Exports: the rise of ‘Brand British’ in the global market

Steve Perez, founder and chairman of major drinks producer Global Brands, explains how and why British businesses are growing internationally and shares his top tips for success.

British exports have never been stronger. The world wants what we’ve got to offer and the prospect of increased profits and turnover is too good for home-grown businesses to turn down.

But with two in five UK businesses planning to enter a new market in the next six months, it’s a competitive world out there.

There’s booming global demand for ‘Brand British’. To make the most of this, companies have got to be innovative. You can’t just stick a ‘Made in Britain’ label on something and think it’ll sell. Products need provenance, heritage and quality.

At the beginning of 2017, the vast majority of global brands’ value sales were generated in the UK. Reducing our reliance on the UK by increasing the value of exports would help us future-proof the business.

We set ourselves an ambitious challenge: to export to 10 new countries around the globe by the end of the year. And we wanted a solid pipeline for future growth.

But we weren’t alone.

Statistics from the ONS show that UK companies increased export prices by 12.7 per cent year-on-year in the months following the Brexit vote. We wanted to grow our export business, and we were competing with companies cashing in on the weak pound.

If we were going to cut through the noise, we had to play to our strengths in line with wider market trends.

We had 17 brands in the portfolio at the time, and we chose just one to fly the flag: Franklin & Sons. It’s a range of tonics, soft drinks and mixers that has 130 years of British heritage setting it apart from the competition.

With Franklin & Sons, we saw a real opportunity to capitalise on global demand for premium goods.  According to Nielsen’s ‘Moving on Up’ report, the most common definition of premium products around the world is those ‘made with high-quality materials or ingredients’.

So we developed a bold, innovative marketing strategy, formed around ‘In the Best of Spirits Since 1886’. The aim was to major on the provenance of our ingredients and champion our British roots – traditionally associated with artisanship and quality.

The strategy told the story of the range being introduced in the 1800s, and the local-first ethos which has carried through to the flavours available today. Products from the range were paired with British gins which were already trading on provenance successfully, and which boosted our credibility.

Ultimately, if you’ve got a product with British heritage, telling its story will help you sell it.

The Franklin & Sons recipe for success

Don’t spread yourself too thinly

To support the sales and marketing strategy for Franklin & Sons, we categorised markets around the world from platinum to bronze. This meant we could allocate budget and resource to each, according to its potential return. Taking this approach helped us prioritise in a highly competitive environment.

Speak the language

To maximise impact in each market, we created a Franklin & Sons international brand guidelines document and bespoke sales materials. We took every opportunity to hammer home the British message. Websites were designed, developed and translated for local markets, including Japan.

Invest in your people

Marketing was key to our growth ambition. We appointed a new customer marketing manager to support the international sales team, as a dedicated resource to help facilitate our global expansion plans.

Build your network

To spread our international footprint effectively, we needed distribution partners with the right experience, and who demonstrated passion and enthusiasm during the tender process. Once selected, we hosted masterclasses to inspire and educate them about the Franklin & Sons brand, so they could confidently retell its British story to their customers.

A selection of each distributor’s premium gins was then paired with the relevant Franklin & Sons mixers, to make the perfect finished serve.

Need proof that it works?

Our target was ten new export markets in a year. We achieved 22.

We set our sights on five platinum markets and we’re well established in all of them.

We’ve reduced our reliance on the UK market, and grown our international profits by 50 per cent.  Driven by the international appeal of Franklin & Sons, we now export to 59 countries internationally.

Global Brands was a big name for a new business, founded in 1997 with no products to its name.  It was a public statement that one day we would sell all over the world, something we’ve worked hard to achieve.

Put innovation and customers at the heart of what you do, and there’s no reason why you can’t too.

Steve Perez is founder and chairman of major drinks producer, Global Brands.

Michael Somerville

Michael Somerville

Michael was senior reporter for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2018 to 2019.

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