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With then-Brexit looming, late last year Cognito gathered a panel of experts in London to discuss how the country’s forthcoming exit from the European Union will impact marketing and communications. 

The panels agreed Brexit is a chance to pay attention to smaller countries in the European Union, reaching local audiences with targeted messages.

Richard Neve, the managing director of Cognito Amsterdam, said: “Some countries are quite happy to receive their business information in English, such as in the Netherlands and the Nordic countries; while others, like Spain, France and Italy, are much less comfortable doing so”.

What About Sales?

While our panellists agreed that there has always been a need to serve local communities in European countries, companies have often seen this as a sales narrative rather than a communications one, and so they have often relied on the overarching English language pan-European media.

This is a global phenomenon as American and British audiences frequently regard foreign markets as inherently ‘alien.’ Companies need to be doing as well in these smaller continental European markets and ensure that the sales teams serving these markets have a tailored communications strategy.

Servicing The Underserviced

While our panellists were unanimously agreed there is a clear need to better serve audiences in smaller continental European countries, there were different points of view about how best to achieve this.

Richard Neve said: “I have seen bad examples of people outside of London who haven’t been well managed, are alone in what they are doing, detached from the central team and therefore haven’t performed well as a result; while I’ve seen better results with foreign nationals based in London with the central marketing function therefore much more integrated with the team, even though they were still responsible for looking after their own local markets”.

Marketaxess Head of Communications & Marketing for Europe and AsiaPac Toby West, on the other hand, had a difference of opinion: “Is that due to the operating model of the business? Or is it about the management of those people and remote working practises? I have seen instances of lone marketers in their region who, with the right skills and support, have done excellent jobs because they really understand their client demographic and how to engage with the challenges on the ground”.

An Exodus of Talent?

The issue of talent and where talent might end up in the post-Brexit world is of vital importance to all of us that work in media and communications. Where is talent going to be in 2-3 years’ time? If we continue to see an exodus of firms and individuals to continental European centres then this trend might continue. Companies might be driven to seek this talent in these alternative hubs.

Events – Local or Global?

If the industry continues to use personalisation and more targeted, data driven marketing, then it will see a trend of migrating towards local events run in countries that take the brand message directly to clients, in the local language or multilingually. Companies will discover that the value they get back and the value clients get is totally different to that of the traditional model.

Certain pan European conferences will be increasingly valuable, particularly as uncertainty continues and there will be a need for people cross-border discussions. The panel saw an increase in the number of larger events in Europe.

Northern Trust Head of EMEA Marketing Julia Royal noted that firms have to have strategies for approaching and understanding these large events “firms that go to massive conferences hoping that simply by being there big business will come to them won’t do well. Attending and understand these events is crucial when you’re participating in them.”

Larger events that are big melting pots with industry experts talking about regulation and other important topics in financial services are important, but equally smaller more focussed events with your clients through which you can understand what the drivers are for them, are far more results driven. A mix is likely going forward. 

When hosting an event it’s always vital to consider what is going to get the right people to the table –  won’t change because of Brexit.

Future proof EMEA comms

Julia Royal believes the key here lies in thought leadership “by establishing yourself as a thought leader and talking about what’s happening in the industry at whatever level, then you will build that perception of you being an expert in that field and being one step ahead. When things change, you will then be able to still stay one step ahead, regardless of what happens because clients come to you because you know your stuff. If you don’t have that debate, however, then everything changes because we don’t live in a static world”.

Toby West believes that this mean two things “firstly, this means being agile because a marketing team has to put content development process in place that allow you to pivot quickly on changing regulation and messages needed for a particular market; secondly, it means being a point of expertise for what is happening because marketing teams need to be plugged into many different parts of the business, they need to see what clients are seeing on the ground, and build that back into thought leadership”.

Laurence Heyes is an account executive in London