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When brands and cross border selling gets political

Upper Clash held an informal roundtable discussion for retail and consumer brand directors to discuss the impact of political events on retailing and marketing.

The conversation was split in two strands. Firstly we shared business impact thoughts on Brexit, Trump and the upcoming European elections, and secondly on the phenomenon of brands taking political stances. Here are just a few notes from the discussion:

  • Any negative feeling within businesses immediately after the referendum result has diminished. Instead retail brands see the opportunity. We heard examples of how the result had encouraged some to begin looking beyond Europe for sourcing product and gaining new customers.
  • There was a general view that the media, and economists, were guilty of ‘talking down’ the economy and causing much of the talked about uncertainty.
  • One attendee thought the trading situation would worsen at Brexit-proper, i.e. at the end of negotiations, if there was no deal.
  • The prospect of a Marine Le Pen presidency should not be ruled out it was suggested. It was thought that the economic policies of her party would harm the ability to do business in France with high taxes.
  • Those with trading links to European Union countries suggested their partners (unsurprisingly) want the UK and EU to continue its free trade arrangement.
  • It was generally thought that brands taking a stance on political issues was risky and unwise.
  • New Look selling ‘Dump Trump’ t-shirts was viewed negatively. Not only a risk for the brand alienating customers, but the use of women’s issues to sell t-shirts was seen as cynical.
  • Looking at research which shows millennials choose brands which espouse values similar to their own, the group thought this was overplayed, instead suggesting product and price will continue to remain key.
  • One brand talked of resisting internal calls to join in the social media ‘grieving’, following the EU referendum result, instead ensuring the brand remained neutral.