Craig Mawdsley
Craig Mawdsley
A view from Craig Mawdsley

It's time for brands to reduce their reliance on vox pop and anecdote

We must get back to a more complete understanding of the country, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's joint CSO argues.

Remember when everything used to be about the Northern Brexit-voting working class?

Those days when no presentation to a client was complete without showing the tattoo that you got when you went too native on a consumer deep dive in a Wetherspoons in Bolton.

We knew that now it was all about the non-metropolitan, non-liberal, non-elite and that BRITAIN HAD CHANGED – becoming a less tolerant nation that cleaved to traditional values of flag and community. Your brand, your marketing people and your agency had better wise up and start working to that reality.

Now of course, everything’s about the young urban metropolitans. The howl of protest from the nation’s rising next generation means your brand should get used to a more liberal and ethnically diverse future. We now know that Britain is a tolerant nation that believes in seizing the opportunities of the future and creating a more inclusive and caring state. And most importantly that once again we can do research groups in London without feeling like a wimp.

It’s head-spinning, isn’t it?

Either 64 million people have just totally changed their mind about everything, like a utopian episode of Dr Who (or maybe dystopian depending on which side of the fence you sit), or all those people have left and been replaced by 64 million other people.

What on earth is a marketing person to do with this?

Well, perhaps a good place to start would be to reduce our reliance on vox pop, anecdote and stereotype and get back to a more complete understanding of the country. 

As some of us did say at the time, the Brexit narrative at very best described the views of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave. There are around 50 million adults in the UK, so that’s around a third of UK adults, not around all UK adults as Theresa May seemed to think.

And the recent general election narrative involves more people voting for Theresa May’s vision of Britain than voted for David Cameron in either of the elections that resulted in him becoming prime minister.

We were never Brexit Britain.

We are not now Corbyn Britain.

The narrative is created by searching out people to film who voted for the thing that squeaked past the quirks of our electoral system to change legislation or weaken a government. As though they are the only people in the country.

None of them are representative of a big and massively diverse nation. We are all these things and more. The disaffected Northern working class have been there for a long while. You should have been thinking about them. The tolerant and progressive youth have been there for a long while.

You should have been thinking about them. You should also have been thinking about single person households, the over-65s, people who aren’t white, people who are white, the mega rich, Londoners (yes, Londoners! Around 10 million of them! Almost 20% of the population who we were meant to erase from our minds when THE WORLD CHANGED last year), Christians, Muslims, people with impaired mobility, those who struggle with numeracy and literacy, and your mad Uncle Tony.

If you get distracted by the silly stereotypes, you will simply be doing a bad unprofessional job. We are blessed with the best set of free public data in the entire world. Go to ons.gov.uk and fill your boots. Turn off your TV. Silence your radio. Have a look at who we really are. Only then will you be able to understand who this nation is.

The beautiful thing about all this diversity is that you will never know what’s going to happen next. Because there are 64 million contrary free-minded people in this country who can do and think whatever they damn well like, whatever the Daily Mail tells them.

Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Crain Mawdsley is the joint chief strategy officer at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO