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Brexit – what’s there to smile about?

Ronnie Gunn | 10 Apr, 2019 | Return|

It’s difficult to ignore current Brexit confusion and even harder to find any humour amid the abuse hurled across the House of Commons, the media channels and social networks. Marketing professionals have played a leading role in communicating the views of both Leave and Remain supporters involved in politics, pressure groups and business.

Some have done this with intelligence and quality. Econsultancy has singled out ten marketing campaigns that they feel have achieved this. What was particularly enlightening was where campaigns managed to create humour without creating offence, a great way to relieve tension in the current feverishly aggressive Brexit atmosphere.

We found three out of the ten that did this admirably

Brexit – what’s there to smile about?

Engaging Humour

In her recent Econsultancy post “10 Marketing campaigns forged in the fires of Brexit” , Lizzy Hillier observed that “Tackling such a controversial and hotly-debated topic in a brand campaign can be a risky move, particularly if explicitly taking a side. When done well, however, it can prove a highly successful example of relevancy in marketing by striking a chord with public sentiment.”

Her selection of campaigns that she felt hit the mark was interesting, but we would argue that several of them would strike a chord with only one or other side of the Brexit argument. The public sentiment aroused would be strictly partisan and likely to alienate not only those of strongly opposing views but the middle ground as well.

This may not worry an overtly political Remain group like the OFOC (choice number 5 “Sh*tfest”) but we would argue that antagonising through sarcasm rather than persuading through a positive vision does not represent quality marketing and communications. However ably produced the campaign video might be, it was basically just another example of the ritual mudslinging that has hardened divisions in UK society since the 2016 EU Referendum.

In our opinion, the three best campaigns on the Econsultancy list are those on behalf of Marmite, Paddy Power and the Australian swimwear brand Budgy Smuggler.

  • Marmite: “Hard Breakfast, Soft Breakfast, No Breakfast – dividing the nation since 1902.” This is truly witty and complements its entertaining ongoing campaign that the spread is something you either love or hate.
  • Paddy Power: Ex-football star Eric Cantona offers escape to a fantastically weird “Brexit Bunker” out in the waters of the English Channel. We were particularly impressed by the amusing satirical portrayal of the panic and hoarding instincts that the Brexit confusion has caused.
  • Budgy Smuggler: Rich in eccentric Australian humour, #JoinTheAu sees the UK whisked across the oceans and joined to the landmass of Oz. The video shows some hilarious “benefits” of mingling our two cultures and is hugely entertaining. 

Getting the balance right

Of the three campaigns we’ve chosen from Econsultancy’s list, we believe that Marmite’s is most effective because it uses long-standing campaign messaging for a contemporary topic. But what they all achieve is the ability to reach out to all but the most humourless audiences concerned with, or impacted by, the Brexit controversy. That is the kind of effective marketing that encourages positive public awareness and brand loyalty.

BBI Brandboost has covered the subject of using humour in marketing in a previous article on this website. It can be very successful if handled well and is one of a number of ways that businesses can use when wading in to thorny topics such as Brexit.

However, whether humorous or serious, any marketing message communicated via media channels and/or social networks must be appropriate to the brand and its values. Especially when contributing to controversial issues, businesses need to get the balance right between daring creativity and strategic caution.

Fortunately, neither BBI Brandboost nor any clients we have dealt with have needed numerous indicative votes in order to come to what we believed was a correct marketing approach.

About the Author

Ronnie Gunn

Ronnie Gunn

As Head of Communications, Ronnie focuses on content writing, PR and media relations. Throughout a long journalistic and business career, he has developed an exceptional talent for spotting a good story and knowing how to tell it. His varied experience allows him to understand complex technical subjects like precision engineering and appreciate the key selling points of consumer markets such as travel.

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