Tax and topiary: why marketers should care about the G8 summit

G8 summit at Lough Erne, near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland
G8 summit at Lough Erne, near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland

Richard Morris, chief executive at branding agency Identica, and political blogger at The New Statesman and A View from Ham Common, discusses how this week's G8 summit in Northern Ireland may impact brands.

As nine of the world’s leaders meet in a Northern Irish golf resort currently being run by administrators (oh, the irony, eh?) and chat about how nicely KPMG have kept up the topiary, one might ask why brand owners should care about the G8 - other than to vaguely wonder why it’s still called the G8 and who the ninth interloper is.

And indeed, with an agenda likely to be dominated (quite rightly) by the Syrian crisis, and a general acceptance that it’s the G20 where all the business deals get done nowadays anyway (what use a global economic forum that excludes the world’s second, sixth and ninth largest economies?), readers of Marketing would be forgiven for wondering what relevance the G8 has for them.

But may I suggest we should all care, for a couple of reasons. 

Firstly, given the current diversity of opinion over Syria, but the seemingly inviolate rule that "something" must be agreed at these gatherings, it’s likely that what looked like being a tough series of trade negotiations – which our prime minister announced at Davos would be the main focus of this conference, before Syria got in the way – just got a whole lot easier to resolve.

It’s likely that three separate agreements between the EU (on one side) and the US, Japan and Canada (on the other) will all make progress – with a possibility that the latter may practically get finalised. So if you care about exports, and taking your brand into new markets (or if, like my agency, your corporate owners are based in Quebec), this round really matters.

There’s nothing world leaders like more than a group of fall guys they all agree really need sorting out. It seems probable that tax avoiders may provide that convenient new group.

What’s more, great progress here means that at the next round of G20 talks, the impetus for China and India (who are not in Northern Ireland) to progress its own deals will have extra vim. Plus I don’t imagine Russian president Vladimir Putin will want to sit on his hands as he sees these deals happening all around him.

Russia is already Identica London’s biggest export market, closely followed by India – so a further opening of those markets really makes a difference. This G8 will have an influence beyond the countries actually attending.

And this will be a two-way street. When Identica was originally asked to create what became Russian Standard, we responded to a brief that called for the creation of the first global icon brand that made a virtue of its Russian roots. Fourteen years later, we see brands like Gazprom sponsoring the Champions League. The world has moved on, and this G8 is going to accelerate that process even faster.

Secondly, there’s nothing a set of world leaders like more than finding a group of fall guys they can all agree really need sorting out, without hurting anyone in the room.  As it seems increasingly unlikely that role is going to by filled by the current Syrian Regime, it seems probable that tax avoiders may provide a convenient new group about which everyone can agree something really needs to be done.

Given President Obama is unlikely to let anyone focus solely on brands hailing from single country, might I suggest any brand whose lawyers and accountants have been creative with their interpretation of tax law might find themselves shortly in the line of fire. Especially if they find themselves hailing from a land that falls outside the G8…

So if you care about free trade, new markets opening up, export opportunities, the possibility of new brands entering your own market, or you fret that you may become the latest brand to find itself in the glare of the tax avoiding media spotlight, this G8 actually matters.

But if none of that floats your boat, do check out the topiary. It’s really rather impressive.


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