3 Brexit Lessons for Brands | Views

Clarity. Authenticity. Leadership.

Crisis, what crisis? Two weeks ago, there was disbelief from both sides of the EU referendum. For Vote Remain, there was incredulity they had lost. Yet none were more surprised than Vote Leave, that they had actually won. Remember Nigel Farage conceded defeat ‪at 10pm, “unconceding” mere hours later.

Now our country, and its businesses, need to progress to a more reflective, pragmatic point of view. Looking to the future and understanding what Brexit means for us.

Emotions are still running high and, clearly, there are ‘choppy waters ahead’: nobody knows what the future holds. So what can we learn?

Well, firstly that when political campaigns work, they work brilliantly well, often by ushering in a new hope and a new vision. They offer something different which is the fundamental purpose of a brand. In light of the EU referendum campaign, and its aftermath, we’ve thought about 3 key lessons for brands:


Lesson #1
Clarity – being clear about who you are and what you do

The leave campaign offered their difference with ‘Take back control’. It was powerful and emotive and follows in a long line of election campaigns from ‘Education, Education, Education’ to Barack Obama’s ‘Yes, we can.’ A simply defined set of words encapsulating an idea, a vision. ‘Take Back Control’ was emotional and empowering whereas ‘Stronger In’ focused on the negative cost of Brexit: project fear with no clear focus for its argument. The lesson here is to make it easy for people to understand your brand and why they should buy in to it, rather than counteracting your competition.


Lesson #2
Authenticity – your brand must be rooted in its truth

Election promises were rapidly backtracked upon within hours of the result. The £350 million promised to the NHS, UK’s ability to control immigration, George Osborne’s austerity budget and, of course, David Cameron reneging on a pre-referendum promise to immediately invoke Article 50, should vote leave succeed. The public have almost immediately lost faith in both campaigns and the government. The lesson here is be true to yourself and your own values. Don’t be something you’re not. And never promise something you can’t deliver.


Lesson #3
Leadership – it has to come from the top

When asked how highly he rated the EU, leader of the opposition, and remain campaigner Jeremy Corbyn, gave it 7.5 out of 10. In research terms, that’s a pretty good score. Our natural British reserve rarely allows us to rate anything above 8 or 9 out of 10. Everything can be improved, right? But this comment encapsulated an apparently lacklustre campaign. His allies have said his comments reflected the mood of labour party members. This may or may not be true but the reality is, a leader has to lead. Lesson number three is, if you’re for it, then you really need to get behind it. If you don’t believe then why should anyone else?


Like democracy itself, these brand lessons are not new. They’re age-old, tried and tested. They’re the strong foundations for any brand and can be demonstrated in the recent referendum campaigns. In these turbulent times it’s good to go back to the basics whilst looking to the future.