Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

7 Marketing Lessons From The Brexit Campaigns

The UK’s EU referendum result surprised many people outside the UK. But a review of the strategies used by the campaigns  gives some clear reasons for the outcome and provides some important lessons for marketers.  The Remain campaign was expected to win partly because of the uncertainty that leaving the UK would create. The fact that they lost suggests that something major must have gone wrong with their campaign planning and implementation.

In another post I outlined some of the main  psychological reasons for Brexit, but here I outline specific lessons for marketing.

 

1.  Start by listening to people.

 

Listen to people
Source: Freeimages.com

When a new brand begins to eat into an existing brand’s customer base this should be a wake-up call for the marketing team.  To survive in the long term all brands needs to be constantly listening to their customers to ensure they remain relevant and in touch with their target audience.

Marketers should explore what customers find appealing about the new brand and what is turning them off the leading brand. By listening to and observing customers we can pick up clues to why they are disillusioned with the established brand.  Further, by exploring what attracted existing customers to your brand you can identify what is most appealing about your value proposition. This can help you position your brand in the most effective way.

What went wrong?

The Remain campaign failed to understand that many people felt they had not benefited from globalisation and for this reason only saw the downside of the free movement of people within the EU. The Remain campaign’s tone towards controlling immigration was also cosmopolitan and elitist. This alienated voters worried about free movement of people within the EU as it appeared to dismiss their views as irrelevant. The Remain campaign also failed to offer hope that by staying within the EU the UK was more likely to be able change the principle of free movement of labour.

Strategy Lesson:

Engage in regular research and collaboration initiatives with customers and prospects to understand how they perceive the brand and your competitors. Brands have to evolve as customer behaviour and values change so as to remain relevant and responsive to customer needs.  If your strategy is not engaging customers it may be time to change your approach based upon evidence from customer research and feedback.

2. A clear and strong value proposition:

 

Image of Widerfunnel.com lift model
Source: Widerfunnel.com

A clear and compelling proposition is important for any brand. From day one the Leave message focused on “Take back control” which appeals to our desire for autonomy. According to the psychologist Daniel Pink autonomy is one of our three most important motivations in life, the others being mastery and purpose. Autonomy is something we naturally seek. It improves our lives because we feel happier when we are in control of our destiny.

Products are purchased for explicit goals, but brands need to appeal towards our implicit (psychological) goals to engage people at an emotional level. This is especially important where brands have very similar product features as it is the main way that they can differentiate themselves from each other. Understanding which of these core psychological goals motivates your customers is essential for effective brand positioning and campaign implementation.

Psychological Goals of Brands

6 main implicit psychologial goals
Source: Decode Marketing

 

What went wrong?

The “Britain stronger in Europe” message had potential to engage voters, but there was a lack of consistency of how it was explained and much of the time it was communicated in a negative and bullying fashion (e.g. if you vote leave economic growth will be lower). It was far too reliant on the rational economic argument and the psychological goals of security and discipline. Insufficient effort was made to communicate the many successes of the EU (around autonomy), or the positive benefits of security and discipline.

Strategy Lesson:

Ensure your proposition incorporates a number of relevant psychological goals to widen the appeal of your brand position. Avoid over reliance on the security of the status quo as people want to feel that they are making a positive choice and not being pressurised to avoid change. Purely negative campaigns can make people uncomfortable and motivate people to change for the sake of it.

 

3. Relevance of message:

 

Image of City of London view
Source: Freeimages.com

The Leave campaign’s “Taking back control” message was also a more inclusive message as it appealed to a wider demographic audience. Everyone could relate to wanting  some autonomy in our relationships with other countries. In practical terms this may be somewhat of an illusion, but it captured the imagination of voters as it triggered a deep psychological desire for more control in our lives.

What went wrong?

The Remain campaign focused mainly on warnings about economic and political consequences of Brexit. For example the Treasury said that house prices might fall and mortgage rates would rise. But this had no relevance to people on the minimum wage with no chance of ever affording a house. People often don’t appreciate the links between macro-economic factors and their day-to-day existence, and so these messages didn’t resonate with voters.

The Brexit message also appealed to the desire to destabilise the status quo. This movement has resulted in the emergence of radical politicians like Donald Trump and Bernie Saunders in the US, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and Marine Le Pen in France.

Strategy Lesson:

Analyse the behaviour and needs of customers by relevant demographic and behavioural metrics to identify important customer segments. Create user personas to visualise and consider how relevant and motivating your messages are to different customer segments. Such analysis can help improve the targeting and relevance of your messages. Also talk to people about things they can directly relate to and avoid language that is not in every day use.

4. Tell a story:

Brexit told many stories (though many were probably half-truths), but these encouraged people to talk to each other about the EU referendum debate. Stories are powerful tools of persuasion as psychologists have found that when people listen to a narrative tale their brain is stimulated as if they are experiencing the same emotions as communicated in the story. Our social nature encourages us to pass on these narratives through word of mouth or online via social media.

What went wrong?

The Remain story was too rational, with too much emphasis on negative consequences of Brexit and few stories to inspire. This meant the status quo was not presented as a positive choice.

Strategy Lesson:

Encourage consumers to interact with each other my telling an interesting and emotionally engaging story.

5. Copy, Copy:

 

When we find ourselves in a situation of uncertainty, such as having to make a decision about something we little knowledge about, people naturally copy other people in the vicinity. Behaviour is often more powerful than word of mouth because it is more visible and people will copy the actions of people they respect or want to be associated with to reduce conflict and help establish stronger bonds in their social networks. Both campaigns tried to capitalise on this by getting the backing of celebrities and well known politicians.

Brexit undoubtedly benefited from strong leadership (i.e.Boris Johnson) and a consistent message delivered by almost everyone involved in the campaign.

What went wrong?

Remain suffered from being less cohesive as although it was backed by both of the main party leaders they held very different beliefs and values. For instance Jeremy Corbyn refused to share a platform with David Cameron and his support appeared half-hearted. David Cameron was also strongly associated with austerity which had significantly reduced funding in deprived areas since 2010.

Strategy Lesson:

Lead by example. If for instance your brand is positioned to be environmentally friendly make sure your internal policies and behaviour is consistent with this stance. If using celebrity endorsements ensure the person has wide appeal across your target audience.

6. Confirmation bias:

 

Image of mri-head scan
Source: Freeimages.com

People have a tendency to search and consume new information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs and ideas about a subject. We often filter out or dismiss information that contradicts existing opinions. Many people had negative opinions about the EU due to years of critical articles in the British media and so it was difficult for the Remain campaign to counter this perception.

One way that brands can counter confirmation bias is to communicate that you agree with one aspect of what your audience believes, but then introduce information that conflicts with this information. This creates cognitive dissonance which is where people feel uncomfortable about holding opinions that contradict each other. If you can then introduce an answer or solution to remove the cognitive dissonance people are more likely to agree with your suggestion than if you tried to raise it without going through this process.

For example the Leave campaign claimed that the UK could negotiate access to the EU single market and get agreement to control immigration. The Remain campaign could have agreed access to the single market would be achievable from outside the EU. However, they should have pointed out that to date the EU has not allowed any country access to the single market without also agreeing to free movement of EU nationals. Further, such a deal would not be sustainable for the EU as it would encourage other countries to leave the EU.

However, the Remain campaign could have offered a solution that by retaining membership of the EU the UK would aim to reform the EU from within. If David Cameron had listened to disenfranchised voters he might have put more effort into negotiating a review of freedom of movement within the EU on the basis of economic sustainability and security concerns.

What went wrong?

David Cameron’s re-negotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU failed to deliver any restrictions on free movement of people within the EU. Rather than reject what was on the table and revert to plan B (i.e. campaign to leave the EU) which would have put the EU under pressure to compromise he accepted their offer. This may have been a fatal error as it reduced trust in Cameron to be able to negotiate with the EU and gave no room for the Remain campaign to argue that they could influence immigration better from within the EU.

Further, journalist and author Tim Hartford argues that confirmation bias was so strong among the Remain team and its supporters that they ignored obvious warnings (e.g, opinion polls) that the Leave campaign were moving into a winning position. This was compounded by betting markets that also favoured a Remain win. However, betting markets are driven by the amount of money wagered on a particular outcome which normally benefits from the wisdom of crowds. But as most of the establishment and the City were in favour of remaining in the EU did their financial clout overly influence the betting markets? This might explain why the betting markets got the result so wrong.

Strategy Lesson:

When people have an existing belief about your brand that is preventing you from persuading them to buy tell them something they already agree with. Then use cognitive dissonance to make them feel uncomfortable. Once you have established a feeling of cognitive dissonance introduce a solution or answer to their problem which eliminates the discomfort.

Be careful not to compromise too easily on issues that your customers perceive as important (e.g. reliability or quality) as this can destroy trust in your ability to deliver on your promises.

We are all prone to confirmation bias and so it is important to be open-minded about data that contradicts our own views about a brand or market. Ensure where possible decisions are based upon reliable data and not just your own gut instincts.  Challenge data for potential bias or misinterpretation. This is especially important where different data sources produce conflicting results. Voice of Customer surveys for instance suffer from numerous flaws that can make them highly misleading if the data is taken at face value.

7. Post Brexit Regret:

Image of man with hands over face
Source: FreeImages.com

 

A survey of voters after the Brexit result found that up to 7% now regretted voting to leave the EU and would vote Remain if they were given another opportunity. Customer can feel regret when they don’t think they have made the best decision. In the case of Brexit some voters believe they were lied to because the Leave campaign reneged on a number of the promises they had made during the campaign.

What went wrong:

Both sides confused voters with misleading claims, and counter-claims. This may have reduced trust in politicians and could have put-off some undecided voters from going to the polling stations.  If people find advice complex or difficult to understand this can often lead to procrastination or they will head for a competitor brand. The Leave campaign in particular made a number of very high profile promises that turned out to be inaccurate and undeliverable.

Strategy Lesson:

Ensure you are confident that you can deliver on any promises you make during a marketing campaign. Post-purchase dissatisfaction due to broken promises is likely to result in cancellations or returns and will destroy customer confidence and trust in your brand. As Dave Trott points out:

“The product creates the experience.

The experience creates the reputation.

The reputation creates the brand.”

Dave Trott, One Plus One Equals Three

Thank you for reading my post. I believe there are some important, but simple lessons to learn from the Brexit ferendum result. The main lesson is to main sure you have a clear and compelling value proposition and that you understand the different needs of individual customer segments.

If you found this post useful please share using the social media icons.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

Does ‘MarComs’ Signal The Death of Marketing?

Marketing is a Discipline!

 

In a recent podcastRory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of advertising  group Ogilvy and Mather UK,   expressed the view that the second client marketing departments are “reduced to ‘MarComs’ marketing is almost lost”. So why do organisations think marketing is solely about communications?

Marketing communications is of course a fundamental element of the marketing mix, but marketing is a discipline and a way of thinking. Communications should be an integral element of the four P’s, not a separate silo.  Turning marketing into MarComs inevitably changes the relationship between areas that were once part of the marketing department.

They establish their own priorities and see communications as a service rather than part of the same discipline. This risks turning marketing into a process rather than a creative discipline. Once this happens MarComs is in danger of becoming a factory that churns out content that follows the set templates and adheres to the brand guidelines but is unlikely to take risks or inspire customers.

Creativity is at the heart of the marketing discipline and it should be applied across all areas of the function to have maximum impact. A fragmented marketing function also encourages a tactical  approach to marketing as MarComs  have to respond to what product, pricing and the sales channels decide to do, often with little planning or discussion beforehand.

 

Can Behavioural Economics Save Marketing?

 

Image of mri-head scan
Source: Freeimages.com

 

Rory also mentioned how behavioural economics (BE) has the potential to allow creative people, like marketers and market researchers, to expand their reach into other areas of influence. It won’t solve the organisational problems of marketing,  but BE can provide a valuable framework and language to create strategies for behavioural change. This would involve coming up with ideas for better choice architecture or nudges to influence the decisions people make.  Marketers could be well suited to this role because it requires a creative and analytical approach to problem solving.

Neither is this about persuading people to do things they don’t want to do or selling them unsuitable products. If we do that we have failed as marketers and people soon get wise to such unethical behaviour. It would not be sustainable either as companies would not want to risk damaging their brand’s reputation. No, this about understanding how and why people the choices they make, but not just limiting ourselves to marketing products and services.

Humans do not seek a perfect solution:

One of the most fundamental insights that BE gives us is that people seek to satisfy rather than maximise as we live in world of imperfect information and trust. Our goal with most decisions is to avoid a disaster rather than seeking a perfect solution. If this is the case then it should not be a surprise that messages often used in promotional material that refers to an “ideal” or “perfect” solution to “fully” meet your needs misses the mark?

 

Image of friends in a huddle
Source: Freeimages.com

 

Habit Formation:

Evolution has slowly created and shaped human decision making processes and so our cognitive machinery is little changed from when we first formed early civilised societies many thousands of years ago. As a result we still rely on many of the same strategies for determining who we should buy from and what to do in new and uncertain situations. This explains why people so often refer to their social networks to identify people who they can trust.

This approach is highly unlikely to lead to a disaster as long as the person selling the goods or services is aware that they could lose significant social capital if they sell something that is unfit for purpose. If, however, it leads to a satisfactory outcomes we may create a habit as we have learned to trust the person or brand concerned. Much of what traditional marketing refers to as brand loyalty is in fact habits. The insight here is that marketing is most likely to be effective when it focuses on habit formation or piggy-backs off an existing habit. Disrupting a habit is more important than the message.

 

image of people sitting outside Starbucks
Source: Freeimages.com

Brands:

Brands are also framed by how people interact with them and the stories they tell each other about their experiences. Trust is strongest when we learn through experience and the actions of the brand that they can deliver on their promises. The key relationships with a brand are the interactions between customers and employees. These define the brand relationship much more strongly than any advertising or social media campaign ever can.

 

“The product creates the experience.

The experience creates the reputation.

The reputation creates the brand.”

Dave Trott, One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking

 

Image of Tesla car

Emotions:

The context of our decisions and our underling emotions are also crucial to our decisions.  We are much more willing to spend money and pay a premium price when we are searching for a last minute Christmas present that we promised to buy for our partner or children. We hate the feeling of regret and will seek to avoid it if we can. This is partly why scarcity is such a powerful motivator as people don’t like to feel they missed out on a bargain (i.e. loss aversion) because they were too slow to get to make a decision.

 

Image of man looking at a laptop
Source: Freeimages.com

As a result communications that triggers an emotional response are often more effective at getting attention and influencing behaviour than a purely rational message.

“Showing personality in your app, website, or brand can be a very powerful way for your audience to identify and empathize with you. People want to connect with real people and too often we forget that businesses are just collections of people.” – Aarron Walter, Teamtreehouse.com

Other useful insights from behavioural economics include:

  • We feel most comfortable when our behaviour conforms to recognised social norms relating to concepts such as fairness and social responsibility.
  • Humans are not the selfish, independent thinking agents that economics would have us believe. We will often hold back from behaviour that we believes treats others unfairly or lacks respect for others.
Image of behavioural economics decision bucket
Behavioural Economics Decision Bucket – Factors that influence decision-making.
  • Although people usually have clear explicit goals when making a purchase (e.g. I want a new car), they do not have full access to their psychological goals (e.g. security and adventure) that help drive brand choice. For this reason there is no point using direct questioning to try to uncover these implicit goals. Our preferences also change over time and so consumer demand is continuously shifting in response to many influences.

Image of implicit goals

Source: Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy – Phil Barden

  • Intrinsic motivations, such as mastery and autonomy, can be more powerful at driving our behaviour than carrots and sticks, especially when the activity is not routine. Indeed, research has shown that extrinsic motivators, such as bonuses, often reduce motivation and performance when applied to creative tasks.

As you can imagine these insights can be employed in any environment where behavioural change is needed. This could be to tackle health and safety issues, reduce waste, improve compliance with good working practices, address employee motivation, or improve the effectiveness of communication.

 

Image of Ogilvychange.com homepage

 

So what next you might say. Well, Ogilvy and Mather, the global advertising and marketing agency, have already created a new business unit, Ogilvy Change, dedicated to the application of behavioural economics to deliver measurable changes in behaviour across a diverse range of environments. I recently attended the monthly London Behavioural Economics Network meeting where the team from Ogilvy Change  discussed work they had conducted on behavioural change in a factory in South America for improving hygiene and the psychological optimising of a call centre in the UK.  From small beginnings the team at Ogilvy Change are now working with a number of global businesses to press forward the application of behavioural science in the real world and maybe it is time we did the same.

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it useful please share using the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked with brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback. The objective is to ensure the aim of each webpage is aligned with the organisation’s business goals. This helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

Linking market research to marketing strategy?

 

Measuring Return on Investment:

Client-side researchers sometimes feel that they are constantly being asked to justify the value of research insights. A frequent challenge from management  is how can we measure the benefits of insights and what specific decisions have been driven by research. Ideally management would like to understand how research links to either sales or costs. Demonstrating how insights have led to specific decisions can be particularly challenging when you work in a large, hierarchical, multinational organisation where the management structure appears to be in a constant state of flux.

Ensure you spend a significant amount of time engaging with stakeholders to understand their problems and offering advice on how research can support their decision making. Once a project is commissioned it’s somewhat of a relief that you can get on with implementing research. However, to ensure insights are linked to strategy and decision making it is essential that you integrate Action Planning into the market research process. Without such a mechanism in place there can be no assurance that management will use the insights to support strategic decision making. It is very easy to ignore insights, particularly if they don’t agree with your own opinion!

ESSENTIALS OF ACTION PLANNING FOR THE RESEARCHER:

  • Ensures the researcher retains ownership of the findings and how they are used. This is important as the client-side researcher is best placed to advise on interpretation of results when management drills down to a granular level of action planning. In addition it raises the profile and credibility of the client-side researcher within the organisation.
  • Provides greater visibility and evidence of how research findings are used and the value it adds to the organisation. This is invaluable when trying to negotiate budgets and agree on priorities for future research spend.
  • Enables the researcher to engage with a range of stakeholders and gain a greater understanding of how findings influence and drive strategic and tactical decision making.
  • Allows the researcher to work more closely with operational areas that have responsibility to implement actions generated by research.

INTEGRATING ACTION PLANNING INTO THE MARKET RESEARCH PROCESS:

  • Set expectations at the beginning! If you introduce it as best practice before you start work on a project you rarely meet resistance to the concept.
  • Ask a senior stakeholder to sponsor the action planning process and obtain agreement of who will take ownership of actions within individual areas or departments.
  • Include action planning in the research brief or plan. Outline any potential involvement you require from the external research agency. Propose that you act as a consultant to implement the process as you have the best understanding of the organisation and culture. However, agree with the agency how they can assist and have input into the process.
  • Consider how the research and the action planning may relate to key strategic or operational initiatives. Discuss any potential conflicts or implications with the senior stakeholders before proceeding with the research project. This will ensure that the research and action planning either feeds into the initiatives or avoids overlapping.
  • Soon after the debrief meet with the stakeholders to agree which insights the action planning workshop should address. You should set the agenda by identifying beforehand the priority insights and how best to approach them in the action planning workshop.
  • Don’t combine the research debrief and action planning workshop. Management need time to digest insights from the debrief and an action planning workshop  can easily last for two to three hours to properly consider implications and actions.

 

MANAGING ACTION PLANNING WORKSHOPS:

  • Ask attendees to prepare for the workshop by sending them a short summary of the research. Get them to write down potential actions/ideas to discuss at the workshop.
  • Invite people from a range of areas, including departments not necessarily involved in project to provide some diversity and independent thinking.
  • Set some ground rules, e.g. no bad ideas, no judging ideas, want everyone to participate, use post-it notes to write down ideas when other people are talking, all ideas to be captured etc. Use relevant brain storming techniques to make the workshops engaging and productive.
  • Begin with a short summary of the key insights that will be discussed during the workshop.
  • Split the attendees into small break-out groups of 4 or 5 individuals and allocate a topic to each group.
  • Provide each group with a structured approach to discuss their insight. For example if the research relates to improving customer service or experience you could ask them to generate a list of things we need to stop, start and continue doing. Ask them to spend 5 minutes at the end prioritizing their actions in each category.
  • Ask each group to feedback their top 3 ideas for each category (e.g. Stop, Start and Continue), but capture all the ideas by taking away flip charts used during the break-out groups.

MAINTAINING MOMENTUM AFTER THE WORKSHOP:

  • Use a suitable template to capture and summarise all the ideas. Carefully merge duplicate ideas so that you don’t lose the meaning, group ideas into themes that emerged from the workshop, and categorize according to:
  1. Quick wins that could be implemented with little or no resource.
  2. Medium term ideas requiring some resource or support.
  3. Longer term, strategic ideas that may require significant resource or a change in policy.
  • Circulate the draft action plan to attendees and ask for feedback and comments by a set date.
  • Take your sponsor through the draft action plan and get their feedback and agreement to seek owners for each action.
  • Get agreement from action owners how the action plan will be kept up-to-date with progress and developments.
  • Have update meetings with your sponsor and key action owners to review progress. This can be used to ensure the plan is still relevant and whether it needs to change to respond to any changes in strategic direction. It is important to review the plan on a regular basis and feed in new insights from more recent research.

Whilst I was in the process of writing this post I came across an excellent article on the Green Book blog by Edward Appleton; Should Researchers be more like Advertising Planners? This suggests that market research needs to put more emphasis on tangible value-added outputs to respond to the changing nature the world of insights. For some client-side researchers this may require a step change to ensure they are at the heart of the action planning process.

Thank you for reading this blog. I hope it generated some ideas for managing your research action planning. I would also like to thank Lisa Radin (@milguy23) for her feedback and assistance in writing this post.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

This post has been published on the GreenBook Blog market research website.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, check out the Conversion Uplift  Facebook page or connect on LinkedIn.