Friday, 26 November 2010

Student protest in the UK: Where are the brands when people really need them?

In what might become the defining experience of the generation of young Brits, brands, that normally call for ‘breaking the norms’, ‘being rebellious’ and ‘fighting for your rights’ are dramatically silent.

Amazing opportunity for brands to help young people to tell their true story of their protest in the times when Tory -dominated big media are framing demonstrators as violent disruptors of social order. Yes, it would mean political involvement. Yes, it would mean making some enemies. But in the times when brands want to ‘engage in conversations’ and be part of ‘real lives’ of people they cannot simply stay silent. And pretend that nothing happened. Conflict is part of real life of real people. If brands want to get closer to them they need to take sides and support their consumers when they need it.

Britain is facing the largest student demonstrations in decades. Young people, including pupils in their early teens and students from various colleges are protesting against the planned government cuts in education. Proposed changes mean end of large public investment in the higher education and dramatic rise of university fees. Many economic commentators suggest that these cuts have nothing to do with the savings. They are purely driven by conservative ideology. Tory rich mummy boys can pay for education. Working class kids do not have to go to university. Right?

So kids are on the streets. And it is not just about leaving classroom
for few hours. This is serious stuff. The Tory plans mean that for many of them getting a degree will be just too expensive or they will end up in debts for the rest of their lives. So no, contrary to government line of spin and Tory press these are not just ridiculous demonstrations captured by extremists or anarchists. This is about real future or the generation.

And when tens of thou sands people are protesting of course there always will be acts of violence! Yes, someone will scream f*** the police! And some will get really angry. So far they protesters destroyed few shops and 1 police car. This is not terribly bad? In large this is a peaceful manifestation of justified discontent. Led often by female pupils. People march with posters like “I will not have chance to meet my prince at uni” or “Tory farce kiss my arse” or “How will I learn to spel?”. This is not anarchy. This is young people’s legitimate protest about things that matter to them.

I am shocked by the media response. I am shocked as I thought they should be proud of the people that actually bother to do something political. That in the age of meaninglessness they fight for something and do things that mean something! That actually they want to take the future in their own hands instead of counting on parents’ support. Or go to pub presenting themselves as ‘lost generation’.

I am shocked by Labour party response. In theory they support students. But they so much lack the focus of their policy that their voice remains unheard these days.

I am shocked that brands are not using this obvious space. And do something good for their most promising future consumers and trend- setters.


  1. very polarizing if I may say so.. and I believe brands have always been scared of politics, potentially being perceived as trying to leverage on some social problems to sell their stuff.

  2. Hey Steph! Of course it is polarizing :-) I am teasing a bit. But I am am a bit annoyed with brands teasing people to express themselves, be courageous, speak up (also against norms) and later hide. Either brands want to engage as they claim or ... not why say it.