What Impact Could Brexit Have on the UK Evidence and Insight Industries?
With Article 50 now triggered, the UK-EU divorce negotiations – a complex “conscious uncoupling” of interwoven systems – can begin.
Like any B2B industry facing the prospect of a serious alteration to local and regional trading conditions, we are mindful of the potential short- and long-term implications — positive or otherwise — for the Evidence industry in the UK and beyond.
As Brexit proper looms large on the horizon, here we summarise our thoughts on the potential future impact.
What impact will Brexit have on the evidence industry’s talent pool?
Glancing across the desks at Foresight Factory UK HQ, we see the world staring back, with colleagues from France, China, Hong Kong, Belgium, Spain, the US, Ireland, Sweden, Scotland and England calling London home.
Clearly, ours is an industry that relies upon the free movement of ideas and labour. With a mission to help marketers strategically understand and anticipate the needs of consumers across the world our ambition is best met when talent has the freedom to fly.
The likely tightening of immigration from the EU and beyond – not least the ongoing uncertainty that many non-UK nationals may feel about their future prospects – will undoubtedly place pressure on our ability to conveniently hire the brightest and best from around the world.
Meanwhile, the decision to include international students in migration targets and likely moves to make it harder for people from abroad to study in the UK will directly disrupt one of our most successful sources of new talent. According to the ONS, 41,000 fewer students came to the UK for long-term study in the year to September 2016. True, some of the slump occurred before the Brexit referendum vote but should the trend continue, our foreign junior talent pool — crucial for global perspectives on the issues and trends we monitor and a stock of future industry leaders — is likely to shrink.
Our position is clear; we require our people to be able to move as freely and as conveniently as an email or a tweet. Just as our analytical tools and algorithms float untethered in the cloud, so too should our labour be able to operate flexibly and without (too onerous) barriers to movement.
Hello Paris, Berlin, Madrid
Brexit threatens to impact the other talent pool our industry relies on: our clients. With HM Government seemingly relaxed about the prospect of leaving the Single Market, we question how desirable a location London, Manchester, Birmingham or Edinburgh could become for multinational companies looking for a European base.
We remain optimistic about the UK’s ability to retain the confidence of international business — and we do not expect a mass exodus of the global marketing elite we are proud to call our clients. However, we must be prepared for the possibility of a more dispersed client base and a global client community that may — in the event of a more complex regulatory relationship with the UK — be more cautious about striking partnerships with UK suppliers that come with added procurement paperwork or even financial disincentives.
Uncertainty: an ally of the Evidence industry?
A climate of uncertainty — what better way to describe the Brexit divorce period — arguably strengthens the appeal of the Evidence industry, with businesses like Foresight Factory on hand to guide clients in the marketing and insight professions with evidence-based recommendations on how best to engage consumers and build better, stronger brands that meet genuine consumer needs (see our earlier post on the trends boosted in the immediate aftermath of the vote to leave).
“Post-truth” may be a term in vogue but the marketing professionals we engage are by no means advocates of “alternative facts”; rather, the case for evidence-based decision-making is getting stronger by the day.
But our industry cannot be complacent. A more volatile world may present its opportunities but we must continuously sharpen our truth-seeking tools — for instance through the smarter analysis of bigger and better data — to provide an ever more rigorous assessment of where the truth in consumers’ lives actually lies.
Brexit and its global cousins provoke new questions from the marketing community
Brexit and its related global disruptions trigger new questions from our client community that we must answer.
A flavour of the questions arriving at Foresight Factory’s door: Is globalisation having a wobble? Should global brands abandon global campaigns in favour of national/regional approaches? Does Brexit (and Trump USA’s threats of protectionism) mark the beginning of a more complicated global trading environment, in which brands have to navigate increasing (and not decreasing) regulatory complexity? And, by the way, did you see Brexit coming?
Brexit’s biggest threat: it is not the only story of our times
A final thought. Whilst it may dominate the headlines, we should not allow Brexit to dominate the medium-term corporate plan.
Practically every Government department is now spending inordinate amounts of time, energy and money on the Brexit issue. Will its narrow focus be at the detriment of other, arguably more pressing, issues?
For forward-looking brands, countless socio-economic trends demand our attention as the 20s decade approaches — not least the opportunities presented by an ageing society, the very real challenge of automation in a low-growth environment and the rapidly evolving ways in which consumers will shop, today and tomorrow. Yes, consumers are likely to adjust, and readjust, their spend and priorities as Brexit drama continues — and for this we will remain vigilant — but in many ways Brexit will be a sideshow to the real consumer stories of our times.
First published on LinkedIn