Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Julia v. Tony - the battle for authenticity

Have you noticed anything different about the "real Julia"? Since she declared a fortnight ago that the authentic "Julia" brand would be unleashed, I've hardly noticed any difference. She gets out a bit more, tossing coins to start footy games, chatting with truck drivers, cuddling babies - it's just 'so Julia', the hard-edged industrial lawyer and political apparatchik.

Anyone who knows anything about branding would know that it would have been much better for her to morph without making the formal acknowledgement that she'd been faking it for several weeks - a concept, by the way, that I don't think I should discuss with my young daughter!

Recognition of authenticity is earned not declared. It's Branding 101 stuff and not comprehending this just reflects inexperience that must pervade the advisory ranks of the Labor Party. As soon as you have to design an "authentic" label your brand's on the road to ruin.

As for brand Tony, we've seen no declaration of where or when the "real Tony" might have started or finished. The Labor heavies quickly dropped the quip "phony Tony", famously the result of the Kerry O'Brien 'gospel truth' interview. That might have been because they were suddenly about to acknowledge a fair level of phonyness in their own ranks.

I tend to believe that, loath him or love him, Tony Abbott is pretty true to brand, even though he seems to have suddenly become really focused on fishing and learning the fine arts of filleting (is this a metaphor for the disposal of Malcolm Turnbull by Nick Minchin and his troops?). Whoops ... sorry, there's no leadership coups in the Liberal Party!

I mean, who could possibly create, or even seek to create, a brand like Tony - a love child of Catholicism and Howard Conservatism? A progeny who would send Moses home if his basket inadvertantly washed up on Australia's northern shores, but only after consulting with Pharoah.  A man who wants to stop boats, stop the NBN, stop debt, stop just about everything. And he means it.

I know Tony's authentic because he declares he 'is not Bill Gates' when he talks about his plan to short-change us on broadband. He's dead right. Bill Gates has vision that Tony will never have, despite the compromised software his company foists on us.

So we have authenticity (perhaps) versus self-declared authenticity. Like many Aussies, I find myself not convinced about either brand. But I'm not going to adopt the Mark Latham 'blank paper' strategy. I'll head off to the ballot box, complete the sheet of paper and make a choice. I can always return the goods to the store in three years time if the elected leader doesn't live up to the brand promise - authentic or otherwise.

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