A Decade of Change
In the week of St. George’s Day, unity of our nation and what Britishness really means today seem, to me, pressing issues.
Much of the recent focus has been on Brexit and there is no denying that it’s a determining factor on the nation’s mood as the decision to leave continues to dominate the thoughts and lives of the British media and public.
By way of comparison, let’s cast our minds back to a time when the term Brexit wasn’t a part of our everyday vernacular. To a time a decade ago, when Gordon Brown had just taken over from Tony Blair as Prime Minister, Barack Obama was gaining ground in his US presidential election campaign and Beijing was gearing up to host the Olympics.
Economic uncertainty gripped the world as the financial crisis developed, and yet in Britain there was also a palpable sense of anticipation as Beijing 2008’s closing ceremony heralded the countdown to London hosting the 2012 Olympic Games.
Our Truth Central research across the past decade shows that the nation’s levels of satisfaction and excitement mirrored these events, peaking in the summer of 2012 with the London Olympics and The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, before settling back to a lower level.
But failure to maintain the euphoria of 2012 should not cause gloom. The base level of optimism across the nation remains high, with nearly twice as many Brits feeling hopeful in 2017 than was the case in 2008. For brands and business leaders this is something to be celebrated and embraced.
It’s a fundamental truth that people vote more for hope rather than fear, and this is true for brands as well. The buying process is in itself an expression of our belief in the future. After all, you don’t make a purchase if you don’t envision yourself needing, using or enjoying the product. The bigger the ticket on the item, the greater the statement of faith.
And let’s be clear, there is much to be hopeful about. Technological advancements have already played a huge role in how the nation has changed over the last decade. Back in 2007 Apple had only just launched the iPhone, while Facebook – now one of the world’s most prolific companies - was still in its infancy.
Technology has been a powerful vehicle for progress and change as well as an enabler for entrepreneurialism. In today’s world anyone can self-publish and create content, so it follows that the explosion of social media sits hand-in-hand with an increased level of influence for normal people on the street. What is perhaps more surprising but equally welcome is the fact that trust in one’s fellow citizens has also risen significantly since 2008.
This is welcome news against a backdrop of increased scepticism towards politicians and brands. Even the public’s perception of politics has shifted, with peer-to-peer discussions at the dinner table and on social media platforms now cited as a proxy measure of ‘real politics’ as opposed to what emanates from the corridors of Westminster. But rather than being perceived as a threat, this can present an opportunity to brands if business owners rethink how they connect with the empowered consumer.
Another silver lining is in the area of social and moral improvement. Our research shows that the nation perceives there to be a greater degree of social inclusion and integration in areas such as LGBT, multiculturalism and gender equality.
There is no doubt that the pace – and nature – of change can be bewildering both for consumers and brands, but in a post-Brexit world it will be crucial that we are open to innovation. We will also need to feel unified as a nation. Our British heritage will be one of our trump cards when it comes to exports in an open market environment, and that collective pride will only happen if we all face the same direction.
We need to welcome those hints of optimism with open arms and reinvigorate ourselves with Olympic levels of excitement. The next decade will certainly bring new challenges alongside a dose of economic and political uncertainty. But wouldn’t it be satisfying to look back on April 23rd 2028 and feel that the next decade represented a triumph of travelling hopefully?
Mark Lund is Chief Executive Officer McCann Worldgroup UK