Ask Bullmore: How do I stop a Brexiter colleague from being bullied?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

Ask Bullmore: How do I stop a Brexiter colleague from being bullied?

A colleague is being teased after letting slip that she voted for Brexit. How do I improve the situation? Agony uncle Jeremy Bullmore weighs in.

One of the junior marketers in our company let slip a few weeks ago that she had voted for Brexit, which I think rather shocked and surprised most of us. Since then, she has been frequently teased and questioned, and I am concerned that this is amounting to bullying. What can I do to improve the situation?

Interesting that you should say let slip. "Let slip" doesn’t mean announced or declared. It means inadvertently revealed. So already you’re assuming that people who voted for Brexit would rather other people didn’t know that they’d voted for Brexit – which is how people with unpopular minority views often feel. Except that, in this case, it’s you and your colleagues who are in the minority. I can’t think of another instance where members of a majority feel so inhibited about revealing it.

Of course, it’s a regional thing. Most cities, and certainly London, are full of Remainers, many of whom will continue to greet each new Brexit-triggered item of unwelcome news with undisguised schadenfreude. Michael Gove, who actually won, devoted an entire column to complaining about the behaviour of those who lost. What was he worried about, I wonder?

You’re absolutely right to be concerned for your junior marketer. And it’s going to get worse. There will be no good news for Brexiters for at least three years – and maybe not then. The only news will be of confusions, rebuffs, obfuscations, contradictions and new emergent, deeply undesirable consequences – for which your junior marketer will be held personally responsible. She’s in for a torrid time.

Unless, that is, you remind your company that it is a fundamental requirement of marketing people to have an instinctive feel for their ultimate consumers. And, on the evidence of the referendum vote, the only member of your company to have such an understanding is this junior. It is the teasers and the bullies who should be made to feel inadequate: they continue to behave as members of that out-of-touch metropolitan elite against whom 17,410,742 members of the public – your consumers – decisively rebelled. 

Make those smug Remainers of yours feel just a little bit chastened. And make your junior marketer feel just a little bit proud. But I’m afraid the fundamental divisiveness of Brexit isn’t going to go away.

Dear Jeremy, Do you agree that Brexit has exposed how out of touch advertising and media have become with regard to most places outside London? How should agencies respond to this?

Yes, I do. See above. And, as ever, greater diversity is part of the answer. But not just gender or ethnic diversity; diversity of prejudice is at least as important. How many people do you have in your agency who fully understood Nigel Farage and why getting on four million consumers voted for him? Opinion polls and focus groups help but they’re not enough: you can’t outsource empathy.

My boss is big on keeping up with tech and always urges us to jump on the latest fad, the most recent being 360-degree video. But I don’t agree that every social or digital trend fits our brand. What should I tell my boss to rein him in without seeming like I don’t care? 

First, you need to identify what particular inadequacy it is that makes your boss such a berk. It’s not difficult. It clearly gives him simple-minded gratification to think that he’s ahead of the curve (or whatever lame cliché he favours that week). Then use that inadequacy to convert him. Praise the New Brutality that’s beginning to be all the rage (or whatever lame cliché you choose) in marketing circles: the dumping of the ephemerally fashionable (you may have to explain ephemeral to him); the growing contempt for the faddish; and the new, red-blooded espousal of Timeless Marketing Fundamentals. He’ll fall for the New Brutality on a single hearing. And, luckily, there’s just enough truth in it for you to be able to sound completely convincing.

It must be deeply dispiriting for you to have to work for such a cretin.

Pay peanuts, get monkeys. Do you agree?

Probably. But, there again, paying megabucks won’t always get you megabrains. 

It’s never just the money. 

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or by tweeting @Campaignmag with the hashtag #AskBullmore