Lets set the scene for this blog... It was June 2016 and the UK government thought it would be a great idea to hold a referendum to see if the British nationals wanted to remain within the EU. The result barely produced a majority decision however the leavers won and thus Brexit became real.
It has been nearly three dark and gloomy years of arguments and the UK government are no closer to leaving the EU as they were in 2016.
Within these three years, to say it has been turbulent is certainly an understatement.
Will Brext happen or will it crumble?
Will the UK leave the EU with or without a deal?
Is brexit going to be hard or soft?
In more contemporary times, we have witnessed numerous 'meaningful votes' that I have lost count.
In all honesty, when I watch and take great interest of Prime Minister's Questions - it is like watching children bickering on a school playground. It is an embarrassment to the reputation and history of the UK.
Brexit and Marketing
One question that I am often finding myself on the receiving end of is "How is Brexit going to affect marketing?"
Too be brutally honest, I firmly believe that leaving the EU will help small businesses within a marketing sense. I will explain why later on!
RIghtfully, business owners are concerned about Brexit - many would prefer a Deal to leave the EU whereas other business owners would prefer a No Deal Brexit. The concept is subjective!
Naturally, within the marketing world there are evident questions that occur around economy and trade:
- Will business owners and marketers become more frugal?
- Will there be a lasting impact on imports and exports?
- Will I have to charge my consumers more money?
I will be answering the most frequently asked questions that I receive at the end of this blog.
Brands have been proactive in their Post-Brexit contingency plans - whilst some are keeping them confidential others are making them public. I have personally been participating in Post-Brexit talks with some clients and aiding them with thier plans. And to be frank - they are very extensive.
So without further ado lets embark on learning the future of marketing in a Post-Brexit Britain.
Budgets and marketing creativity
Within the UK - we have witnessed six years of continual growth in marketing budgets. However this came to an abrupt end in Q4 of 2018, according to the IPA’s long-running Bellwether report.
It seems that international marketers are losing confidence in the British economy and are abolishing are reducing marketing budgets as a direct result.
“Uncertainty has proven to be a harmful side-effect of the UK’s recent Brexit negotiation process, breeding indecisiveness among UK businesses and denting consumer confidence,” says Joseph Hayes, an economist at HIS Markit and an author at the Bellwether.
“With still no sign of what lies ahead for UK-EU relations, the current situation provides little encouragement that marketing budget growth will return after flatlining in Q4, with many firms adopting a wait-and-see strategy. We do however expect to see marketing budget improvements once a new relationship with the EU becomes apparent.”
Reputable high street retailer Next acclaims that Brexit has had absolutely no impact on its marketing strategy. Brexit-supporting CEO Simon Wolfson believes everyone is “assuming a level of chaos without providing any analysis of what it is that’s going to drive that chaos”.
It is widely predicted that the consumer price index will increase in a Post Brexit milieu. Whereby, Next forecasts that they will sav e £15m in tariffs if a no-deal occured. The rationale for this comes from lower trade tariffs. Thus, the end consumer will notice a considerable saving in their clothing bills.
On the contrary, Walmart's Asda has taken a diverse approach to preparing for Brexit. The chain's marketing team has announced that it has been especially “sensitive” to changes this summer and the possibility that fewer people will take their holidays abroad.
“We are looking at stay-cation and realising that travel and such might not be the same through the summer,” chief customer officer Andy Murray explains.
“So shooting locations, making sure we get a sense of what a great British vacation might look like. That’s a reality and human truth we can all get our heads around.”
What does ‘brand Britain’ look like Post Brexit?
Brands’ association with post-Brexit will be a divisive and subjective one. Some brands will look to exploit it to ptheir ‘Britishness’, while others might want to totally avoid the concept.
“Because brands are an important part of our identity and the heat around Brexit has increased, being a ‘remainer’ or a ‘leaver’ has also become part of our identity, therefore I think brands that are more associated with overtly British values will also get associated with Leave,” says Marketing Week columnist and branding expert Helen Edwards.
“Some brands and businesses may choose to leverage this: the new Jacks brand from Tesco, with its red, white and blue livery and British flag seems to be overtly appealing to Leave, and Wetherspoons is launching its Brexit beer mats; others may leverage ‘remainer’ values, as Jigsaw did with its diversity campaign.”
‘Britishness’ has become a firm foundation of Morrisons’ marketing strategy and is something CEO Dave Potts says it will continue to build upon regardless of the political outcome.
Whereas, other brands would need to re-evaluate their British association. In particular the brands that prefer to remain low-key about thier 'Brand Britain' affiliation such as: Nationwide and Country Life.
Nevertheless, 'Brand Britain' has apparently witnessed a steady growth to date. With UK advertising exports actually accelerating after the Brexit vote. Not just by a minimal amount; they were up 18% in 2017 to £6.9bn compared with 2016’s £5.8bn, suggesting the vote to leave the EU has not impacted the sentiment of clients overseas at all.
However, thinking critically the hard facts of the aforementioned could render relevance to the fact that clients are wishing to conduct business with Britain. All before the inevitable happens when we leave the EU. This is due to the pound being currently weaker. On the other hand, if this was to be true then alternative industries would witness similar growth. Where in matter of fact, the mean of exports is uo by 7%.
“We can only guess the damage that’s being done to brand Britain at the moment,” says James Murphy, founding partner of creative agency Adam& Eve/DDB. “But it may well be that while on one level people are able to look at the political class and say it’s an exercise in incompetence on a very public stage, perhaps there’s a separate view of business – particularly of creative businesses and innovation in the UK – that we will maintain our momentum.”
In conclusion, I feel that foreign brands will temporarily cease operations with UK marketing agencies whilst the cloud of uncertainty clears. However, I predict that 'Brand Britain' will increase rapidly. Us marketers shouldn't fear Brexit - we should embrace it and remember why we are British and what makes us unique. In the interim it will be difficult... there is no denying that fact but as a small island we have overcome many challenging scenarios in the past.