Politics is like the Olympics, it’s all about brand perception – and brand Boris Johnson is winning

Andrew Gimson in the London Evening Standard has written a piece I’ve been mulling over but not quite had the confidence to write about; he has suggested Boris Johnson is limbering up to become the future leader of the UK. His observations are very insightful and persuasive.

What has gone through my head is what would a person outside the UK think about our country’s leadership being based on the Olympics? LOCOG boss Lord Coe sounds pretty impressive whereas Boris has a head and shoulders more memorable profile. The Boris ‘campaign,’ if such it is, is broadly about photos of the younger generation of Royals with Boris. Is he on 24/7 duty?

Here’s a rather biased view of Boris.

According to Gimson’s article, Boris gets 32 per cent of the vote as the best successer to David Cameron in current opinion polls. Anointed successor George Osborne manages a limp two per cent.

As always it’s about the brand; what is the take-out the morning after? No, I’m not referring to Boris’s love life.

My guess is that David Cameron is in a very difficult position with all the flak flying around about banks, MP’s, the euro, employment (add your own issues). He is in danger of looking more and more like a smooth public school boy who really should be a Marsh & Parsons estate agent. George Osborne has blown it on the basis of the ‘pasty’ Budget cock-up, among many others.

Meanwhile Labour’s Ed Milliband will never live down the Wallace & Grommit lookalike. As for his shadow chancellor Ed Balls, how can someone with that surname ever be allowed to be in a leadership position? You can write your own Sun headlines. The Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg can’t shake off his fag role to the old Etonians in government. Then we start running out of candidates.

Meanwhile Boris goes from strength to strength, amassing wins all over the place (even if he wasn’t the original initiator of London as the Olympic host) – but never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Also he has neatly sidestepped the wider economic issues that are confounding politicians of all stripes.

So hurrah, Boris is the winner whilst everyone else is deep in the mire.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that Boris is better than anyone else, just that he has managed to end up looking like a hero; the face of the Olympics. I bet Ken Livingstone, who he beat in the recent London mayoral elections, sits at home watching the TV sticking pins in Boris dolls saying “It should be me, it’s not fair.”

At the end of the day it is all about brand perception; like many product categories I guess we all assume most politicians are broadly capable, with similar experience, intellectually able and with the drive to take on a very demanding and debilitating job. But politics ain’t fair. Mostly the glass seems half-empty, Boris has the knack of making it appear half full.

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.

One comment

  1. Avatar

    A cutting but accurate appraisal of the current upper echelons of government.
    Seemingly “The Brand” is everywhere but current British politics all seem to taste virtually exactly the same.
    Rather like food colouring.If it’s red it must be strawberry.
    Whether the article actually has flavour is an irrelevance.
    Boris may find a governing approach is neccessary rather than delegating.
    Five years of tasteless pap ain’t really going to be any different from what we currently have.