England have won the Ashes. As a cricket fan, I can’t tell you how good it is to write that! But much as I’d like it to be, this isn’t a three page edict on pitch preparation, batting collapses (Australian, obviously) or Mark Wood’s horse impression.
Whilst I was revelling in the Baggy Green misery, I was surprised to find myself starting to think about work. More specifically, I began weighing up the cost of all the self-confident statements made by members of the Australian squad in the run up to this summer’s series.
First Steve Smith, back then still the world’s number one batsman, claimed England ‘would not come close to Australia’. Then Shane Watson issued a thinly-veiled threat about the damage likely to be wrought be his team’s battery of fast bowlers. And all the while, perennial pantomime villain Mitchell Johnson verbally abused anyone who stepped within tickling distance of his moustache.
But in this country, we love nothing more than seeing the cocksure dethroned. It’s a very British thing: instead of celebrating our talents, we believe the decent thing is to build a bushell under which to hide one’s light. Maybe throw a blanket over the bushell too. And woe betide anyone who openly says they are better than someone else.
Of course, the Aussies have always taken hubris to the extreme, which is why almost the entire cricketing world is rejoicing in their spectacular crash and burn in Nottingham at the weekend. Yet being the best need not come at the expense of being well-liked and therein lies the lesson for all of us who work in communications.
For any brand hoping to gain affection here in the UK, the first thing to do is leave the tub-thumping self-love at home. Yes, great products and services are vital but gentle self-effacement, humbleness and a willingness to recognise others’ strengths are the ways to truly warm the cockles of any British heart.
That approach might be different to what has worked in other countries but this is also to be expected. After all, one of the great ironies of today’s globalised world is that one size is now further than ever from fitting all. And if you want an example of the success of our love for self-deprecation, just look at the way the #nomakeupselfie campaign captured the British public’s imagination last year.
So, next time you’re advising a big global brand on how to win hearts and minds in the UK, spare a thought for the communications mistakes of the Australian cricket team. And in the meantime, take a moment to savour that England won the Ashes. With just the right amount of humility, naturally.