There’s been tons written on the outcome of the Brexit vote. Many complex theories have explored why Leave won and Remain failed. I've enjoyed reading and debating them as much as the next person, but my professional view is much more straightforward. Leave won for two reasons:
One: Leave had a better ‘brand’.
Two: ‘Consumers’ don’t care.
I don’t say this to be overly simplistic or to be deliberately provocative. It’s just consistent with what we see as brand marketers every day in our work with clients, brands and consumers.
First things first. You don’t have to look too deeply at the two campaigns to see that Leave nailed it. Strip away all the noise, personality and hype and you see that the Leave campaign was built off a really strong organising thought. Let’s Take Back Control.
It’s a simple and flexible platform that they tracked all issues back to, reflecting their core belief.
Think we need to get a grip on immigration? Let’s take back control!
Think we’re spending too much on the EU? Let’s take back control!
It was the fulcrum on which they leveraged their whole campaign. And it cut through with devastating effect.
We’re becoming old hands at these referendum things (especially in Scotland). And it’s true that it’s harder for the group that have to prove a negative. This was shown by the Yes campaign in Scotland in 2014, who pushed the vote very close. But still, the Remain camp just didn’t have an answer. They weren’t able to create a communication platform with which to counter Let’s Take Back Control.
This is really no different from the way we work when creating brands and brand campaigns for clients. Our brand definition process allows us to boil all the existing knowledge of a brand or business down to its very essence. We call this The SimpleTruth. This is the organising thought for that brand. It’s simple, flexible and easily facilitates brand led communication. This in turn allows for efficient and focussed messaging that’s hard to ignore. It’s certainly not rocket science, but there’s an art in that reduction. As Michaelangelo said when asked how he sculpted his masterpiece David: “it’s easy, you just chip away the stone that doesn't look like David”.
The second point about consumers not caring is one that’s quite shocking. (I’ve written a separate piece about it). And it’s a mistake that's often made by clients and agencies who are blinded by enthusiasm for their own brands. Consumers just aren’t interested. And if you have to make them do even the slightest piece of work to understand or act, they’re likely to disengage. They’re far more interested in getting on with the important things in their lives. Everyday things like picking up the kids, making it home for dinner or watching Netflix.
So, in the same way as a consumer will spend seconds making a decision on which bottle to pick off a shelf; I believe there can be a similar ambivalence when they enter the polling booth. No matter how high the stakes. This won't be the case with all voters, but generally it’s the undecided that swing the vote. And these may be the ones that just don't think too deeply about the decision they make. (See reports of post Brexit voter remorse).
This just reinforces the view that branding (and marketing generally) is all about oiling the wheels of decision making. “Make it easy for me to decide and buy - that's all I want you to do. If you don’t I’m going elsewhere”. And, as we’ve just seen, this seems to be as true in politics as it is in selling soap powder off a supermarket shelf.
At Good we spend a lot of time helping businesses make their brands stand for something. And then we help make them easy to buy. If you think your brand needs a SimpleTruth or an organising thought, why don’t you give us a ring for an introductory chat?