Like it or not, political commentators feel that the country wants to move on from Brexit. Last week, the Conservatives won their largest electoral majority since Thatcher’s victory in 1987, and with the Labour Party achieving their worst result since 1935, the significance of a clear campaign message is something that brands and advertisers could learn from, regardless of their political standpoint.
For many voters, Brexit was the most salient and pressing issue in this election. The Conservatives had a concise, and consistent slogan from the beginning: Get Brexit Done. The Labour Party’s position, however, was ambiguous. Indeed, Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to adopt a neutral stance in a second Brexit referendum left many voters feeling confused. According to a YouGov poll, 65% of Britons were unclear about Labour’s Brexit position, however, only 27% were unclear about the Conservatives’ stance on Brexit.
The Tories’ clarity on Brexit is also said to have led to dramatic results in Labour’s heartlands. While it was once unimaginable to think that former mining regions like Blyth Valley and Sedgefield in the North East would abandon the Labour Party in favour of the Conservatives, but now, Labour’s ‘red wall’ has fallen.
It can be argued that a similar phenomenon could be seen in the 2016 U.S Presidential election. More specifically, Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ message was powerful because it evoked loss aversion. In simple terms, it’s the idea that people find it more painful to make a loss than to make an equivalent gain. In contrast, Clinton’s campaign, had several messages: ‘Stronger Together’, ‘I’m With Her’, ‘Love Trumps Hate’, which failed to make the same effect, perhaps because these slogans lacked consistency and seemed more a like a reaction to Trump, rather than being standpoints in their own right.
However, having a clear campaign message is not enough on its own. The Liberal Democrats were adamant that they were going to cancel Brexit by revoking article 50, hoping that it would entice Remainers to vote for them. While they managed to increase their vote share by 4.2% since 2017, they still experienced the second-worst election result since in their modern history.
If this election can teach us one thing, it is that audiences will not buy into a brand if they do not understand what the purpose of it is. So, don’t sit on the fence — that’s a fool’s game.
We are a nation of nostalgists. At least, this was our hypothesis when earlier this year we partnered with YouGov to conduct a piece of research into why the UK is so keen to spend our time looking back to the past, instead of ahead to the future. More importantly, we wanted to understand the specific cues, cultural symbols and behaviours which most represent our favourite decades, and get to grips with how advertisers could use these to their advantage. We recently launched the results of this study with lively and discussion filled panel events in Manchester and London.
Our latest whitepaper, ‘Nostalgia – is it what is used to be?’, has unearthed that 55% of Brits would rather go back to the past than travel ahead to the future, with a mere 28% desiring a quick fast forward. 9 in 10 Brits reminisce, and there is a cohort of misty eyed millennials who are almost always looking back fondly. This isn’t, however, always a past they were part of.
One of our most interesting findings was around the sheer scale of Fauxstalgia – where we dream and pine after a period within which we didn’t even live. For example, 58% of those who were positive about the 1950s weren’t even born then, and as such were perhaps more shielded from the social and political realities of living during that decade.
The 1990s was unanimously our favourite decade. Recent enough to be of relevance to many, but not associated with the global economic crisis that marred the noughties, it is most closely associated with Friends being on TV, and the advances in technology such as mobile phones and the internet. Standout mentions, however, for the Spice Girls and the battle of Britpop.
This desire to escape the present is unlikely to be short-lived. Dr Kate Stone once remarked “the future will look more like the past than the present” so perhaps we should be dusting off those record players, vintage fashions and bringing brand heritage to the fore.
Most people aspire to be the best and brands are no exception to this. We all know it is a long and arduous climb to the top; if history tells us anything, it is an even greater task to stay there. Whether it be Anthony Joshua’s fall from grace to his merciful redemption, or Thomas Cook’s pioneering heritage to its humbling defeat, it seems the top does not discriminate. Be it a person or a brand, those who fall must (in whichever industry) rejuvenate that zeal that started them off on their journey in order to get back up top. Two great examples from a human and brand perspective are Thomas Cook’s recent demise and AJ regaining his heavyweight champion of the world title.
For AJ, it is not about the belts that he won back. Rather it is about his resurrection from the deathly graves of doubt from the public, and no doubt his own mind. Six months prior to the fight that saw him lose his titles, AJ was sitting pretty at the top with all the confidence of a champ, and a perfect record of 23 fights and 23 wins to back it. Then came Andy Ruiz Jr, who gave him his first loss. An inability to adapt and getting too comfortable at the top arguably blinded Joshua from foreseeing the danger Ruiz posed. When you are at the top, you can only see the challenge that is directly next to you but coming from the bottom – as a competitor – you are forced to watch and keep aware for all those whom stand ahead of the game, giving you a fortuitous edge.
The lesson handed to AJ was a brutal one, that put everything he had built into contempt by some. He was branded a fraud who had been caught. Nonetheless, sometimes you need to fail in order to realise the benefits that come from being on your a-game. After the fight back in June, AJ realised that his team and strategy had always been with allied fighting techniques, which against Ruiz, left him exposed; which none of his coaches had thought to prepare him for. Now come the second fight, under some new tuition, he was taught a completely different technique. This gave him the necessary tools to defeat his foe in Saturday’s Clash on the Dunes – pulling in over an audience over circa million via pay-per-view.
Thomas Cook, on the other hand, did not put into effect a reaction quick enough. An unsuccessful merger with MyTravel (a UK based package holiday company) back in 2007 was detrimental, as MyTravel had only once achieved a profitable year, and that was back in 2001. This, along with a failure to innovate away from their heritage product, left Thomas Cook with a record loss of £1.5billion reported in May 2019. To make their situation worse they were pounded (much like AJ was) by the exponential growth of homestays brands such as Airbnb and online travel agents and aggregators. However, it seems they did not heed the lesson that AJ did; being less reactive, accepting defeat and failing to fashion up a different defence tactic. Ultimately, Thomas Cook had not taken the right risks or innovations to stay ahead of the market.
No matter how long a brand has been at the top, the gravity of success and innovation in the market will constantly seek to pull you down. Therefore, the response is to adapt and not get too complacent. Keep your ears and eyes open, and feet on the ground, and your voice at the top of the hills.