No-Kids-In-The-Bloc: Brexit and Email MarketingBrexit.  A word that stands alone in the dictionary.  There are no accurate synonyms, no antonyms, it cannot be made into an adverb.  It’s a linguistic anomaly, only able to be discussed in the future tense, and as yet has no definition.  Nobody actually seems to know what a brexit is.  On one hand, we know it is because Britain are leaving the bloc.  The European Union will cease to influence, or be influenced by, Great Britain.  On the other hand, it has become this foggy void, awash with ambiguity, and steeped in anxiety.  I think it is time to be honest with ourselves.  Nobody knows exactly what is going to happen.

As far as email marketing is concerned, we have been here before.  Email has circumvented the maelstrom amidst the chanting GDPR-mageddonists and the “Email is Dead” circus.  Yes, email has proven itself a robust character.  But will we hear how the “end is nigh for email” on repeat again until March 29th?

I must admit, Brexit is a complex puppy to play with.  Over a year after the article has been triggered, and with less than a year until we are unceremoniously slung off the boat, there still is no deal.  This means, almost anything can happen from this point.  But I think, even in worst case scenarios, email marketing is up to the task.

Brelationship Status: “It’s Complicated”

Rebecca Sentance’s article ‘How prepared is the marketing industry for Brexit?’ delivers an analysis that points out that “a surprisingly slim percentage of marketing professionals have implemented, or are planning to implement, a strategy for Brexit.”  Sentance’s mild incredulity extends to the fact that only “10% of survey respondents stated that they have implemented a Brexit marketing strategy”.  The faux shock and surprise is premature and unwarranted.  Fair enough, at the time Sentance crafted her article, “a third possible model for handling customs after leaving the EU” was still to be debated.  If Sentance believed at any point that Chequers was to be Brexit’s holy grail, then perhaps now she understands why so few marketing departments have implemented a Brexit strategy.

Put simply: nobody knows what is coming.

With Theresa May playing the world’s most embarrassingly public game of ‘Deal or no Deal’, it is hard to know exactly how we can strategise at all.  Brexit has divided the analytical opinions of politicians, economists and social commentators all over the UK.  It stands to reason that the marketers are being reticently cautious about the whole affair.  Thanks to GDPR in May 2018, the complex relationship email marketing has with data, is likely to get even more confusing when we “brexit” the bloc in March 2019.

Brexit and the Broken Harbour

Since The Safe Harbour Agreement broke down in 2015/16, the way data has been used has become a hot topic.  Without an agreement in place between the EU and the US, the UK had begun to stop using US suppliers.  A new deal had to be struck between the EU and the US, the data superhero “Privacy Shield” was born.  In essence, the privacy shield allows the EU to export data to the US as long as the American companies observe the EU data laws.  Unsurprisingly, this agreement is breaking down rapidly, and the bloc MEPs have begun petitioning to suspend Privacy Shield, due to the non-compliance of American countries.

Now, whilst the privacy shield is under strict scrutiny, Samuel Stolton writes an article with the telling title’Data agreement: EU jumps into bed with Japan as tensions rise over US privacy shield‘.  The EU have leveled a serious proposal towards the Japanese, allowing them to transfer data between the continents.  Meanwhile, the US are still being accused of not complying with the privacy shield agreement.

In short: this is a mess.

It isn’t enough that data agreements have become so terribly complex, for UK data holders this could potentially be a verifiable nightmare.  The UK email marketer would be forgiven for panicking just a little.

Are our heads on the bloc?

I can almost hear the “email is dead” drums pounding in the distance.  Brexit could possibly leave us with data that we do not have the permission to use.  Any agreement the EU nation holds will no longer apply to us here.  It might look as though, at least for a little while, we will be unable to send marketing emails outside of the UK.  We have seen this sort of scaremongering before around GDPR.  Big companies, such as Wetherspoons burned their customer list in a panic due to the looming data changes.  What such mayhem will Brexit cause?

With any luck, companies will be a little more reluctant to get the contact kindling out this time.  The UK have agreed to honour the terms of GDPR.  This will mean that we can continue to export data throughout, and within, the bloc even after Brexit.  Walter McCahon’s analysis describes that we are pretty much fit for purpose.  Well, barring a few little “tweaks to move powers from EU institutions to UK institutions”.

Without being tied to the EU, our relationship with the US and other countries might be trickier.  However, without privacy shield bumping and bouncing it’s way to the data scrap heap, the UK are free to make their own deals with the US.  Even though we are struggling to push a deal through with the EU in terms of Brexit, getting a data agreement with the US should be marginally easier.  Nobody stands in the way of America and its capital.

The dwindling economic health!

Another factor to consider in the future of email marketing, is the very real possibility of an economic crash.  Earlier this month, Simon Tilford announced that ‘A No-Deal Brexit Will Destroy the British Economy‘.  As he points out, the UK “should theoretically be able to leave the European Union without wrenching economic dislocation and without doing long-lasting damage to relations with its closest neighbours”.  But the longer we keep failing, quite stunningly, to secure a deal with EU, the greater the chance we have of heading towards a no-deal result.

And that would be economically disastrous for the United Kingdom.  It would especially make it difficult for anyone who imports resources or services.

Of course nobody wishes for a no-deal Brexit, and nobody wants to see the economy take a nose-dive either.  But it is not all doom and gloom for the UK email marketer, or for that matter, UK based email marketing software platforms.

Bremail Marketing on a Budget

Should the unthinkable happen, and the sterling slips, it would be more important to use UK based email marketing platforms. Data compliance with the GDPR already assured, the simple fact is that the UK may become the cheapest on the market.  Platforms such as mailingmanager, will be markedly more cost-effective than any service based within the EU or the US.

And that goes for customers still in the bloc.

With the UK full implementing GDPR, the European market is still open.  And if we still have no deal, the ensuing economic crash makes it is feasible that UK based email marketing providers would be the most cost-effective to use.

Furthermore, anything produced, and sold within the UK will be the equivalent of popping to an Andorran duty-free in the 90s.  This is even more reason to send out our email marketing to the EU, and other countries.  The email itself costs nothing, but your naturally low price might already be a teaser for the foreign countries.

That’s another fine mess you got me into

Let’s be fair.  If we are at the point of looking toward the possibility of an economic crash, then we are in a bit of trouble right now.  Brexit, right now, is a mess.  The problem is, even the stiff upper-lip of the British can’t find away to laugh at this one just yet.  Check out social media, check your newspapers.  There is always a debate, or new information that contradicts the same report in another newspaper.  This is another good reason to keep your email marketing away from Brexit.  Steer clear of the bloc.

In the twenty-first century, it really isn’t worth it.

Company’s like Nike are big enough, robust enough, and global enough, to get away with bandwagon marketing on divisive issues.  That doesn’t mean everyone will be able to survive the backlash of using such a political hot potato to try and sell their goods.

Dividing the country

Would you market your product as a “Great British Brexit” product?  Steeped in sovereignty, and showing how wonderful it is to be British, slathering your copy with union-jack’s and rain clouds.  Marketing with this much patriotism is likely to alienate a heavy proportion of your customers.  In fact, unless you are really clever or brave, it is probably better to keep the word Brexit away from your marketing copy.  Brexit is such a raw and passionate topic at the moment, that the results of such a campaign may simply stir up negative emotions amongst your recipients.  However, as Sentance pointed out in her article, there are companies that have made it work for them.  For instance: Jigsaw’s ‘Love Immigration’ campaign.  Speaking to Marketing Week, Jigsaw’s head of Marketing gave insight into the campaign.

“There’s no question that immigration is a controversial issue in British politics right now, but if you risk making people potentially disagree with you, then I think it’s worth it as that still creates a powerful emotional engagement.”

Basically, this marketing campaign does everything I advise you to avoid.  But, Jigsaw were brave.  Jigsaw were clever.

So let’s wrap this up

I know, that even for me, this blog has stretched to almost Tolkienian proportions.  Brexit is that sort of topic.  It is hard to stay on the line and not slip into bias. Moreover, it has become a topic that has been banned from most dinner tables.  But it is important to cast our eye towards it once in awhile.

I know that people are already signing the death certificate of email marketing.  They have been doing this for years.  The pen has been poised since Social Media became a serious marketing platform.  Naysayers loaded the ink cartridge around GDPR, and just you watch as they practice their signatures ready for Brexit.  But it isn’t so.  Brexit may cause all sorts of untold damage, but Email Marketing is likely to survive the jump from the bloc.