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UK Marketers Concerned About External Challenges

Brexit and brand safety weigh on their minds

March 15, 2017

From Brexit to brand safety to evolving EU privacy rules, UK marketers feel beset by largely external challenges, according to a recent report from CIM (The Chartered Institute of Marketing).

In a January 2017 poll by CIM of its members, 70% of respondents were concerned about factors largely outside of their control—developments such as data breaches, tax scandals and workers’ rights problems—affecting their brand. Nearly all of those polled (95%) thought marketers needed to have more influence and involvement with the broader business in order to protect brand reputation.

That sentiment dovetails with a survey of UK marketers by CIM and YouGov between December 2016 and January 2017 that found 87% of respondents felt more pressure on their brands to behave ethically and be a role model for society.

In an era when social media is commonly used to rouse opposition to companies that in some way fall afoul of individual constituencies’ specific beliefs, it’s unsurprising that the same study found 89% of respondents thought the internet, and social media in particular, had given consumers more power to effect change over brands. It’s also possibly why only 18% of respondents in the first CIM survey were confident they could handle “anything social media throws at them.”

The CIM/YouGov study found that Brexit and recession were marketers’ top concerns for 2017, cited by 55% and 47%, respectively. More than half of respondents (54%) expected to see an increase in “Brand Britain” messaging incorporated into marketing campaigns because of Brexit, with almost a fifth (19%) looking at how they could incorporate this messaging into their own marketing efforts.

A more pressing regional issue—the upcoming introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—was less of an immediate concern. Only 13% of respondents said that the GDPR’s scheduled 2018 introduction would be a top concern for the year ahead.

That was despite only 11% of respondents saying their companies already had systems in place to ensure GDPR compliance, and almost a third (31%) admitting they did not know whether their business had taken any steps to ensure their compliance.

“While marketers are conscious of many of the challenges that lie ahead and how to address them, they need to be careful that the specter of Brexit and the plethora of digital trends do not obscure other issues that need addressing,” said Chris Daly, CIM’s chief executive, in a press release announcing the study’s results.

“It is concerning to see that GDPR has not been fully considered, given the wide-reaching impact this will have on business areas which deal with data—marketers’ natural habitat,” Daily said.

“Given the concerns that emerged from consumers last year over how businesses collect and use customer data, marketers must make sure they are prepared and ready for GDPR sooner rather than later.”

Failure to measure up to internet users’ data protection expectations could have significant ramifications. While internet users in the UK aren’t stereotyped as being hypervigilant about their digital privacy the way those in countries like Germany are, a Q2 2016 study by Eurostat found UK internet users were equally, if not more, proactive about taking action to protect their personal information online than their peers in Germany and France.

Actions Taken by Internet Users in France, Germany and the UK to Manage Access to Their Personal Information Online, Q2 2016 (% of respondents)

The study found 54% of UK internet users ages 16 to 74 who had accessed the internet in the preceding year had refused to allow use of their personal info for advertising purposes—a rate just 1 percentage point below respondents in Germany and 4 points above the rate among respondents from France.

Plus, more UK respondents had limited access to their social network profile or content and had restricted access to their geographical location than had respondents in either other country.

Cliff Annicelli

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