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Brands beware Brexit 'solastalgia'

News, 04 October 2016

LONDON: The UK's vote to leave the EU raises some potentially difficult issues for brands, particularly those that have chased innovation and new technology at the expense of more traditional marketing approaches, two industry figures have said.

Writing in the current issue of Market Leader, in an article entitled Brexit, brands and the fear of the future, Andrew Curry and Joe Ballantyne of The Futures Company introduce the idea of 'solastalgia' – a word used by environmentalists for "the loss of a sense of belonging to a particular place and a sense of desolation about its disappearance", even though the place is still physically there.

"In their enthusiasm for change, brands pursue the leading edge, but they need to be more alert to what it feels like on desolation row," they say.

Their analysis of polling data identifies a "values gap" between those people that voted Leave and those that voted Remain, with divergent views evident on everything from multiculturalism and feminism to the environment and the internet.

"These values differences speak to profound differences in world view … to a deep disappointment in an idea of the future, and of progress," according to Curry and Ballantyne.

They suggest that brands need to think about how to make people feel more secure, especially as economic growth is likely to slow in the short term.

And they also need to think more deeply about how they go about innovating in an age where novelty, technology and disruption are less desirable for people than continuity, familiarity and simplicity.

"Brands, in other words, need to help give consumers a greater sense of psychological security," the authors assert.

Thus, "cautious innovation" around simple comforts and reassurance could be a good approach.

It has worked for brands in sectors as diverse as financial services and food, they note. TSB, for example, focuses on the fact that it is just a retail bank and that it lends out locally the money it takes in.

Fast-food retailer Greggs has expanded rapidly, offering budget snacks that are immediately familiar (sausage rolls, soups, pies) while also staying abreast of changing tastes (more salads, less sugar).

Data sourced from Market Leader; additional content by Warc staff