"We divided ourselves among caste, creed, culture and countries but what is undivided remains most valuable: a mere smile and the love." - Santosh Kalwar
Britain is divided. There’s no question about it. Brexit pitted family members against each other and the closeness of the vote has torn an even wider chasm in politics. Emotions are running high in Westminster, in sitting rooms and in clubs, coffee shops and bars.
The world is divided. The US presidential verdict was as polarising as Brexit.
Thanks to iHeart radio I was interviewed by some local radio stations across the US from Miami to Salt Lake City. The interviews were during the week following the Trump election.
My topic was about The Glass Wall book and empowering women at work. The tone of the interviews varied very widely as you might guess.
In one locale I was waiting to go on air live and could hear the previous phone in. The caller said she’d called in to, "thank the Lord for Donald Trump". She repeatedly thanked the Lord, and repeatedly explained her many reasons for doing so.
On the other side of the divide I have one American friend who’s taking Prozac as a result of the election, and who says that she’d swap our referendum result for her presidential election result at the drop of a hat.
MediaCom’s Real World Insight’s latest report on the state of the nation. Britain Decoded quantifies, and diagnoses the fragmentation of our nation. For a start nearly half of us put our regional or local identity above Britishness.
Big cities are important for identity – many Londoners would put that first. But, inevitably perhaps, someone from Yorkshire, wherever they live now, identifies first as being from Yorkshire.
There’s an opportunity for brands here. People are open to and will respond positively to regional or hyper local messaging.
Someone from Yorkshire, wherever they live now, identifies first as being from Yorkshire.
This trend has been talked about, but has been cost inefficient for most of this century so far. Now, with opportunities in digital for localised out of home, mobile and regional newsbrands, that barrier to closeness has dissolved.
Not many brands are focussing on this, and there is a significant competitive advantage to be had if you get it right and you’re the only brand in the sector bothering to do so.
Most Brits agree community is a good thing. We like to be part of a community. There’s good ancestral reasons for this. Your stone age ancestors were much more likely to survive the winter if they were safe in the village and not wandering alone risking being lunch to the local sabre tooth tiger.
The meaning of community is divided too however.
It can be physical – the local coffee shop or farmers market, or of course the pub.
Your community might be a community of interest. One of the great benefits of social networks is the ability to find people with shared experiences or passions who don’t live anywhere near you. This is relatively new as a mainstream trend powered by Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat.
Your community might be only where you hear exactly the same opinion as your own. Exacerbated by current politics and economics. Strong newsbrands have historically been the vehicles for such communities.
Overall there’s a role for brands to bring together communities and remind us of our essential humanity. In 2017 they can go against the divisions and help remind us of what brings Brits together.