Dyson's reputational vacuum is entirely self-inflicted following his personal Brexit

Phil Collins started it. The magician Paul Daniels, boxer Frank Bruno and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber were quick to follow.

Dyson's current reputational issues are entirely of his own making but they won't cost him dear, argues Nick Bishop
Dyson's current reputational issues are entirely of his own making but they won't cost him dear, argues Nick Bishop

All of them promised to leave the UK if they didn’t get the politics they wanted, namely the Conservatives winning the 1997 general election.

Of course, despite the Conservatives being trounced by a Labour landslide, none of them followed through and actually left the country.

But one man who is leaving is James Dyson, the vacuums entrepreneur. But, unlike Phil Collins and friends, Dyson got the politics he wanted, being one of the few business leaders to publicly advocate for Brexit.

Dyson’s views on Europe are complex, but he has no doubt Britain will be better off outside of the EU. And seemingly he’s frightened of being "dominated and bullied by the Germans".

With this week’s news of Dyson moving his company to Singapore, it appears he now believes his company will be better off outside of Britain.

Let’s be generous and assume this doesn’t have anything to do with Brexit and there’s nothing hypocritical about Dyson ditching Britain. Difficult, isn’t it?

Nick Bishop, head of corporate at Golin

Also, Singapore is a long way from Germany. And, somewhat coincidentally, Singapore has a free trade agreement with the EU, which should help with tariff-free trade, something Dyson might not have enjoyed if stuck in Britain.

Let’s be generous and assume this doesn’t have anything to do with Brexit and there’s nothing hypocritical about Dyson ditching Britain.

Difficult, isn’t it?

And that’s the problem for Dyson. No matter how much sense it makes to move to a more generous tax regime with a deeper pool of engineering talent, and no matter how much Dyson still believes in Britain, he’ll always be viewed as the rat that fled the sinking ship, a ship he was partly responsible for sinking.

Does any of this matter? Politically, it’s embarrassing for those pushing for a full-strength Brexit and Dyson is less likely to be called upon as the face of British engineering and entrepreneurship, but it’s hard to see the decision having an impact on Dyson sales.

Predictably, a few on Twitter got all hot under the collar and called for a boycott of Dyson products.

But their number pales in comparison to those who called for a boycott of Gillette last week.

I promise you, the Fusion 5 razor will have been fished out of many an angry tweeter’s bin and put back into active service.

And only a fraction of the number who’ve over the years promised to boycott Amazon, actually do. It seems to be doing just fine. Similarly, P&G, Gillette’s parent company, has not yet issued a profits warning.

I reckon Dyson will be OK.

If anything, the 'Dyson to Singapore' story once again highlights the difficulty businesses face when trying to remain apolitical.

It used to be that an organisation did everything possible to steer clear of politics; it was even considered good etiquette to avoid talking about it.

But brands are increasingly being drawn into polarising debates, and their actions portrayed as highly politicised, whether they’re intended to be or not.

But let’s not have any sympathy for Dyson. Dyson is not an accidental victim of our divisive politics: Dyson’s reputational knock is entirely self-inflicted.

Nick Bishop is head of corporate at Golin

Thumbnail image via @Dyson on Twitter

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