Practical tips for strategy development amidst post Brexit uncertainty

‘Business world hates uncertainty’. So tweeted Richard Branson following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Indeed, in the aftermath of the Referendum on 23rd June there is much that is not clear – and this does not just apply to the UK and Europe.

When the world’s 5th largest economy makes such a seismic decision, the repercussions will be global. And they will be felt fast. In fact, if Reuters’ calculations are to be believed, the drop in the pound post Brexit already means that the value of the French economy is now greater than that of the UK[1].

No one knows what the future will bring, but it is bound to be a cocktail of challenges and opportunities.  The implications will vary by country, industry, customer and segment and also over different time horizons.

As business leaders we need to chart a course through the coming months and evolve our strategies. We cannot sit back and wait for events to unfold. But how do we do this when there is so much that is uncertain?

In our recent blog we introduced the concept of a FLEX approach to strategies and plans. We believe this has taken on even more significance following the Brexit decision.

Brand Learning FLEX Copyright


Now more than ever, we must spend our time imagining what the future may hold rather than analysing the past.

We need to map out the different sources of uncertainty and how they might affect our business. Of the 6 factors that make up a PESTLE analysis it’s easy to see how at least 4 will remain highly uncertain over the coming months (Political, Economic, Social and Legal).

Next we need to develop different scenarios. For example, if the UK retains high levels of access to the EU market what would we do? And what would we do if restrictions on the movement of people meant that the UK achieves lower levels of access? Where do the opportunities lie for us in each of these scenarios?

For marketers who have spent years buried under data driven, backward looking situation analyses this is a refreshing approach to strategy development.

Lean and agile

Having developed the different scenarios, we must place our bets. With so much that’s uncertain it’s a difficult task.

But it’s not about getting the decision 100% right. As Shakespeare once wrote ‘"If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me."[2]

What’s important is that we keep our fingers on the pulse, constantly revisiting our assumptions and testing our hypotheses. Which are the more likely scenarios and why? How will we know whether they are playing out our not? What will be the key indicators? When will we know? Whose responsibility is it to monitor developments?

And if we find that our predicted scenarios are not playing out we need to be prepared to change course.


Amongst all this uncertainty, we believe there is one factor that will not change – and it’s the most important factor of all – delighting our customers and consumers.

Those brands who retain and express their sense of purpose through meaningful customer experiences will win out in the long term. As marketers we play a key role in ensuring businesses do not lose focus on their customer experience and use this period of change to proactively seek out opportunities to improve it.

Now is the time to stay very, very close to our customers’ needs, wants and underlying motivations.


X-functional working is a pre-requisite to deliver joined up customer experiences. However, given the far reaching implications of the Brexit decision it becomes even more relevant.

Supply chains which involve the UK and European countries will be dramatically affected. The regulatory environment for Pharma companies will change. And the outcome of immigration policies will have a big impact on the HR agenda.

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP sums this up when he says ‘’It just underlines the importance of implementing our strategy: fast-growth markets (BRICs and Next 11), digital, data – and horizontality, which ironically means getting our people to work together, not apart!”[3]

So there is much to consider: sources of uncertainty; scenario planning; customer focus and x-functional working. It’s a challenging time to be in business but as philosopher and writer Alan Watts once said, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”[4]

For more information about how Brand Learning can help you with strategy development please get in touch. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Strategy & Planning.

Brand Learning: Inspiring people. Lifting Capabilities. Growing organisations.


[1] Reuters: ‘France overtakes Britain as world's No. 5 economy after pound drops’ 6th July 2016

[2] Banquo: Macbeth Act 1 Sc 3

[3] Marketing Week 24/6/16

[4] Alan W. Watts 1915 - 1973