Today, a reluctant but outwardly happy Theresa May will sign and deliver the letter to the European Union that invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This will start the two year process whereby the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland will leave the European Union, the European Free Trade Area and a few other incidental agreements.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It wasn’t supposed to happen. Britain was supposed to stay in the Union.
A lot of money was spent on keeping Britain in the European Union!
The kind of money that expects to buy votes. The kind of money that expects results, and has seen results in the past because it’s been able to buy elections, presidents and more importantly, a larger market share for your favourite corporation.
Buying things of this kind – and expecting results in a direct and reciprocal manner – is part of what Rudolf Steiner termed ‘Purchase Money’ thinking. That is to say, everything to do with that money has to do with who owns that money, and in their world, money is power. Money buys things for them, and if it doesn’t, it’s wasted. Which is why they were so cross at Brexit! In that they have the power to buy lots of advertising, they were able to buy newspaper and media headlines to say that the vote should have gone the other way.
You can read my analysis of this kind of political thinking in my post “The Tyranny Of The Majority”. In short, ‘Purchase Money’ thinking leads to the ‘Winner Takes All’ mentality. I want to add that I’m not happy with the term ‘Purchase Money’ but it’ll have to stand until I come across a better one.
Suffice it to say, that because the Bremainers (those who wanted to stay in the EU) spent far more on advertising than the Brexiters, the British public should have voted to stay. Indeed, up to the very last week, Bremain was a certainty: some 51% would have voted Remain.
Well, of course, they would think that wouldn’t they? It’s how ‘Purchase Money’ works. They spend, and in that mechanical way that levers have, their money buys them a known result. It always has, it always will. Okay, so on this occasion it didn’t, and this is an exploration of the dystopian world of effective advertising.
The First Rule Of Marketing.
It runs as follows: effective advertising speaks to those people who want to buy your product.
Anything else implies wasted money. Now what was it Sam Wannamaker said? “Half of my advertising spend is wasted, my problem is that I don’t know which half.” I could have told him, but then if he’s the kind of person who says this, he’d not listen to the likes of me anyway – and that means he’ll continue to waste money. Here I will invoke rule two of doing business:
Business Rule #2: Intelligence saves money.
Put the other way around, stupidity costs money. Corporations like Google know this and put up costly barriers for the dim of wit. It’s why they’re rich and why their advertising system is such a powerful tool. Stupidity cost Wannamaker half of his advertising spend. More likely 90%, but that only shows how stupid some people are: they tell themselves it’s half because that way they can stomach the scale of their loss.
The Bremainers couldn’t stomach their loss, though. They put a lot of money in but didn’t add that one essential: thinking. They threw money at the problem and hoped it would work. In the way my friend Hendrik threw money at his toilet and it cost him €300 instead of thirty euro cents. It’s how staggering sums are wasted by corporations. But then, they’d not be corporations if they didn’t waste money.
How The Brexit Was Won.
There is a little office above a shop in Calgary, Alberta. I suppose the Brexiters should have chosen a British company, but these guys knew their business and got on with it. They signed a contract to advertise Brexit, and advertise it they did.
Not only did they abide by both rules above, they stood by them. They went a little further too, in that they profiled the kind of person they were looking to speak to. This is an extension of Advertising Rule #1, because you do need to know who wants what you’re selling.
Applying business rule 2 meant that they were looking for people who fulfilled two criteria:
1) they were swing voters
2) they have a proclivity to vote Brexit.
Whilst the second might seem obvious, nothing is straightforward when it comes to a choice as confused as the Brexit vote was. Plus we’re talking about an entire population, so there’s a lot of viewpoints to take into account.
Using powerful software like Google provides allowed them to hone their target audience to a razor’s edge. Now this presupposes something that the ‘Purchase Money’ thinkers know nothing about: what do other people think? Good advertising isn’t good advertising through luck. It’s good advertising because it listens; that is to say, the marketers did their job properly, rather than pretending to. Good advertising depends on good marketing and that good marketing takes the temperature of its target market. They do this by asking a question and listening to the answer.
‘Purchase Money’ thinkers tell everybody what they should do and are at a loss when people ignore them. ‘Purchase Money’ thinkers have spent their life paying people to do as they’re told… they expect the world to work that way, too. After all, they paid for it, didn’t they? But this is the ‘disconnect’ applied to business: you cannot expect a result simply because you want it. Or you’ve paid for it. Just because you can flex your power and buy the first TV ad in the Superbowl program doesn’t mean that people are going to watch it. It’s the most expensive advertisement slot in the world and it’s the precise moment when there is the maximum pressure on the US sewerage system. They’re paying colossal amounts of money to speak to empty rooms… but that’s ‘Purchase Money’ thinking for you. They simply don’t know any better, and they will never now any better because they’ll never listen.
The key to intelligence has little to do with the brain and a helluva lot to do with listening to what other people think and say. Many millions of dollars would be saved by businesses the world over if they simply listened to those around them. It doesn’t take much intelligence to make an intelligent decision, but it does take listening.
Which is what the Bremainers didn’t do.
Never mind that; the Brexit marketing agency knew who to target, knew why they were targeting them and targeted them with the kind of thing that would encourage them to vote Brexit.
The result was that 52% voted for Brexit. And this little company achieved this pretty well single handedly for the modest cost of £300,000. Along with a few pointed ads.