Danny Rogers: Rebranding Brown is a challenge too far

'How would you rebrand Gordon Brown?' That was the chirpy opening gambit from the BBC World Service researcher to me on Sunday lunchtime. It is actually impossible to ask this question without receiving an involuntary smirk. Try it for yourself.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

The researcher was dead serious, unfortunately. Because it is, of course, too late to 'rebrand' Brown in any sense. And one questions whether it is even possible to rebrand a politician in the post-spin era.

Rebrands are currently back in fashion, the most recent high-profile example being Santander's decision last month to bring UK banks Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley under its own name. In an embattled financial services sector, expect much more of this.

More famous examples include Mars opting to rebrand Marathon as Snickers in 1990 - only to reintroduce Marathon last year - and British Telecom's reincarnation as BT, to huge expense and fanfare, a decade previously.

Back then, one may have been able to rebrand a politician. At the end of the 1970s, Lord Bell, then working for Saatchi & Saatchi, is said to have been instrumental in radically changing Margaret Thatcher's hairstyle, clothes and even her voice. She was to enjoy power for the next decade.

Then we had New Labour, with red roses and fresh faces. And, more recently, David Cameron's 'decontaminated' Conservatives.

But these projects take time. New Labour took many years to bring to fruition. Cameron's project may too. They work because they are fronted by politicians untainted by history, and they take time because today's public and media scrutiny has become relentless.

Brown's problem is that we know him too well. This is not to say that the Prime Minister does not have product strengths. He is an intellectual heavyweight with valuable experience of world affairs and financial markets. But he cannot simply be rebranded as a better Prime Minister.

His best hope is to be 'repositioned' - to play a different role in politics, economics or public life.

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