Marketers ‘need to act before March 2017’, says expert panel

October 12, 2016

With Prime Minister Teresa May announcing that the UK will begin the formal Brexit negotiation process by the end of March 2017, the temptation for British businesses is to leave it until then to make key business decisions.

But brands can’t afford to be that reactive, according to an expert panel at the Festival of Marketing.

India Gary-Martin, founder of luxury cosmetics brand Only Fingers and Toes, said: “You can’t wait. You have to start acting before you know what is going to happen.”

Gary-Martin’s medium-sized manufacturing business has been “exposed in a significant way” because of economic uncertainty, Marketing Week reports.

Gary-Martin suggested she will be required to decide on whether to relocate from France to the US in advance of any trade negotiations, in case EU import tariffs are imposed.

However, many marketers are not being as bold, according to the panel.

Marketers feeling ‘discombobulated’

BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie puts marketers’ indecision down to them being “discombobulated” by the result of the EU Referendum, with 96% having voted to Remain, according to the Creative Industries Federation.

It’s entirely understandable why marketers might be feeling unsettled at this time, of course: no one is any the wiser about where things will end up, meaning most institutions are in a mess. But marketers need to stand up and represent their customers, not necessarily the status quo, explained Ipsos MORI CEO Ben Page.

At the moment, there is “a danger we become introspective” rather than “projecting confidence and the positive things about the UK”, he said.

He urged brands to draw on important positive associations people have with Britain, such as its sense of humour and its obsession with manners, but warned against fanning the flames of “jingoism”.

Meanwhile, Martin Glenn, CEO of The Football Association suggested 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”.

That’s where the challenge for marketers lies: to stand up for their customers, project confidence and present a vision of the future.

Perhaps brands should take lead from the likes of Brewdog?

Brewdog, the Scotland-based brewery company, faced having to change the name of its ‘Elvis Juice’ IPA following the threat of legal action from the estate of the late king of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

So, the firm’s founders James Watt and Mark Dickie decided to change their first names to Elvis to show the Presley Estate that the name Elvis is “not exclusive” – as you do.

Dickie said: "We would like to recommend that the Presley Estate diverts its attention to another potential source of quick remuneration, a brewery that calls itself 'The King' of beer."

It might sound like a bit of a harebrained idea, but the story has been picked up by tens of news outlets, making it something of a marketing masterstroke.

“What has this got to do with Brexit?” I hear you ask.

Not a lot, in all honesty. But it’s an example of a brand standing up for their customers in a powerful way.

The co-founders said: “We love Elvis Juice, both the beer and the name. And our customers do too! So we have naturally taken the only sensible and effective course of action to ease their Suspicious Minds.”

On Facebook, a picture of the co-founders holding up “My name is Elvis” signs has garnered nearly 1,500 likes and over 400 shares. Powerful, original stuff. It a great example of the British sense of humour Page was talking about.

Dan Vivian - Business Development & Marketing Director