Should brands weigh in on the Brexit?
Last night the deadline to register to vote in the EU Referendum passed, and with it came a realisation (for myself at least) that this vote is actually going ahead, and that history could be made on the 23rd of June. The vote is now weighing on many a citizen’s mind, with media coverage, social media hype and intense debate amongst acquaintances all adding fuel to the fire. What I noticed, however, was the amount of brands and companies who made their stance on the Brexit public. For instance JD. Wetherspoon replaced the beer mats in every single one of its 956 pubs with pro-Brexit ones. On the other hand, Unilever’s CEO has backed the Remain campaign, stating: “It’s better to sit at the table to drive the changes than not to be invited”.
I guess my question is- should household names be weighing in on such a fragile and divisive issue? When companies such as Oreo and Burger King took a positive stance on marriage equality in the US, I had no doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do. But when it comes to the EU referendum, I’m not so sure. I’ve already decided which way to vote at the end of June, and I’ve been endlessly reminding friends, family and colleagues to register to vote. Nonetheless I have my reservations about brands putting their clout behind either camp. I think the EU is far too nuanced an issue to be encompassed in a press release or -even worse – on the back of a beer mat.
But you could argue the old classic: all publicity is good publicity- for the referendum, I mean. You could claim that it’s always worth bringing attention to political debate, no matter your stance on the issue- after all it’s simply just more political propaganda, the kind of which has gone on throughout history. Crucially, you could argue that the average person will take time to thoroughly research the issues at hand. With the wealth of information available online and in the media, all we need to do is engage people- right?
Well I’m not so convinced of this. In a world of information, it sometimes seems that we’re overwhelmed, and therefore prone to grasp for the simplest answer. And what if that answer does come from the owner of a successful businessman on the back of a beer mat? Or in a press release, from the CEO of a multinational company? To understand the nuances of the political and economic situation, our starting point needs to come from a wholly trustworthy, educated and unbiased source. And that’s why personally, brand endorsement of either side of the referendum fills me with a distinct sense of unease.