I woke up one morning earlier this week to these news stories.

  • Daytime TV presenter and fat womens’ icon Fern Britten’s gastric ring
  • Formula one’s Max Moseley and his frolic with five hookers and a Nazi uniform
  • A debate on whether we should allow people to own dangerous dogs (and what constitutes a dangerous dog anyway?)
  • The so far pathetic attempts of all concerned to combat knife crime in Britain.

(I think the last one was slipped in to add levity to the news schedule but it didn’t get as much airtime!)

I guess it won’t surprise anybody to learn that I hold views on all of these, but the two that strike me as being relevant to this blog are the first two. I’m not suggesting that Fern Britten was involved with Max’s big night out (now there’s a thought!), but the two are closely connected.

The thing is, there are different factions that would, for differing reasons, have these two high-profile personalities lynched, or at last removed from their positions. But why?

The argument for firing Fern is that she made a big show of her weight loss, explaining at every opportunity that she managed to reduce her dress size from elephantine (even though she got down only to “shire horse”) by studious exercise and healthy living and, it has been claimed, even added to her income by endorsing a diet club. On that basis, so the accusers say, she is a fraud.

Max, on the other hand denies nothing, apart from the Nazi uniform (It was probably just an old number of his Dad’s that was hanging in the wardrobe!). However, he is the senior representative of a brand (Formula-one) that is trying to maximise appeal by attracting families and new member countries and cultures where Nazis, not to mention sex, may be taboo.

The case that a few people are trying to make against both of them is that they are unable, or a least less able than before, to fulfil their professional roles now that the cats are out of their respective bags. My feeling is that if Fern wants to tie a knot in her gut or Max likes getting his rocks off with the entire Womens’ Fascist Movement good luck to them. However, there is a point here.

Both of them represent powerful brands Fern, if not a brand herself, certainly represents the brand that is the daytime TV show she co-hosts. Max, as I have already said is definitely the face, or a face of Formula-one. As we all know any organisation, be it a TV show or a motor racing franchise, depends for its success, largely upon its brand and the biggest antidote to brand development is inconsistency. So ask yourself, are the now well-publicised activities of these two consistent with the Brand Models they represent. I guess the answer has to be “No”.

Here’s the real dilemma though. Brand managers are paid to be obsessive about eliminating inconsistencies in their brand communications, but its clear that in these cases it isn’t quite that straight-forward. I can visualise the analysts right now comparing models of the cost of removing these two from their posts against the cost of the damage their recent actions have wrought. It seems that on balance, Max has, for the time being at least (although when he comes up for re-election in a couple of years I don’t reckon much for his chances) pulled it off with a vote of confidence from representatives of the franchise. Fern seems to be holding on without acknowledging anything and it seems the dogs have run off to bark at something else. So, with damage limitation having done their stuff, its now down to the brand development folks to repair the damage.

Michael Weaver
June 6, 2008

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