UK marketers and creative professionals don’t have a plan to communicate what Brexit means for brands and consumers in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union, according to panellists debating the future of ‘Brand Britain’ at the Festival of Marketing today (6 October).
BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie said marketers and creatives – 96% of whom supported Remain in the referendum, according to the Creative Industries Federation – are “lacking certainty of investment and plan” because they are so “discombobulated” by the result.
“We as executives don’t know our story,” said Davie, a former marketer at Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo. “That does present real risk. In my world, that’s about inward investment, [for example] where you site production [of TV programmes].”
His comments were echoed by fellow panellists Martin Glenn, CEO of The Football Association; India Gary-Martin, founder of luxury cosmetics brand Only Fingers and Toes; and Ipsos MORI CEO Ben Page. Former culture minister Ed Vaizey moderated the debate.
All agreed that Britain and its brands can draw on important positive associations, but there is “a danger we become introspective” rather than “projecting confidence and the positive things about the UK”, Page said. He gave British manners and sense of humour as examples but added that the country needs to shake off “jingoism”.
Glenn added that “a key part of Britain’s essence is fair play and trust”, arguing that its football and politics are the “cleanest” in the world, but that the country needs to “redouble efforts to market and sell our services”.
The dangers of Brexit to brands were highlighted by Gary-Martin – born in the US but resident in the UK for 20 years – whose medium-sized manufacturing business is “exposed in a significant way” because of economic uncertainty.
She has been forced to consider relocating manufacturing from France to the US in case EU import tariffs are imposed, which would potentially add to costs and therefore the price charged to consumers.
UK investors, meanwhile, have been reluctant to commit funds until the result of upcoming trade negotiations is clearer. But brands must still make key business decisions before then, she added: “You can’t wait. You have to start acting before you know what is going to happen.”
Davie argued a key challenge for marketers is that UK consumers are feeling “disconnected from a global story” and “do not feel part of” globalisation. He advised brands to avoid being seen as connected to the establishment: “[Consumers] want a voice distinct from those speaking for us.”