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We Must Remember That Voters Are Customers Too

22/12/2016 13:34

As the dust settles on a turbulent year, and counter-intuitive outcomes become the new normal, the reasons and ramifications of a Brexit vote and Trump for President trickle down to all of us, at home and at work.

For the creative industries there are big lessons to be learned. If it's true that the so-called liberal elite called everything wrong and are out of sync with wider society, then what does this mean for branding, advertising and media businesses?

Well, one thing is certain, we, as an industry, must make sure we aren't preaching to the converted. We need to recognise the London 'bubble' effect and remember that it is easy to reflect our own thoughts and values and accept validation from the like-minded.

We are clearly out of step with how many feel. We found it hard to understand that the majority (just!) of our fellow countrymen voted for Brexit, and even more perplexed that a lot of Americans could think so differently to us that they would choose Trump as their president. We have been brought up sharply and must question whether, if we have failed to understand huge swathes of the population here and in the States when it comes to politics, we are just as out of touch in understanding people and their relationships with brands.

Branding at its purest is a way of showing what you stand for, and we have always assumed that's enough. But in the context of a world where trust in the establishment is at an all-time low, leading to 'shock' outcomes, maybe branding also has to focus on other things if it is to capture consumers' values and aspirations.

Transparency has never been more important. On all sides of this year's political debates there have been accusations of fudging, distorting and re-writing of the facts. Brands have an opportunity in this context to provide certainty. Branding, must first and foremost must be an honest appraisal of a business or product - no short cuts, no gimmicks and no creating purported value through the diminishing of rivals.

We are in turbulent times, and at best, a little apprehensive of what's around the corner, at worst feeling out of control and unable to make a difference in a world changing around us. Brands can provide much needed continuity - staying true to who they are and standing for something that lasts.

The political upheaval has shown us that many voters and consumers feel disenfranchised, left behind and ignored. This is a vital lesson for brands and branding experts. We need to make sure that we aren't just talking to our own kind, and that we aren't inadvertently ignoring huge swathes of our consumers. We need to ask more questions, assume less, empathise more. At its simplest, we need to make sure that we don't just commission or go to the London focus groups, just because they're easy to get to.

Human nature means we want to be heard, whether that is politically, economically, socially or by brands. If we don't want shock outcomes for the brands we work on, we need to listen more.

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