Russell Parsons: Brands are better off leaving politics to Parliament

Be it the death of a musical legend or the mania surrounding an Oscar-winner, brands are always quick to tap the current cultural zeitgeist to become part of the conversation. As ephemeral as these pop culture opportunities are, brands that do it right can nicely reflect the mood of the nation.

Russell Parsons

With politics, in particular the biggest question of our generation – whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union – the vast majority of brands have so far sat this one out and most likely will continue to do so.

There have been some exceptions. Thirty-six FTSE 100 companies pledged their support for the ‘remain’ campaign last week, while Ryanair launched a campaign to try to persuade people to “vote yes to Europe”.

However, there were as many observations about those that declined to reveal their position – Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and by measure of their silence the vast majority of consumer-facing brands – as there were about those that did not. Some observers demanded that brands make a stand.

I say don’t. I do not begrudge those that have revealed their hand. There is a considerable amount at stake and it is nice to see CEOs with personality. Ryanair will be directly affected by the outcome; it owes a large chunk of its success to the single aviation area that allowed budget airlines to take hold. It also has a colourful CEO, who is never shy to take a stance.

I don’t think it’s necessary to adopt a public position. I say this not because there is a danger of a brand backlash if you fall on the wrong side of popular opinion; I am all for brands having a purpose that speaks to their provenance. On a corporate level, lobby behind the scenes, make contingency plans but do not feel any obligation to pipe up. Frankly, voters are not waiting to hear what their favourite supermarket, snack or drink brand has to say on the matter. They want a satisfying experience, not a brand’s two pennies’ worth on the consequences of an exit.

We will hear so much over the next few months from politicians, economists and other assorted experts, and probably be left none the wiser. There is nothing any brand can add to make our decision any easier.

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  • Marc Cave 4 Mar 2016 at 12:16 pm

    There is a yawning political vacuum which brands could fill….so long as it’s with ACTIONS not words. Politics is just making things better for people. Brands are better at that than politicians and civil servants. They understand people better. They deliver on people’s wants and needs better. Which is why people trust them more.

    I’d love to see IKEA invited to help solve the housing crisis. Or Durex invited to improve sexual health education. Or EE provide mobile healthcare and security solutions for the elderly.

    Power to the people? Not when we have untrusted politicians hogging it.

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