They say more marriages might survive if the couple realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse. Unfortunately, political partners tend to have little patience and loyalty. We have seen the referendum in Scotland that nearly tore the United Kingdom asunder. Now the British exit (BREXIT) from the European Union is rearranging the deck chairs on the ship Europa.
While sailors on the ship, marketers do not have the captain’s power to change the game, but they can help to achieve a less painful adjustment by understanding and preparing for the major transformations and significant effects in marketing on both sides of the Atlantic.
Tinderboxes cannot only cause hot flames, but also carry the sparks for further conflicts. Even today, the confrontations in Syria or Turkey still reflect the inherent disharmony of the Sykes-Picot treaty, the century-old agreement between Britain and France which drew arbitrary borders for the Middle East. The accord weakened the Ottoman Empire as planned, yet caused enduring wars ever since.
Brexit is just as improvident—it reflects an unwillingness to accept large migration flows at present, a reluctance to cope with diversity in the long run, and an encouragement to others to demand special consideration. But who will be the beast of burden and at what price?
The economic relationship between the U.S. and Britain will weaken. The European Single Market (ESM) is single no more. The departure shifts the entire European unification from an outlook of optimism and growth to a fear of division. The value of the pound is likely to remain depressed as will the currency of other non-Euro countries. Relative salaries, housing prices, innovation and new ventures become less robust. The plans of many people to establish their life in Britain will change. Inward tourism may rise but outward travel will suffer.
The United Kingdom, now a new outsider, will need to seek new access accords. Yet how will America choose between Britain and the EU? The separation has likely predicted the death of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Therefore marketers will encounter downward slides in terms of employment, human capital development, and global market success due to the missing British team member.
American outward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will change alongside. According to the OECD, Britain and America invested about 500 billion in each other. For the EU members, the UK market often represents the first true international exposure. American firms have regarded investment in Britain as a strategy to be safe and have an access to 27 other member states of the EU. Under Brexit, such rationale is no longer valid.
Marketers need to find ways that improve the future appeal of the UK. They must demonstrate that trade and investments are preferable ways to obtain goods and services than battles. As part of this process, marketers may shape relationships which are less traditionally organized but more individualistic and spontaneous. Also, highly emphasized marketing fundamentals such as competition, risk, profit, and ownership may have to be modified.
Relations between friends and adversaries do not require winners and losers. They can learn from each other, acknowledge and respect special needs, and make allowance for the human dimension. “We must lead toward a world that trades in freedom. And we must pursue all these goals with focus, patience and strength.” These words of George W. Bush still ring. With more advanced resources, higher levels on the Maslow’s hierarchy, and less pressure to accumulate goods, there must now be an increased search for the soul of marketing. Determining past wrongs and the inflicted cost on individuals and society enables curative marketers to play a new role in the development and improvement of relationships. We must find ways to help share the burden of others, yet they must share ours as well. Leadership is expensive. Those who now sit at the table cannot just drop crumbs, but must let others approach and take a seat.
It is said that the US and the UK are only separated by a common language. The near term future will see a separation of the two by treaty considerations, which due to Brexit, will emerge anew. Revision of past agreements will be quite onerous and lead to more restrictive negotiation outcomes. Bilateral discussions between the U.S. and the UK will focus on controversial fields such as norms and standards, chemicals and additives, and privacy.
Marketers can contribute to such future negotiations by providing real data which help negotiators understand the realities of market exchange. It will be up to marketers to embolden global openness, deep transparency, and suitable consumption in order to improve the cruise ahead towards a better human condition.