City & Gild: Has Gary Barlow shattered a dream brand?
16 May 2014 6:15am
When I was a child and believed in Father Christmas, I bought into the whole “Ho ho ho” thing hook, line and sinker – to the point where I would lie awake on Christmas Eve, terrified that a complete stranger was going to come down the chimney and pad about the house. (To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was more worried about this, or the possibility he might not like the mince-pies and cooking sherry, then deposit my presents in the bin.)
The day Ms Treader, my English teacher, crushed the dream by telling the whole class he didn’t exist – a little harsh, given we were only five – was a bitter occasion I still vividly recall.
I felt the same sense of crushing disappointment when I read about Gary Barlow’s tax shenanigans on the weekend. No, really. Gary and I share a special bond (he’s unaware of this of course), to the point where I started to comb my hair like him, and even grew a beard, until my six-year-old daughter told me it was too scratchy.
Gary, the man who weathered the storm since the rocky days after Take That, the champion of countless charities, who laid on a birthday party for the Queen and offered sage advice for aspiring X Factor hopefuls in a way that Simon Cowell never could. A man of principle. A man of the people.
Or apparently not. At least not when it comes to paying the taxman his due.
Last night I tried to rationalise this emotion. I mean, he isn’t the first, or last, celebrity to try and avoid paying taxes, or fall from grace. But the truth is, I don’t feel the same way about the others. I couldn’t have cared less about Jimmy Carr’s similar transgression. Jeremy Clarkson’s nursery rhyme rancour also didn’t touch the sides. So how come I felt so personally let down by Gary?
The answer is that neither of these two ever set themselves up to be role models. Their brands don’t rely on offering advice to young hopefuls, organising birthday parties for royalty, or generally being a National Treasure.
I believed in Gary Barlow, in the same way as I believed in Father Christmas. And that’s the danger of positioning your brand (even by default) in a space that is, essentially, unrealistic. The number of companies who come to us demanding to become “The most loved brand in the world” is simply staggering. By all means have a vision beyond your category, but solving world hunger is sadly just as unrealistic as being a National Treasure. And the moment you let us down, we will find it very hard to believe in you again.
Andrew Mulholland is the managing director of strategic branding consultancy The Gild, www.the-gild.com.
In other news
Commuters using London's Fenchurch Street could face a travel headache going home tonight, with operators confirming [Read more]
Eight candidates are vying for the role of deputy Labour leader in a crowded race alongside the high-profile leadership [Read more]
Between 1997 and 2013, people living in just four regions in the UK saw their disposable income increase when [Read more]
Swiss police are questioning 10 Fifa officials over the controversial award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to [Read more]
Dutch banking giant ING last night cut its stake in NN, an insurance and investment management company.
A fresh investigation into migrant worker conditions in Qatar landed BBC reporters in prison recently. It is another [Read more]
The Bank of England will not back down on tough regulation, top official and ex-Barclays boss Martin Taylor said [Read more]
Perhaps the most enjoyable outcome of the General Election is the abuse now being heaped on the metropolitan liberal [Read more]
Private company SpaceX has received certified approval from the US to send military and spy satellites into space. [Read more]
Essex commuters will be the first to benefit from London’s Crossrail train service, with fare cuts of up to [Read more]
Boohoo’s finance chief Neil Catto was yesterday granted 1.6m share options worth £400,000 after his previous [Read more]
The FCA is considering whether to introduce new rules around PPI complaints following last year's ruling on the [Read more]
Politicians have been screaming for blood over the Libor scandal for years, as fines and firing have not sated [Read more]
The London-based tech startup notonthehighstreet.com has won a £6m loan from the Silicon Valley Bank.
Social media giant Twitter is in talks with Flipboard, to buy the media curation mobile app.
Charter Communications has finalised its $55bn (£36bn) takeover of Time Warner Cable. [Read more]