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Brexit and B2B: Now more than ever before – keep calm and carry on

If you’re like me, you’re probably still slightly reeling from last week’s vote for the UK to leave the EU. A great many people were taken by surprise by this result, and are struggling to come to terms with the implications, and what to do about them.

Before we speak about those, it’s worth considering what the vote itself means in marketing terms. Without wishing to get too political in this arena, my perspective is that this vote could be described as the ultimate triumph of emotion over logic – for many voters at least. And there are some obvious B2B marketing implications of this.

We heard weeks of authoritative commentary and predictions from economists, business leaders, scientists and both cultural and religious figures about the very real negative ramifications of Brexit. Yet these seemed to cut little ice with huge swathes of the electorate, who preferred be driven by their gut instinct on the key issue of immigration, and (to a lesser extent) the power of the EU.

Of course, this is massive shorthand for a complex and convoluted campaign on both sides (ignoring many of the issues and arguments) but you can see the story of the Brexit vote as logic against emotion: and emotion won.

The same thing is happening every day when business decision makers engage with marketing messages. Buyers will typically claim they are making decisions entirely rationally, but behavioural economics shows that us the reality is often very different. True decision making patterns are complex and subconscious that often the individual themselves is unaware of precisely why they thought a certain way or made a certain decision. Even if they are, they may not outwardly admit it.

Simply put: rational/logical marketing messages are ignored, emotion triumphs over logic, and consequently B2B marketing has to appeal to buyers on an emotional level to succeed.

On a practical level…

Whether you agree with this highly simplistic analysis or not, there will undoubtedly be some more specific and immediate implications for marketers as a result of the Brexit vote.

It’s too early to understand what the full economic ramifications will be, but in the short term we are already seeing some instability and a general reduction in confidence, and that is likely to be felt by marketers to some degree.

The challenge is how they respond to this evolving situation – pragmatism, flexibility and initiative must be the orders of the day. There will be many challenges thrown up by the Brexit aftermath, and marketers must roll with these, adapting their activities accordingly, and carefully calculating where to stick to their existing plans and where to be more cautious.

More importantly though, there will also be opportunities – as the landscape shifts, so individual sectors and markets will morph, creating new avenues to explore, new propositions to create, and new insights to acquire and leverage. It’s never going to be more important to understand your customers, what they are feeling and what they want, than in the current environment. The winners in this situation will be the brands and marketers who best identify and exploit these opportunities.

The main weapons that marketers will need in order to profit from this situation are a sense of perspective and a cool head. If you have these, then you can approach whatever the post Brexit vote holds, and its associated challenges, with confidence.