Global ‘cancel culture’ putting UK marketing exports at risk warns CIM

New research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) reveals that the majority of UK marketers (67%) are limiting their work to campaigns for British audiences and many fear offending other cultures. As a result, the industry risks undermining annual international sales of marketing worth £11.7bn. 

The survey, which explores the views of 500 UK in-house and agency marketing professionals, finds that three fifths (60%) believe global marketing campaigns are challenging because of the need to be ‘politically correct’. Two fifths (41%) fear being victims of ‘cancel culture’ – a form of ostracism in which a brand is pushed out of social or professional circles – with senior marketers less worried of the risks compared to younger marketers, raising concerns about a lack of awareness amongst older professionals. 

Hurdles for global work 

The research shows that the pandemic has impacted marketers’ confidence when working on international projects, with nearly half (48%) now finding it more difficult. 

Being aware and appreciative of the different cultures tops the list of challenges when creating an international campaign (39%), closely followed by ensuring it resonates with a global audience (34%). Making UK marketing campaigns translatable is third place (32%), with meeting global company brand guidelines (30%) in fourth. 

A number of high profile brands have stumbled at these hurdles in the past, with Samsung recently coming under fire for being ‘unrealistic’ with an advert showing a woman running alone at 2am. Ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, brands are also re-evaluating sponsorship following controversy around its human rights record.

Chris Daly, CEO at CIM says: “Across the world, consumers and employees are becoming more vocal in calling out companies when they put a foot wrong, making sure they’re held accountable for their actions. Yet this behaviour shouldn’t mean UK marketers shy away from being ambitious, scaling up campaigns and chasing global opportunities. We can’t risk losing out on international work because of a lack of confidence, especially when we’re trying to bounce back from the pandemic.”

Risk of ‘British blinkers’ 

Marketers’ preference to work on UK campaigns is coupled with their belief that consumers now favour ‘buying British’ as a result of the pandemic (58%) and due to Brexit (52%). 

Additionally, only two fifths (40%) believe UK marketing campaigns are ‘export ready’, highlighting the need for a tailored approach and specific skill set when aiming to reach global markets.

Daly continues: “It’s no doubt that the UK marketing industry can produce incredible work, tapping into the iconic British sense of humour. Whilst it’s reassuring to see marketers’ confidence in appealing to their home audience, we do run the risk of wearing ‘British blinkers’ and cutting ourselves off from the wider world. Producing globally successful work requires a range of skills, a different process and a strong understanding of various audiences and cultures. If marketing professionals want to open up more opportunities for their brands, they need to urgently upskill in these areas”.

This research is the second instalment of CIM’s ‘Impact of Marketing 2022’ research series, which explores the roles of marketers in a post-pandemic society. For marketer’s looking to upskill, CIM offers a range of online services including webinars, podcasts, training materials and online courses:

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