Lessons from the Brexit Vote
What can we learn from the Brexit vote and the similar sentiments echoed in this country? The main lesson is to be as real as we can with our customers. It shows that there are some real social risks for companies from uncontrolled rumors. And there are some very real opportunities for those who can offer hope to those who have aspirations.
This vote shows that there is a lot of fear and anger among some people. Those emotions tend to make people more conservative. However, these emotions also lead to "flash actions" where a rumor or "news" is flashed to a wide number of people who then do stuff that they might never do in sober thinking and they might later regret (or serve time for). The "flash" always carries the implication that something must be done right away without checking its validity. Companies or products may be the target of such "flash action" and need to go into crisis mode to deal with that action. History is already full of cases where rumors about companies and products were passed around. Now, those rumors spread worldwide at a click of a button.
There was also a lot of "disbelieve what we have been told". "People in this country have had enough of experts." That cuts to the core of how we communicate to our prospective customers. People are not believing advertising. This is a result of so much advertising not matching the reality. For example, some pastry franchisees were found to have a sign saying that their pastries were hot when they were not. The managers had learned that when the sign was on, their sales went up. They were interested only in the profits, not in properly serving the customers. People have seen far too many ads that do not match reality. This is why "content" and personal recommendations are more effective today than advertising.
Another point is that there is a growing disconnect between those who have benefited from globalization and technology and those who have not. While it is true that we have had repeated disconnects in our society, most of those in the past have been between the aged and the young. That meant that over time, those disconnects would become less of an issue. This current disconnect is between different groups of our young people. Our culture cannot survive that kind of disconnect.
With this many people unhappy, there is a huge opportunity for companies to offer hope. There is an opportunity for those who can provide a path to benefit for those who want a better life. We already see for profit educational institutions trying to offer that (and often failing). Mary Kay was quoted as saying that her main product her company offered was hope. She built that empire on offering hope to those who had been outside the normal paths to success. Chick-Fil-A is another company that offers hope to their franchisees.
Let us offer hope to those who are struggling.