The coverage of the Autumn budgetary Statement has been fascinating to watch. And it underlines in an odd sort of way, the opportunity for brands in our society going forwards. Let me summarise the debate for those outside UK shores. Essentially, up to 2010 the Labour Government ran up considerable debt on the back of a buoyant housing market, a bubbling economy overall and incredible confidence. Disaster struck, and Labour were ousted by a new Coalition government. There was a new attitude of grim determination to get rid of the deficit. Grand promises were made: economists (amongst others) said, “really?” but the course was set. So yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer attempted to paint a picture of how successful his government had been in reducing debt, cutting the deficit and building a sustainable economy. The data offered something for everyone: the government wanted to land ‘look how much progress we have made’, the opposition wanted to land, ‘look how little progress they have made’. For students of media management, it was a masterclass; for those interested in knowing what the hell is going on, it was a nadir of politicking emptiness. The morning after the statement before, Chancellor and his Oppo were doing the media circus and the stock phrases were abounding. As an example, Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, had his phrases: ‘we’re going to make different choices; difficult choices, but be fairer’. On one interview on breakfast telly he said these words over a dozen times in a 2 minute piece.
This emptiness, the perceived vacuousness of today’s politics underlines the opportunity for brands in our society today. The bedrock institutions of the state – politics – and of higher authority – organised religion – are waning (plummeting) in trust. Is it any wonder? Nothing is being said. When pressed on what a Labour government would actually do to reduce the deficit, the answer was no deeper than ‘we would make different choices, difficult choices’. ‘If the Chancellor missed the targets he set himself than I’m not going to fall for that’. It’s the new politics of fearfulness. There are no absolutes anymore.
Why can brands benefit? Well, a theme running through most research nowadays underlines the pent up desire for honesty, for knowledge, for ridding of confusion – for some facts. For institutions (brands included) to stand up for something, with integrity. To say what they mean. When state bodies are seen to no longer deliver this; when most question religion and traditional belief systems, what else is there to believe in? Brands have the opportunity to fill the void, and in so doing build long term success for themselves. But it means a new dialogue with ‘consumers’, with real people. It requires a new foundation – on product truths, emotional meaningfulness – and making the brave step to cut the weasel words, the half truths and the foundations of sand. Only the brave need sign up.
David Preston is founder of The Crow Flies, a research, strategy and innovation company that helps brands find a direct route to long lasting success. firstname.lastname@example.org; +44 (0) 7885 408367; www.thecrowflies.co.uk; @crowflieshigh.
© The Crow Flies, 2014