Wednesday 26 August 2009

The lady's not for branding

I'm always amused when I read articles in the British press about Angela Merkel. They don't really know what to make of her. You see, the British love branding, from Brand Beckham to Brand Obama. People that can be branded (for that, read put in a convenient box and given a snappy nickname like "The Iron Lady") or that set out to "brand" themselves are beloved of British marketeers and journalists alike.

In The Times, Melanie McDonagh comments on Frau Merkel's coming top in Forbes list of The 100 most powerful women. While Ms McDonagh poo-poos the nature of the list, quite rightly, and does make some interesting observations about the German Chancellor, she also ties herself up in knots.

Frau Merkel is described as "dowdy to the point of frumpiness" yet she "stands out in any photograph of world leaders with her bright little jackets". She is compared to Michelle Obama and Sarah Brown, which is about as relevant as comparing Ronald Reagan with Denis Thatcher.

And, in the title of the piece, a pathetic attempt is made at branding, not even worthy of The Sun: "Frau Frump gives us the finest showing of girl power."

When will the journalists learn that a World Leader has very little in common with Victoria Beckham?

Friday 21 August 2009

Go Trabi Go

Twenty years after the fall of the Wall, one of the symbols of the DDR is to be given a new lease of life. The new Trabant will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month.
More than any other brand, the Trabant symbolises the positive and negative nostalgia ("Ostalgie") for communist Germany. Families had to wait months or even years for the little car and once it arrived, you had to open the bonnet and fiddle around mixing 2-stroke every time you needed fuel - and you'd only know you needed fuel once you opened the bonnet and checked the dipstick. There was no heating except for your own blankets in those cold Eastern Bloc winters. Yet you could fit the whole family and your luggage into the compact little car and despite - or maybe because of - its failings, it was much loved.
The new Trabant will take a new direction. Gone is the 2-stroke in favour of envirnomentally-friendly electrical power. On first hearing, this sound odd. How can a brand that was associated with belching out black smoke reinvent itself on a green basis? But maybe the core of the Trabant brand is about frugality and saving and this translates for the 21st Century into saving resources. Go, Trabi, go!

Tuesday 18 August 2009

A parallel England

I have to admit that most of my impressions regarding the "state of the nation" of my homeland have come from the internet, and specifically, the UK media, since I've lived over here. Maybe it's part of a justification that the grass isn't really greener, but I had built up a picture of "Brown's Broken Britain" deep in recession-depression, where a CCTV can steal your identity in a flash, where children don't dare venture outside the door for fear of road-rage paedophiles, where the whole nation is caught up in swine-flu paranoia and everyone is Twittering while the country goes steadily down the drain.

Having just got off the boat after two weeks' holiday in England, I have to say that the reality that I experienced was different and hooray for that! OK, I expect that most of the people I know are middle-class and middle-aged-ish (although these are meant to be the worst hit by the recession) but I got the impression that in England, people are having a wry smile at all the gloom and doom in the papers then simply getting on with it in their own world. Yes, there is "cutting back", but it's done in a spirit of self-determined no nonsense. None of the five families we visited was buying bottled water any more (except for special occasions). The over-priced ex-pubs with their pretentious menus and fussy food were spurned in favour of good home cooking.

At the end of it, I did get the feeling of parallel worlds and wondered just how much of what we soak up on the internet is real. It's sad that even the once quality papers in the UK have sunk to the level of doom-laden rags. But, in the end, it was a cheering experience that all that you read in the media is not true. I expect I really do need to get out a bit more.