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As we wrestle with the consequences of Brexit, perhaps the most concerning aspect is the widespread surprise being expressed at what ‘no-one expected to happen’, despite such large numbers of those very people voting so decisively just days ago. It brings to mind the analogy of a new technology under development, whose investors’ efforts were so focussed on creating superior features that they neglected to fully understand their target market and to develop and validate their product with real people before launching.

It also raises an excellent point about segmentation, and how vital it is to account for both the obvious, as well as the common threads that connect varied and diverse segments in consumer research. The older adult population are so often overlooked as key influencers, and yet in broad terms, they had a significant impact on the Brexit result which really highlights the need to divide data beyond traditional socioeconomic segments. The vote ripped up the rule book on political persuasion, race, gender, family, and almost any other metric against which you could determine traditional ‘blunt’ points of difference.

What are Brexit considerations for UK product development businesses?

Our product innovation organisation is without doubt multinational, our work force come from all over Europe and beyond, we collectively speak 17 languages, and we work all over the globe for international companies whose markets stretch well beyond EU boundaries. We recruit the best of the best in their fields… design, research, engineering and science, regardless of where they are from; Brexit will present challenges to such an inclusive recruitment policy in the future, but we will continue without dampened enthusiasm, because we have twenty years’ experience of the benefits of doing so…

Front End Innovation (FEI) will have to be adapted. With FEI’s focus on people and opportunities, whether in medical or consumer markets, the people we are innovating for will be the same after Brexit as they were before however the uncertainty that we’re likely to see over the next few years in the UK in particular is likely to change consumer attitudes and behaviours – e.g. the choices consumers make in recessions (a bottle of wine at home) are famously different to those in good times (cocktail bar!), but this will provide opportunity.

What opportunity might Brexit bring? 

I was talking to a friend at the weekend, a financial advisor for a well-known international wealth management company, and asked him what view he was taking. He said two things had happened of note; first that most of their clients’ portfolios are so diversely invested in broad ranging global funds, that some of his client’s holdings had actually gone UP in value, not down. It was an observation well made - CDP has a globally invested client base and sector expertise – addressing multiple markets and our skills remain as relevant as ever - if not more so - as new, previously unimagined market opportunity spaces open up. 

The second point he made was that several of his clients had called him specifically to ask where they should invest right now, while the markets were, in their view, temporarily artificially low which just shows that even in times of adversity, there is always opportunity - you just have to grab it. Numerous famous products and businesses have been created during times of recession (Miracle Whip, Scotch tape, Diet Coke, iPod ...)

The implications of this uncertainty for consumers, but also for companies, markets and nations, is likely to provide opportunities for the holistic innovators who are able to find unfair advantages in the transition to new regulations, standards, supply chains, markets and business models. 

In the short term at least, with the British currency at a 30 year low, never before have world class innovation services in the UK been so attractive and accessible to global clients; whichever way you voted, we’re looking forward to the future!

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