After another week of Brexit bickering, one story livening up the debate was the news that Airbus is thinking about jumping ship if the UK fails to secure a transition deal. And if that wasn’t a big enough blow to the ‘keep calm and carry on’ brigade, it was shortly followed by Mini and Rolls Royce (now owned by BMW) who announced they too are considering pressing the ejector seat button.
While this type of posturing is an inevitable part of the Brexit meltdown, it felt all the more heart-wrenching that two brands that are so wedded to their British heritage would be considering an expat life.
But alas, Rolls and Mini weren’t the only brands this month to be caught up in the debate. While Mr Trump has been busy making enemies stateside, it appears that Harley Davidson have been taking the brunt of retaliatory tariffs. They too are talking of moving production outside of the US - albeit not all of it.
All of this raises the question, how much does brand heritage and authenticity really matter? My answer would be, a lot. It’s like the winemakers of France packing up their grapes, putting up two fingers, and heading to Moldovia to make their champagne. So as the brand team at Rolls and Mini quietly cry into their Earl Grey, we thought we’d throw them some (vaguely) helpful advice on how to divorce the UK without actually divorcing the UK.
First up is the Apple approach.
Their get out of jail free card is the carefully crafted line 'designed in California' (cough cough - made in China). While this endearing twist sounded like a dead cert to us, we were saddened to hear that the new mini was actually designed by an American called Frank Stephenson... who probably has some British ancestry, but that might be a bit of a stretch.
The second option would be the Swiss watchmaking approach.
In Switzerland there are strict rules about what brands can say ‘Swiss Made’. These range from things like the movement must be cased up in Switzerland and any final inspections carried out by the Swiss. While all of this could be negotiable with the British government, it might be possible for Mini to keep their hubcap division in the UK and have a Nest Home camera setup for the few remaining Brit engineers to do their final inspections remotely... perhaps.
Finally, we thought the Hershey approach was worth a punt.
Chocolate magnate Milton Hershey named an entire town after his company in 1905, which begs the question as to whether Rolls Royce could simply name a town “Britain” and claim under some (admittedly tenuous) marketing that they continued to manufacture here.
In the end it might be easier for them to stay put - but then if this past week has shown us anything, it's that Germany is good at making an unexpected departure.
David Partington, associate director, Dragon Rouge London