Navigating Brexit: Utilising Brand & Design Strategy
How design and brand strategy can help your business navigate Brexit and beyond
The Brexit clock is running down and we’re still not much clearer on how or whether the UK is leaving Europe. This lack of clarity has created a nervousness across the majority of the UK for the past two years. It’s natural in these times of uncertainty to batten down the hatches and cut costs wherever possible.
In 1944, the Council for Industrial design was founded by Churchill’s war government to help support the nation’s economy during the war and to prepare for life after it. In a time of turmoil, economic challenges and major change, we turned to design to innovate and instigate growth. We currently find ourselves in another challenging economic situation and now is the time to once again invest in the power of design and design thinking.
“Design and design skills are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. They give us the tools to respond to these unprecedented challenges, and instigate the growth, innovation and jobs that will drive the UK’s global future.”
Sarah Weir OBE CEO, Design Council
Austerity usually equates to cuts and scale backs. However, rather than making cuts, you can be smarter with your existing investment into design and brand marketing. Some agencies and marketers are taking active measures to respond to the known effects of Brexit, but this is not the case across the board. Research from econsultancy shows that 58% of marketers were making no changes to their strategy in light of Brexit. However, there are some clear steps that can be taken.
Consolidate your existing customers
It’s cheaper to win business from your existing customers than marketing to new customers – They already buy into your brand, are quicker to convert and easier to cross-sell and up-sell products/services to. Studies have proven that the probability of converting an existing customer is 60 – 70%, whereas the likelihood of converting a new prospect is only 5 – 20%.  So be strategic with your marketing and be focussed on who your core customer is rather than casting your net far and wide.
Increase team productivity with internal engagement
If you have made active changes to combat Brexit that affect the roles and responsibilities of your staff, think about setting internal brand engagement plans. These are proven to align staff to the business vision and goals, improve productivity, reduce absenteeism and increase talent retention rates. When it comes to change, there needs to be story that is communicated to teams to ensure there are no unwelcome surprises. That story is made up of: vision, skills, incentives, resources and action plans. If overlooked this can cause the fear, confusion and anxiety that comes with organisational change.
Deploy design thinking
The “Double Diamond” design thinking model demonstrates a framework that is traditional within design-led agencies. It combines divergent thinking (discovery of insights through research or talking to customers) and convergent thinking (defining the area to focus on). It’s designed to help your team understand the core problem of your customer and then define and develop the best solutions to meet those problems. It often leads to innovative, creative solutions that can set you apart from your competitors.
The Guardian newspaper is now using this design thinking framework to align multidisciplinary teams around its core business challenges. In January 2016, The Guardian launched the publication’s three-year business strategy and newspaper redesign to support this. The aim being to secure new growth opportunities for the global news organisation and reduce losses, aiming to break even in 2018/19, which they are on track to achieve.
The impact of the redesign has been significant, with cost savings and increases in sales, subscriptions and donations. Subsequently, they have acquired almost four times more print subscribers compared to an average week before the redesign.
Target new audiences
To extend the reach of your business and attract new clients, you may need to consider how your brand looks and what message that conveys to your potential customers. This is where design and brand identity can have a massive financial impact. On average, for every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect a £4 increase in net operating profit.  Engage with a strategic branding agency to help develop and define your brand for a wider customer base.
Think about every experience
In the next two years, customer experience will continue to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Think about your customer’s journey as they interact with your brand. Where can improvements be made to make it faster, more intuitive or more consistent? Good design puts people first and uses creativity to solve problems, challenge the status quo and make experiences better. They shape the built environment, the digital world and the products and services we use, creating better places, better products, better processes and better performance.
Plan for the future with brand strategy
In summary a well-planned and clear brand strategy will embody the above points and give your business a vision for successful future growth. It gives you a purpose that will affect the way you position and market yourselves. Pair this with a cohesive brand identity and it will give you the building blocks to a successful business ready to negotiate Brexit.
Evidence from the Design Council overwhelmingly shows that design is at the forefront of global economic change and innovation. In their recent Design Economy Report 2018, it states:
“Three-fifths of respondents (59%) believe that design will contribute substantially to any of a range of business improvement activities in the next three years. This includes efforts to increase sales in the UK, the development of new products or services, and marketing campaigns.”
Capitalising on design’s potential to drive growth is now more important than ever as we prepare for Brexit Britain. Smarter decisions rather than delaying decisions will ultimately be what makes or breaks businesses during uncertain times. Building a brand for long-term success relies on good brand strategy, so it makes sense to invest now for the future if you haven’t already done so.
 Wheelhouse Advisors
 Design Council – Design delivers for business