Saturday, October 27, 2007

North, South, Britishness and Class

Class is everywhere in Britain. Middle class people seem obsessed by it and often write insightful articles about the attitudes of the middle class (guilt and fear) and (presumably from observation through a powerful telescope) the attitudes of the working class/poor people.

Class is one of those issues I feel very strongly about but have absolutely no idea what I feel. Is it a problem, or is it part of our national identity and therefore something to be celebrated? Is it right or wrong? Should we be proud of and identify with our fated caste?

Recently there has been much discussion over some research from Sheffield University over the "new North-South divide." This fits in with discussion of class: as with class, most of the debate centres around the stereotypes: the comfortable, Daily Mail-reading, wine drinking suburbanite southerner and the poor, flat-cap wearing, beer-swilling, urban (or rural?) Northerner.

Recently I was in Lancaster (in the North) and saw a poster advertising a particular brand of chewing gum. The tagline was: "softer than a shandy-drinking southerner". The advert was remarkably fit for purpose. It also occurred to me that the advertiser had done an excellent job plugging into (presumably) local feelings of identifying with "the North."

I also wondered what the distribution for this poster could be expected to be. I was surprised when, after taking the train from Lancaster to Birmingham, I saw the same advert in Birmingham.

So if Sheffield University thinks the North-South divide runs between Bristol and the Humber Estuary, where do Cadbury Schweppes think it is, based on the distribution of their inspired advertising campaign.

Disclosure: I am a major shareholder in Cadbury Schweppes. No, just kidding! I don't even like chewing gum that much.

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