Budgets are rarely harbingers of good news. You arguably have to stretch back to Nigel Lawson’s slashing of top rate tax in 1988 for that. This year’s Budget was never going to be a confidence-lifting moment. But the nation is now so primed for cuts that it is unlikely to dampen confidence further.
The chancellor has resolutely stuck to his strategy. There is no doubting the intent to tackle the deficit in one parliament. The no pain, no gain approach, sweetened by the ‘fuel for the economy’ idea, masks a gritty reality of low growth.
Consumers who do engage with the Budget, beyond the immediate change to the money in their pockets, will probably draw a great deal from the tone of the chancellor.
There is some empathy with the economic reality many households are experiencing but Osborne seems cautious in dealing in hope and optimism beyond a call to arms for ‘the march of the makers’. My instinct is the March sunshine, the Royal Wedding and rapidly approaching London 2012 may yet play a bigger role in putting the spring in the nation’s steps.
Marketers appear to be more optimistic than consumers at the moment. In many respects, the marketing world has proven highly agile since 2008, constantly anticipating and responding to subtle shifts in consumer mood with an instinct for leadership.
In many senses the marketing and communications industry holds several cards that the chancellor does not: we can adapt to consumers on a weekly, even daily basis. We are relentlessly creative in how we help consumers make the most of their money. We offer them feel good respite moments.
Retailers in particular can adopt the ‘on people’s side’ role that past government’s aspired to play. We know more than ever that media investment generates return. So, march of the marketers, as much as ‘march of the makers’, will be a theme running through 2011.