Brexit-up is hard to do! - Strategic Marketing and the EU Referendum

Brexit-up is hard to do! - Strategic Marketing and the EU Referendum

Let me make this clear from the outset, this isn’t a political blog, it’s a marketing focussed blog. It is not a vote for either side, it is a vote for quality strategic marketing and how this can influence people’s decisions. I can say this as I am undecided, who like many find themselves between a rock and a hard place - are you in or are you out? I can also write this impartially as this is being written half before and half after the event. This blog is focussing on the marketing elements of the EU referendum, nothing more and nothing less.

Hashtag Brexit

A combination of the words Britain and Exit. A word for the younger generation. A word that isn’t a word, but sums up an entire campaign. A campaign that will have repercussions for years if not decades to come, should never be belittled by combining two words that simply shorten everyone’s vocabulary and highlights the dumbing down of the English language. Was this to appeal to the younger generation? It clearly didn’t with the 18-24 year-old vote being the lower of all ages. The first disconnect between the political elite and the British youth.

Is it really the case that a vote on the UKs EU status can be summed up in the same way Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s relationship is? Indeed, it can and if there is to be another referendum in Scotland it will aptly be named ‘Indyref 2’ – more a poor remake than an original masterpiece.

Love it or hate it, this type of word play is here to stay and if it gets people talking about the event then doesn’t it serve its purpose?

​Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

For a consumer, if an organisation is lying to you it is difficult to build a relationship, let alone any type of lifetime value. Each campaign has been met with claim and counterclaim (from the fearmongering to slogans on buses). Isn’t this what marketers look for; a statistic that can be manipulated to elaborate on the positives? This maybe ok when dealing with shampoo, toothpaste or blogging (80% marketers agree with these statements*), but when you are dealing with people’s future this surely isn’t the way to go, especially when some statements are blatant lies while others are bordering on racist.

We seemed to have skipped passed the part where we discuss what is important to our target market – voters, going straight for the ‘let’s worry about that later’, the problem being, now we are in the later, no one has answers. If a corporate strategy had reached its conclusion with no future tactics then someone has not done their job properly – sack the board – wait, can’t do that, who will run the country!!!!

Even Beckham Couldn’t Bend It

It seemed the Remain campaign had everyone one their side that mattered, from high profile celebrities (such as David Beckham) to top business and financial analysts. The problem was, these figures were rarely seen, only giving comment. This left those who were paraded in front of us on primetime TV the campaigners than many would be making their decisions upon. Unfortunately, these discussions lead to the deflecting of questions and bickering like school children - not the way to increase a brands advocacy.

I saw a post on Facebook that summed this up – ‘clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with EU’. The only people to come out with any credibility were the presenters and Andrea Leadsom, who was eloquently spoken, stuck to facts and figures and was never brought down to finger pointing or the blame game.

The Fear Factor

We use fear in marketing to try and evoke an immediate behavioural change, such as to stop smoking or drink driving. This lead to a catch 22 situation for both parties as the Remain side could do nothing but use fear, fear of the unknown, fear of what might be lost, basically cult activity…. join us or the sky will cave in…. nope still waiting! Nothing was ever positive, which made people wonder why, and ultimately, vote leave.

The Leave party could not use hardened facts for the future, they were reliant on the now, the handing over of cash, the influx of ‘immigrants’ and living by others rules. It is easy to paint a picture of utopia when so many are disgruntled with the present and this seemed to be what the Leave party focussed on.

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

So now we know that the country has voted to leave the European Union, from an exceptional 72.2% turnout. What is startling being the lack of, or what seems to be a lack of any planning going forward. As marketers, we are always planning, testing and planning, reviewing and planning, it’s in our nature.

It is yet to be seen if the UK has made the right choice in breaking ties with the EU, but from a purely marketing perspective questions have to be asked on both sides as to how successful their campaigns have been when within hours of the final result, the top two search terms on Google were; What does it mean to leave the EU? and more worryingly What is the EU?

We will also have a new prime minister, a potential new leader of the opposition and a country divided and in protest of a democratic vote and the massive disconnect between areas voting to remain (London, Scotland and some major cities) and those voting to leave. None of this was on top of anyone’s wish list and surely not the outcome any party wanted.

Although the main objective from the Leave party, was met was this down to good strategic planning? or quite simply years of politics not connecting with the target audience or so many levels? After all, one of the key fundamentals for any marketing or business plan must be to connect with your target audience to generate a positive outcome and move forward as a stronger unit, right?

*5 marketers were asked the question - ‘should marketing focus on the positives?’

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