truth – ranking them 2nd most responsible and the news media 3rd – revealing a gap between expectation and reality.

Brand nation
For Brits today, the most valued brands are those representing stability, reliability and permanence – that connect with British character in a meaningful way, such as John Lewis. These bedrock brands are those that are firmly rooted in a clear set of values and provide confidence in face of uncertainty. The research showed overwhelming preference for classic brands that have been around for a long time (72%), and which provided reassurance (74%) and reliability (83%).

Whilst trust and truth are a major concern for consumers in their relationship with brands, the outright political position of those brands is subject to resistance. The challenge for brands is to remain relevant in the world today, yet avoid the pitfalls of political affiliation.
• Almost half believe that brands shouldn’t get involved in making political statements (48%), while for a third this type of brand activism is entirely unimportant.
• Yet, 58% believe that brands must stand up for what they believe in
• 45% prefer brands that have a strong identity and clear role in the world.

Regions & Brands: great expectations
• In the Northeast and Scotland, 50% claim that brands say something about themselves and their identity, versus 41% nationally, and only 33% in Yorkshire and Humberside
• The Southwest (27%) and Wales (18%) are most dismissive of the view that “more than ever, it’s important for brands and companies to have a voice on social issues”, while nearly half in Greater London and the Northeast (47% and 48%) believe the contrary
• Over ⅓ of Londoners (36%) would refuse to buy from a brand that holds different political views than their own, with close agreement by those in Scotland and the South West (32%)
• 76% of those in the Southwest prefer a brand that is local, as opposed to 60% nationally. They are also the most likely to prefer brands that reassure rather than challenge (83% versus 74% nationally)

Decreasing spheres of influence
While platforms, opportunities, and sources of influence are proliferating, the likelihood of connecting effectively for brands using these channels is narrowing. Interestingly for marketers, 59% of brits state they do not have the means to influence brand and product choices of their peers through social media channels.

18-24 years old buck the trend
With surprising consistency, 18-24 year olds buck many of the trends shown in the rest of the nation, and set themselves apart as a distinct voice in national opinions. They are decisive in their views, and willing to cut a brand or a friend loose if they disagree with them. One third believe brands should make political statements, (vs just under one sixth nationally). They admire innovative global technology companies, but take politics seriously and vote with their wallets: 39% would refuse to buy from a brand that holds different political views (the highest across all age segments). This age group is also most likely to unfriend or unfollow based on political opinion alone.

Mark Lund, Group CEO, McCann Worldgroup UK commented: “Our ‘Truth About Britain’ study provides a richer story than the post-Brexit headlines imply. This is a proud and resilient nation, but one divided on multiple levels. There is a great deal to build on but brands have a real challenge to meet these varied expectations. There are no generalities anymore, and no easy assumptions.”

Rodney Collins, Regional Director, McCann Truth Central added: “We’ve been tracking the mood of British consumers since 2007 through national and global studies ranging from mums to youth, from wellness to affluence. What sets this initiative apart is the extent to which we are increasing, both the frequency and the breadth of our truth hunting in Britain. Over the course of the next twelve months, we will seek to examine all aspects of British life today which enable brands to engage meaningfully.”

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