History will show today as the beginning of the end of our membership of the EU. How we managed to get here, whichever side of the argument you are on, it seems like a Wednesday to me, right now!
In my local town it is market day – the same collection of locally grown vegetables; locally produced cheeses and pies; local sausages and a stall selling olives, antipasti, and almonds. Nothing has changed on the surface, people are talking about the headlines in the Sun and whether Teresa May is the Devil Incarnate or just the person who happened to be Prime Minister on 29th March 2017. (Well somebody has to sign the bloody letter.)
On this day it seems appropriate to tweet, blog and shout about the need to embrace instability; love the change it brings, yes feel the fear, dread the uncertainty which may be ahead, but gather together your best plans and intentions and just do it anyway. We cannot control what may happen ahead anymore today than we did before. But rather than lament the change and procrastinate until something clearer emerges from the mist, we should see the current conditions as an amazing time for change – a catalyst and an opportunity to think about the way we work.
At The Buzzz our last year of trading was like nothing else we have experienced in 14 years – and we thought we had been through pretty much everything! The uncertainty of Brexit starved our clients of confidence to act – it was safer to do nothing; because that was what everyone else was doing. For us it meant we were 50% down against budget by the time the Brexit result was announced. We then had a further two months of summer paralysis before we saw clients start to shrug off the feeling that they were on the brink of economic catastrophe and realise that if they didn’t execute some of the plans they had sat on, there would be no growth for themselves. Our final 5 months of trading saw us 200% ahead of budget!
The moral of sharing this story is that the world is uncertain, it always has been. The real lesson is that client companies and agencies need to accept this more readily and understand it should help to forge a new business culture. The way to approach uncertainty is to embed flexibility in planning and focus on some of the principles which actually are the constants – the relative islands in a sea of change.
- Your customers / clients / citizens / consumers, call them what you will, have a set of expectations which define how and how far they choose to engage with you. We need to go back to understand again, what those expectations are and how they may flex and roll with the waves breaking on our shore from across the channel.
- When faced with uncertainty, the natural human response is to seek out and cling to those people and things you trust most. Trust is something which many brands and institutions have seen erode as consumers become more cynical and the tide of mistrust washes over huge areas of the economy.
- Inevitably we will see an increase in the performance of brands which have built in British-ness, in brands that have been part of the fabric of our lives for generations and in brands that just get on with it and refocus on customer experience to reinforce the relationships they have within the UK
Organisations and brands who stand up first and emerge strongly from the immediate uncertainty facing us will do so because they have continued to focus on what their customers need and expect, have ensured they have delivered on those well, and probably in new and more relevant ways than before. It is these organisations which we believe will become the new custodians of consumer trust. It is because trust forms part of our DNA as humans and an inherent part of our desire to form relationships that it will never disappear.
However we need to recognise as marketing professionals that it is a scarce commodity currently and consequently is likely to escalate in value and importance as consumers re-calibrate the post Brexit brandscape.
As The Buzzz begins a new financial year, we are going to be focusing a lot of our effort and investment on understanding the dynamics of trust. Our early work in this space is encouraging and we believe we have stated to formulate how the drivers of trust can be expressed in the customer experience to build not just satisfaction, mere satisfaction is not enough anymore, but engagement and relationships.
We still believe in better, together!