Modern Marketing Brand

The public’s distrust in politics is an opportunity for brave and decisive brands

By Richard Exon | Founder

July 1, 2022 | 5 min read

The cost of living crisis has shown how shallow political campaigning has become, writes Richard Exon, founder of Joint. But it could provide an opportunity for brands to break through.

There was a truly peculiar interview with Ian Duncan Smith recently where he summed up Boris Johnson’s strengths as twofold – an ability to get out of scrapes and an ability to appeal to a broader range of audiences than most Tory politicians.

And that was it. Nothing about vision, leadership or values. Just a lukewarm endorsement of marketability, one that would embarrass most brand managers into dropping a celebrity spokesperson if that’s all they had to offer.

A person fills up a car with petrol

Petrol prices have sharply risen in recent months, adding to the cost of living crisis / Unsplash

And to be clear, this wasn’t Duncan Smith trying to damn Johnson with faint praise, as his vulpine smile throughout the interview showed. He genuinely believed he was sharing golden insights about his leader.

For political neutrals there is a scary toxicity about the Tories and their politics just now.

Anyone who has ever worked in communications can see the breathtaking audacity of their post-truth messaging. They blame Labour for the rail strikes, they imply that anybody decrying the Rwanda immigration policy is simply prejudiced about that country and they continue to insist they ‘got Brexit done’, even while flailing around seeking a resolution to the intractable Northern Ireland Protocol/Good Friday Agreement problem.

Meanwhile Keir Starmer is still not cutting through and simply does not yet look like a prime minister in waiting.

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Little wonder then that the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer data shows that the public’s loss of trust in politicians and institutions has accelerated, and that business is now more trusted than both.

Which of course presents a fantastic opportunity for brave and decisive brands to step in and provide the kind of economic and cultural leadership that builds brand strength rapidly.

Take the banking sector, for example. As the Bank of England base interest rate creeps up, banks are beginning to benefit due to NMI (net margin income) for the first time in a decade. Finally, there is a substantial difference between the rate they pay savers and the rate they charge borrowers. This is where a bank’s profit is largely made.

It’s the fundamental building block of retail banking, which has always been a shared endeavor between a bank, its borrowers and its savers. The pressure on every bank’s board to maximize this margin after so many lean years will be huge. Shareholders will rightly expect healthy dividends to resume – in fact, NatWest has just paid its first dividend for years.

And this is where brave banking CMOs can steer their boards and make the case for as equitable a deal as possible for the customers as well as the shareholders. With NMI comes room for maneuver and the chance for some competitive pricing. Over the coming year, ambitious banks will be able to pay a little bit more on a savings account, charge a little bit less on loans and mortgages and still be profitable enough to reward shareholders.

Economists hate this kind of thinking – one former Barclays CEO claimed to parliament that the idea of ‘excess profit’ is incomprehensible to anyone who understands money properly.

But anybody who understands people and how they feel about fairness in everyday life knows what corporate greed looks like.

They’ll also know that a business and brand that adds even a little more value in real terms in the kind of environment we are in today will reap greater rewards in the long term.

Richard Exon is the founder of Joint.

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