The major political contests are behind us. We now know Donald Trump will be the US president and the UK will be moving forward with Brexit. And like many other people, I’m still stunned by both of these outcomes. The historic significance of these events makes them important laboratories for us to learn from.
Last month I identified three lessons for brands leading up to the US presidential election. And now upon seeing the results of that election and Brexit, three additional points have become apparent.
1. Be prepared to be surprised
In both instances the polls and predictions were surprisingly wrong. Virtually all of the US polls were suggesting a Clinton victory – in fact, the Huffington Post projected a 98% chance of Hillary winning.
But, as they say in sports, that’s why we play the game. That’s why in football, players take the field for each game regardless of the projections. That’s why we watch the game – we are prepared to be surprised (especially if we’re cheering for the underdog). After all, if Leicester City can win the Premier League title, anything can happen.
So what does this mean for those of us in marketing and product development? It means we must get in the game, and a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is our best way to step on the field. An MVP gets us in the game as quickly as possible and allows us to adapt rapidly based on consumer usage patterns.
The alternative is to wait and build a ‘perfect’ solution, but we should expect to be surprised. Consumers may have a different version of ‘perfect’ than what we developed.
2. Listen to the overlooked demographics
Joan Williams wrote an excellent piece in the Harvard Business Review discussing the working class. When historians look back on this election, I believe they will highlight the disparity in how candidates understood the working class as the fundamental differentiator in the election. This rural, middle-class group has felt overlooked by politicians and corporations over the last two decades. They have seen their job prospects lessen while those of the educated elite increase.
This audience rightly feels it has been mischaracterised and has not been heard. We as marketers take pride in our ability to listen to consumers, but have we really been listening to this audience? Might we be guilty of the same ‘class cluelessness’ that Williams describes? We must move out of our urban bubble to better understand this audience, or our brands will be subject to the same kind of disruption the major political parties just experienced.
3. Promote diversity programs to support our people
The campaigns alienated most every minority population (Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTQ) and celebrated objectionable behaviour to women. This rhetoric has left many people feeling lost, alienated, and afraid. Given this divisive climate, it is more important than ever for our organisations to explicitly support diversity programmes. Our organisations need to reach out to all underrepresented minorities to ensure they are valued and empowered.
Many of our companies are led by white males, and we must remember it is the white male demographic that many hold responsible for the election results. Our organisations need to take a stand to support women and minorities in the workplace. We need to publicly promote and fund programmes to create inclusive cultures that recruit the best and most diverse talent and to guide and develop our existing staff. We need to insist on unconscious bias training for everyone to identify and eliminate these hidden biases.
The contests may be over, but the impact has only just begun.
Jim Mason is executive director of strategy and insight for Razorfish London