Posted by: DrAlanRae | May 6, 2008

The New Labour Catastrophe – Brand is image PLUS substance

If we take the view that brand is about promise fulfilled, it involves having an inspirational bit and a down to earth bit which knows which things are crucial in a system sense and which are not. If something is fundamentally broken – technically – it can’t be fixed with spin.

People with an arts/humanities/social science background – and this IS the background of New Labour – believe that perception is reality.
It’s not – always. If you are on the Titanic and it hits an iceberg the boat sinks – however strong your perception of unsinkability.

In the days when we were a manufacturing nation, we had large slabs of the population that were socialised into the idea that getting the detail right technically mattered. If your structural calculations are wrong then people tend to die a lot.

But New Labour, used to dealing with issues of political correctness is caught flat footed if it has to deal with anything real – like the uncalculated consequences of some its environmental policies. Creating a situation where councils have to impose punitive fines on hapless dustbin miscreants to pay for dealing with the strait jacket that central government policy has put on them – not least the need to achieve equal pay for women in the local government workforce.

What really brought this to a head for me was an interview I heard on farming today the other day. (I’ve just been on holiday in Turkey so I’ve been up 2 hours before normal taking my normal 7.30 cuppa at 5.30 UK time and enjoying radio 4 via the satellite link)

Those of you not involved in farming or growing (i.e. pretty much everybody) will not be aware that there’s a fairly serious bee problem called Varroa. Varroasis is an infestation by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. Since reaching this country in 1992, it has become endemic throughout the U.K. and most of the world. Your colonies will have varroa mites. Doing nothing is not an option – without treatment colonies will die within 3 years.

So on Farming Today we had some hapless booby of a Junior Minister denying it’s endemic and saying there’s no need to spend any more money on inspectors. We had inspectors laying down the seriousness of the situation and the total lack of resources to deal with it and the New Labour clone trying to spin it away. As this was a replay of a parliamentary committee interview the MPs were getting well stuck in.
Because the bottom line, gentle reader is NO BEES = NO AGRICULTURE = NO FOOD. (well nearly)

And of course we were treated to the usual response – no-one from the ministry was available to discuss the issue on the programme. Does this remind anyone of the tactics of the PR boys on T5 day?

You see they know how to handle image – but give them an ugly little fact and they can’t hack it.

This is the hallmark of a failed brand.

Because Real Brands can do both

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  1. Great post.

    It was quite interesting for me trying to work as a marketing manager in a New Labour-controlled public sector organisation. The very tenets of basic marketing: branding, positioning, market research, customer interviews, internal marketing, and so forth – were ignored, discouraged, and in once case, even got me into a disciplinary hearing. Solid professional marketing means asking questions, and that was an unforgivable offense. Their view of “marketing” seemed to mean parroting funders and partners in government gobbledy-gook PR speak, and paying slick and expensive design firms outrageous sums of cash to do it. I lasted less than a year.

  2. Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately this is so in tune with my own experience of a stint in public sector employ.

    The problem is the lack of authenticity that is imposed. I remember the early days of this government when you used to hear people like Mo Mowlem talking like human beings about trying to deal with Northern Ireland. I’ve just heard Paxman having a go at another useless minister – the aviation guy – about the fact that they have no idea how many foreigners with criminal records overseas are working airside in British Airports. All he could do is parrot a meaningless response over and over again. And as for the unspeakable Jackie Smith believing in evidence except when it contradicts Gordon Brown’s prejudice against cannabis….. words fail me.

    The only bright spot for the New Labour brand at present is Milliband who despite looking about 14 managed to stand up to Paxo while sounding like a pleasant, reasonable, engaged and intelligent human being – the first for a long, long time.

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