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Debating the Personal Brands of the Leaders in the UK Leaders Debates

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Getting a handle on a politician's personal brand is like trying to eat porridge with a screwdriver. This, the first debate of its kind in the UK, was a tad disorienting for the British public. Unlike the three years that US candidates take to peddle their wares, we in the UK only had three weeks to get a closer look at our candidates as campaigners. Therefore, there was less of a build up and more of a 'Here we are then, which one do you want to be the boss of the UK?'

Mr Clegg's Personal Brand could be described as full of energy, upbeat and communicative. He might be considered a young candidate for the job. He's certainly fresh-faced and 'customer friendly'. There seems to be some correlation between Tony Blair and Mr. Clegg in that they both captured the country's imagination, the hope for a new future and both promised a fresh start. In addition, whether we like to admit it or not, being 42 years old gives Mr. Clegg an advantage in a world that is image and age obsessed. His Outer Brand is both predictable and by virtue of that, boring. In order for Mr. Clegg to distinguish himself from Brown and Cameron, he'd be well served if he sought some help in sharpening up his Outer Brand so that it complements the contemporary appeal of his Inner Brand.

Mr. Brown, to some, is the candidate who would likely bring more of the same. And given that change is the catch phrase of this election, sameness is out. Mr. Brown certainly has the experience and a strong desire to run this country. He gives the impression that his heart is in the right place, and that doing the right thing is hugely important to him. It seems as though he's had some bad luck: The "Bigot-gate" incident didn't do anything for his Personal Brand. Yet, he rode that storm well, which shows resilience, a quality you want in a leader. His Outer Brand needs to convey something that speaks of his experience, gravitas and reliability. Therefore, his attire needs to be either tailor-made or selected very carefully, with those three specific characteristics in mind.

As far as Mr. Cameron is concerned, he needs to improve his story telling style. He suffers from a lack of conviction when it comes to conveying stories about real people (voters) and their stories. Mr. Cameron sits in the middle of Brown and Clegg: Not quite as energised as Clegg, yet feistier than Brown. It's as if he's not quite certain what his brand is. Although he wants us to believe he's a regular guy I think he tries too hard -- the jacket off, rolled up shirt sleeves, photo ops of running and biking. No one believes he's a regular guy. That doesn't mean he can't run the country, it just makes him seem not entirely authentic. Cameron's Outer Brand is a bland brand. It's as if he doesn't care about it. If he traded in his politicians 'uniform' for something that expressed more of his personality, I think he would come across as being more authentic.

The single most compelling Personal Brand of any politician in recent history years is Barack Obama's. He exudes an Outer Brand that's both easy on the eye and that doesn't distract from his Inner Brand. And his Inner Brand is so strong and compelling that he could attire himself in almost anything and his Inner Brand would still shine through. He is truly unique and able to communicate his Personal Brand in ways that are both purposeful and charismatic. He does this with great ease, a healthy dose of confidence and loads of style. By anyone's standards, or political affiliation, this is outstanding.

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