Benedict Pringle cropped

brands in britain 2024

Brands in Britain 2024: More populism means more uncertainty

This year's flood of elections around the world could be bad news all round, argues The&Partnership's Benedict Pringle

By Benedict Pringle

I’m well known amongst colleagues, friends, and family to be a politics bore. As such, in the whirlwind of festive gatherings that preceded Christmas, many of my conversations over Prosecco and mince pies quickly descended into discussion of the political landscape.

This suits me very well. Hearing people’s hot political takes while drinking mulled wine is helpful preparation for 2024, a year which will feature an unusually large number of elections. At least 83 elections will take place in 78 countries, including in the USA, India and for the EU Parliament; it’s also very likely we’ll have a general election in the UK.

At several seasonal fetes I regaled fellow attendees with my plan to visit the USA to observe the Republican Party Presidential Primaries, to which I received in reply variations on the same bit of banter: “good idea, it might be their last one for a while”.

Enclosed within this amusing piece of gallows humour, reside my concerns for the year ahead.

With Biden winning the White House, Bolsonaro being booted out of Brazil, Liz Truss being replaced with Rishi Sunak and Poland ejecting the increasingly illiberal Law and Justice Party, at one point it began to look like populism was on the wane. That is clearly no longer the case.

Trump looks certain to win the Republican Presidential nomination and is polling above Biden according to the Real Clear Politics average. Argentina and the Netherlands have favoured populists in recent general elections. The parties of Giorgia Meloni in Italy, Viktor Orban in Hungary and Marine Le Pen in France look likely to gain seats in the EU elections. Recent rioting has shown that even Ireland, a country where political ideology has never really taken root, is affected by popular discontent with mainstream politics.

All the while, Russia and China are peddling the narrative that democracy has had its day and continually seek to expand their anti-Western coalition.

Populism is by and large bad news for businesses and brands.

Populists tend to threaten the rule of law and weaken institutions that provide the necessary stability and framework for a flourishing economy.

Nativist and illiberal movements can create a backlash against the free movement of people and goods that many businesses rely on.

And populists are also known for sudden policy changes which deliberately disregard “status quo thinking” that frequently ends up with severe and negative unintended consequences. For example, thanks to Trussonomics, everyone who rents from a landlord or whose mortgage has renewed in the last year has less money in their pocket to spend on stuff that brands want to sell.

In 2024 the factors that drive voters towards populists - economic inequality, decline in disposable income, frustration with moderate parties’ ability to improve the public realm, fear of immigration - are not going to subside.

The political and economic context of the last four years may not have felt like smooth sailing. But if there is a wave of populist victories in this year’s flood of elections, there will be much choppier water to come.

Benedict Pringle is a Partner at The&Partnership


LinkedIn iconx

Your Privacy

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. Please let us know if you agree to all of these cookies.