Brexit. Tea. Envy. Loss. Coffee. Really.

My preferred title for this blog post was just too long, so let’s just enjoy it here:

Brexit, Elections, The Politics of Loss and the Implications in the Marketing War between Tea and Coffee.

DISCLAIMER: many of you are used to my habit of (a) adding a little tea to make a long-winded rant about something else relevant to a tea blog and (b) taking forever to get to the point. If not, then make yourself a cuppa and settle down.

Let’s talk about Brexit.

Observing another nation’s politics from afar, one can easily form a superficial view. Local media will characterize the central characters into easy to understand boxes, eg “left-leaning” or “far right” or  “colourful”, which we then filter into “hippy”, “fascist” and “muppet with shocking hair” respectively  and from then on, they are stuck in that role.

But the thing about the Brexit /Bremain campaign, is that it was, starkly,  all about loss.

The Leave campaign spoke of loss of the Britain that once was. It’s part a longing for the genuine article, part an idealised Agatha Christie novel where everyone has a jolly good time, unless they are being murdered. It’s really easy in England today to find “villages” near London that are composed of reproduction houses, Tudor to Art Deco side-by-side, where middle class white people live on what is basically a set from Father Brown. Like the Truman Show with less impressive dentistry. The only coloured face in town is that nice Mr Singh who runs the takeaway, there are winding footpaths to the local well-funded schools and parks and the only concession to life in this century is the competition to see who can have the newest BMW.

Now, I think these places are symptomatic of what the Leave campaigners were seeking: GREAT Britain, not Reasonably-Important-Britain in a European Context.

One of the unfortunate things since the vote was taken, was to characterise these people as old and selfish, just wanting to preserve the memories of their idealised childhoods in the Empire upon which the sun would never set, but I think that sells them short. It’s not really a stretch, when you think about it, to think that these people might be of a generation that simply wants the next one, or two, to have what they dimly remember they had, whether they actually did or not.

The Remain camp ran their campaign on loss as well. Loss of jobs, loss of financial services, loss of banks, loss of ability to backpack through Bavaria without having to get a visa, loss of a place in the Eurovision Song Contest.

And regardless of the result, there was always going to be a national sense of mourning, because about half the population was going to be keenly feeling the loss. As it turns out, a large percentage of those feeling the loss are Scottish, a nation with somewhat of a history of loss and a definite reputation for being loss-averse.

I could turn to tea next, but let’s detour to the Australian Election. As I write this, I don’t know who will win, but I suspect it will be the incumbent Liberal/National Coalition, who ran a campaign of “things are OK, and we’re on the right track, but if you vote the other mob in, you’ll lose that and things will descend into unmitigated chaos”.

One of the problems with this approach is the loss is too mild. You lose people. they disengage. They are already apathetic. To many Australians, our  Parliament is like a much larger version of Wham! with 226 Andrew Ridgeleys and no George Michael.

So, for the Opposition, the challenge is to engender a sense of loss in not voting them in. They were running a fairly standard campaign until they seemed to almost accidentally hit on a strategy that had some traction.

Bluntly, they invented a lie, built on a flimsy pretext. They claimed the universal health care system was under threat of being privatised, which (a) it’s not and (b) isn’t even technically possible. Most services are already delivered by private providers.

Over the last few weeks, they have heaped all their resources into this. It was never truthful in the first place, and the claims have been getting weaker: “We have evidence” has turned into “You can’t trust them on this ” to, incredibly “it’s in their party’s DNA to do this”. It’s actually quite similar to racist hate propaganda – the difference between “Liberal Politicians want to steal your money, because that’s what they do” and “You can’t trust Chinese People, they are only after your money” is certainly only one of law and not philosophy.

But if loss sells, then what the hell does it have to do with tea?

Well, not much.

But look at coffee:

We are familiar with signs, tea shirt, Facebook posts. “Give me coffee and I’m human”. “If I have coffee, no-one gets hurt”. “I’m sorry if I said anything before I had my coffee”.

In a twisted way, lack of coffee is nearly always presented as a loss. If I don’t have coffee, I have somehow lost an aspect of my humanity. If I don’t have coffee, I don’t have the energy to attempt the day.

And so this brings us to the Brexiters, The Bremains, The Australian political parties. No-one is offering hope. No-one is offering better. It’s all about what we have now, or what we think we have or had. If I have my coffee and vote the way I choose, I’m gaining what? Nothing. But at least I’m not losing.

And this is where tea starts behind the 8-ball. We don’t sell tea to provide the status quo. We sell what? Enjoyment. Refreshment. Health.

Time and again we see cases where fear of loss wins. Can we jump on that train? Do we want to jump on that train?

One area tea will break through is nostalgia. Watching Downton Abbey or reading Pride and Prejudice, cup of Lord Petersham in hand, we can acknowledge what we think we have lost in a safe environment, and we can take comfort from the fact that even the people paraded in front of us will not have it all their own way, but that they will undoubtedly, in the end win through if they are worthy.

If you had hoped I might end this with a magic formula for tea marketing that neatly encapsulated the above, then sorry. I’m clearly not the sharpest tool in the tea marketing shed to begin with, when you consider that the massively inferior product of truly unethical global corporations outsells our product about a trillion to one.

But can we find instances of hope and then lead, not follow? Can we make tea such a positive experience that people, start looking for the positive in everything, not just using tea as respite?

Yes, I’m sure we can. I’m just not sure how.


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