British heritage brands’ eastern promise

March 21, 2014
Jemma Chalcroft

Rewind 200 years. The British Empire covered 14 million square miles of the planet and Britain dominated world trade, economy and society. British products were sold all over the globe simply because the British were leaders in industry.

[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]British heritage brands offer countries like Japan the perfect mix of traditional and cool[/quote] Fast forward to 2014 and many of those British brands are still available today; Twining’s Tea, Cadbury’s, Fortnum & Masons. But today British brands are in global demand for different reasons. It’s their history, their quirky stories that make them interesting and desirable; British heritage brands offer countries like Japan the perfect mix of traditional and cool.

Last week I was in Tokyo launching the new Caterham Seven 160 to the Japanese media. Whilst I was there I became fascinated by the Japanese culture; the fashion, the food, the transport… and their Anglophilia.

[quote align=”left” color=”#999999″]‘Made in the U.K.’ label + Nice British heritage story = Massive desirability[/quote] Japan is the leading fashion market in Asia, they are the trend setters and British fashion brands are a big deal and big business. A ‘Made in the U.K.’ label + a nice British heritage story = massive desirability. After America, Japan is the British fashion industry’s second biggest export market. Some companies, like Burberry, license their brand in Japan so the clothes are made locally in more petite sizes to specifically cater for the market; even though the clothes aren’t technically ‘Made in Britain’ the demand for an authentic British product with a genuine heritage is just as strong.

And the same goes for cars. Even for a niche brand like Caterham; Japan is their second largest export market after France. It seems bizarre that so far away from Europe Caterham is so popular but it’s always been that way – they simply love unconventional, charming British things.

What does this mean for automotive PR?

Or in fact, any British brand trying to engage an Asian audience? The importance of brand history is crucial – Individuality, credibility and longevity are the virtues that will provide a compelling story that Asian consumers will buy into.

I attended an owner’s club meet at a book store in Tokyo last Sunday and the car park was packed with British cars which were a very long way from home. Lotus Elise and Esprit models, Caterham Sevens and even a McLaren MP4-12C; it was quite surreal seeing these cars against such an exotic back drop. The owners were real enthusiasts but didn’t speak a word of English and had probably never even been to Britain. Despite this it seems our inimitable British style and our rich history captivates our Eastern friends.

I guess the Japanese are just as fascinated with us as I am with them.

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