Thatcher, The Brand

I have always been fascinated by politics and the communication of ideas. I consider politicians as personal brands in themselves. With that in mind there can be no bigger brand than the ex-prime minister who died last week – Margaret Thatcher.

I have no interest in delving into the politics here but to merely point out the potency and method behind the Thatcher brand. Margaret Thatcher was a radical prime minister, she persuaded the country to make her Prime Minister on three occassions with large majorities, she was – to some a heroic figure and to some a toxic one. She did have a truly global presence and 23 years after she left office, she arouses and fascinates like no other. The Thatcher brand remains as majestic, or poisonous depending on whom you speak too, today as it did when she left office in 1990. From a commercial point of view however; there are lessons to be learned many years on!

I watched with utter fascination Lord Saatchi on ‘Hard Talk’ the other evening discussing Lady Thatcher and her legacy. Much has been made of the use of marketing, PR and media training Mrs Thatcher used in the late seventies/early eighties. ‘Saatchi and Saatchi’ were her agency of choice and together helped shape the perception that we have of her until this day. It was fascinating to note that he always thought their role over-played. According to Lord Saatchi, they merely teased out of her what already existed. The low tone of voice, the power-dressing, the fierce rhetoric, the grocers daughter and house-keeping analogies were already present in character, what they did was help to bring those characteristics to the fore. To articulate what already existed.

When speaking of the capitalist system, he said that the general public go out and vote every day for products or services. ‘We are busy people, much busier than before, we always vote (buy) for what we can most easily understand. With Margaret Thatcher, we helped make it crystal clear what she stood for – enterprise, free markets, independence, ambition, self sustenance. If you were pre-dominantly for any one of those things you would find it much easier to buy into her than others.’

Her actions always complimented her convictions. You always knew where you stood.

Right or wrong.

Good or bad.

Her actions embodied the words. There was seldom ambiguity. This simply solidified the perception of who she was for and why a majority of the public always felt comfortable voting for her.

The fundamentals of the Thatcher brand were so strong. Collectively, each feature helps to strengthen the perception of ‘the iron lady.’ An agency can only articulate those characteristics and vision to strengthen it.

Furthermore, if you’re unsure of your vision or there is no vision or message. There isn’t a lot any agency can do. Gordon Browns prime ministership never really got off the ground because of a lack of vision. David Cameron suffers with a similar problem. In his case, the communications and PR inform the direction of government. This is why the Cameron brand lacks the potency of his fellow Conservative.

Having your brand stand strongly for a small number of things is better than to have it be ‘everything to everybody.’ The market like the voting system is not proportional representation. You don’t get sales by being everybodys second choice.

And finally, you can paint whatever picture you like. Words are cheap. If the behaviours of the people in your company betray what you say then your brand will suffer as a consequence.

Agencies did help Thatcher articulate her vision. Also, she was not above the fripperies of brand communication and PR but ultimately the clarity, direction and conviction of Margaret Thatcher enabled the brand. We can’t dispute her divisiveness but you get no votes/purchases for being people’s second choice. From a commercial point of view, therein lies the lesson.


About the Author

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Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the creative design consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotionally engaging brand identities.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design work to build emotive brands.

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