The Buzzz are very proud of our Yorkshire roots and location. Yet on Brexit, Gods own county was as divided as the rest of the country. Rural and affluent North Yorkshire together with Leeds as a financial centre and the region’s largest city were in the Remain camp .. just! Pretty much everywhere else voted Leave in greater numbers.
So we are where we are; Brexit means Brexit and as our friend Harold would have said When someone Brexit they ought to fix it!
How do you think the country will go about fixing things for the better? The dramatic comings and goings (mostly goings) of the last few days have left us with a plan (or at least that is what the markets assume).
May is definite. She knows what type of government she is leading and what its primary goals are. She seems to have the kind of grasp on the situation that none of the muddling set of buffoons who led the pre-Referendum campaigns had, and so that must be a good thing for the country right?
In recent polls the economy comes out slightly ahead of immigration in terms of where the Brexit focus should be – well that’s reassuring! Similarly in other research people would still vote to leave two weeks on, even though it is by a reduced margin. So indeed we are where we are and have to now get on with it.
No-one is saying this is easy but as storytellers we believe we need to build a narrative that people can start to believe. Many people would see the last 3 weeks as some kind of tragi-comedy; but we have also seen the kind of reference that many of the people who voted Leave were looking to re-kindle. What made Britain great? Let’s get back to the ‘work hard and fair reward will follow’ kind of mentality us Yorkshire folk say we subscribe to. Above all the narrative needs to be positive, but truthful – so some of the Brexit rhetoric with a healthy sprinkle of reality and a good deal more truth than we had from the campaign before the referendum!
Some of that wartime spirit and rhetoric would be quite welcome now. ‘Let’s all work together to make Britain Great!’ (B. Johnson 22nd June 2016).
The call for unity and fairness was an interesting one, when Theresa May unexpectedly stood before the door at Number 10 last night. It made commentators sit up and take notice. Followed by a new broom approach to the cabinet we appear to have a bunch of do-ers in place (perhaps with one or two exceptions on whom the jury will watch with interest). The FTSE, currency markets and responses from business leaders seems guardedly positive.
So we want to know what the implications for brands and for businesses are. The Buzzz are in the insight and research business. We depend on two main drivers for the kind of strategic and NPD work we mainly do: confidence and certainty. We certainly didn’t see much confidence since 24th June this year, nor in the weeks that have followed.
What are the brands we think will stand to gain a benefit from Brexit? Well not to dodge a difficult question; but we think it is the brands who embrace the new narrative we need to pull the country together and start to make it their own. Tell it in a way that is relevant and compelling in the context of their own brand story. Brands have to understand where they sit in the context of the developing narrative being consumed by their customers and consumers as we move out of the detailed focus on who is doing what in Westminster and start to recognise the scale of the journey we are starting.
It is not about being exclusive but about a different kind of inclusion; there are elements of a shared national identity, humour and outlook on life and the world that we have in common. We have a great ability for self-deprecating humour – the levelling comment and the sense of supporting the underdog. We face the rest of the world, we don’t turn our back on it and above all we face adversity with a smile on our face and a belief that come what May if we work hard and pull together we can achieve great results.
Think about your brand narrative early – there is some real first mover advantage to be had, and the more synergy we create, the more we motivate the country to find itself and its common or uniting identity again. Brands and creative communication have a great role to play in a post Brexit economy. We need to bolster confidence but in a way we can all relate to and that comes from sensing a common narrative; recognising we are all on the same journey – whether we chose it or not; a journey that is recognisable from a common enough storyline – a journey from rags to riches; from adversity to success and along the way we may just discover there is more to our country than meets the eye.
So this is a plea to start something. Shake off the uncertainty as quickly as we can and understand that what divided us a month ago now unites us as a nation; that confidence is something we can generate; confidence is after all about feeling good, about viewing the future as an opportunity, not a threat. It is about understanding what we have in our character as a brand, a person and a nation that credibly moves us forward.
It is not however about creating a fantasy. For this emerging story is grounded in the reality of a decision which has created its own seismic shock to the economic world we have lived in. Trust has paid the price and that is not something easily won, but hard earned and over a long term. If we can see the merit, recognise the spirit in the plotline and understand why it is relevant and strikes a chord with us, we will build that story to a conclusion far quicker than if no common narrative exists.
(If this is all too serious for you then take 5 minutes to enjoy how a classic comedy sketch is embellished in a modern rendition of The Four Yorkshiremen: click here)