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Boris Johnson seems to have positioned himself as the “love me or loathe me” candidate in his bid to win the London mayoral race. And while this is inspired marketing for a distinct consumer brand like marmite, it is inappropriate for someone who aspires to taking on the biggest directly elected job in British politics. There seems to be a key factor missing in what we are now referring to as ‘brand Borris’ – that of a statesmanlike quality.
It is clear that a change is needed, however, I believe that Boris is heading in the wrong direction. We learned earlier this week that his team’s strategy appears to be focused on keeping him on a very short leash to avoid blunders and controversy. However, the cornerstone of any personal brand is authenticity. By becoming bland and appearing to conform behind a well-managed mask, he leaves us very little to buy into and we are suspicious of this new Boris. He needs to work his brand to his advantage, not stem its very lifeblood. He won’t win on protest votes alone.
According to a Guardian / ICM poll, trust is going to be the determining factor in who wins this race. The poll reflects that 42% of those questioned believe that Boris is honest, versus 28% for Ken Livingston. So the issue is one of character, which is remarkably unsurprising. No one buys vanilla – people buy people and we like traits and quirks and beliefs – they demonstrate what people stand for and give us something to relate to.
I suggest that Boris considers what his target audience will be interested in ‘buying’ from someone in the role of Mayor of London. He needs to analyse each potential audience that will influence his success and list everything that will be deeply compelling to each. The result will be qualities, expertise and experience that he should then compare to his own. Anything that appears to be weak, missing, or overlooked should be explored and where possible, developed and incorporated into his brand.
The next stage is to communicate and demonstrate all of this through action in a way that will appeal to his target audience. And no, he cannot simply send the spin machine into overdrive or get another haircut… authenticity is vital if he is to be believed.