Brexit –Mistaken Marketing?


UK Votes to leave the EU.

You’d have to be living in a cave to not know this news!

Now, the purpose of this article is not to argue the merits on either side of the debate. It is not only not my place to discuss what citizens of  another country should do, but the decision has been rendered, making any argument moot in any event.

Rather, I wanted to make the point about the importance of marketing your product appropriately.

When most people think of marketing, they envision advertising. As I have repeatedly commented, the true essence of marketing is the development of a strategic approach to entice a specific, targeted audience to “purchase” what you have to sell. Advertising is merely one method undertaken to get this strategy in front of your audience.

And when I talk about what you have to sell, I don’t limit it to a product or a service. As you might know, I spent some time in federal politics several years ago. During this time, I acted as campaign manager for a period of about 18 months, leading into a federal election. I approached this role as I do any marketing campaign; in this case, my “product” was the candidate. As I said to her, we needed to approach our target audience (the constituents) and demonstrate to them why they should “purchase” her politics, rather than the politics of her opponents.

Brexit is no different.

Most pundits observing the lead-up to the referendum agree that both sides ran campaigns based on negativity. The Stay side argued that to leave the Union would result in extreme financial hardship, perhaps even a deep recession. Those in the Leave camp argued that to stay in the Union would continue to erode their wealth and their culture.

The politics of fear, in my view, created the outcome that they received; a close vote, with 52% opting to leave the Union. And now of course, there are many exclamations of regret. But democracy is what it is.  And, without any prior determination of what would constitute a win, anything more than 50% rules the day.

So let’s bring this back to the role marketing.

Perhaps both sides of this referendum misread the public. What if, instead of resorting to the politics of fear and hoping to frighten people into voting their way, the argument focused on positives.

What if those who argued to Stay spoke of the benefits of staying in the Union, rather than the doom and gloom that they predicted would happen if they left. What if they spoke of the benefits of free and open travel throughout the European Union, and the benefits of mobility rather than the negative position of financial ruin.

What if those who argued to Leave spoke to the ability to act more independently and negotiate their own trade deals, rather than focusing on the perils of open borders.

We all know that when it comes to making a decision, people like to do business with people who they like, know and trust. We also know that people make decisions primarily based on emotions. It is unfortunate that those people who are in positions of power – those we should be able to trust – have benefited over the past several years from creating a culture of fear, and have controlled decisions through what I call “the Chicken Little approach”.

Current global affairs, whether we agree with the various positions are not, are demonstrating that the pendulum is swinging the other way, and that people are fed up with the way things have been done over the past several decades. They are looking for change.  And savvy marketers would be wise to heed this call and understand the importance of reading your target audience and responding with strategies that make sense to them.

Until next time…

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