Sunday, 3 June 2012

You Are Who You stand behind.

Loyalty is a rare and precious commodity, like a flat stomach after forty, and just as hard to regain when it’s gone. Retailers have long since sussed the need for enticing our continuous commitment to them, with loyalty cards, Nectar points, and air miles. It’s a tricky task to even grab a cappuccino without being “incentivised” into patronising the same place when your caffeine level next crashes.

 But is this simply a one-sided relationship? Is repeat custom conditional on a complimentary coffee? One size does not necessarily fit all. Savings and service are certainly a selling point, but branding is about more than just not losing livestock. In amongst the desperate pre-Christmas discounts, during last year’s December gift gathering, I clocked one shop distinctly devoid of red-sticker reductions and seasonal under-selling.“Superdry” is apparently a fashion favourite of David Beckham, amongst others, and their distressed-look designs don’t seem to suffer the ignominy of discounts, because they don’t need to. Punters were parting with hard won wages willingly, buying into the brand without a bargain bin in the building.

 The lure of the label is intrinsically linked to identity. We are what we eat, but also what we sport and support. Car stickers constantly catalogue our allegiances to clubs and causes. Be it the National Trust, Nottingham Forest, or Say No to GMOs, some of us are so keen to state our support, we sing it out to those we’ve not even met yet, whether this may mitigate the chance of such a meeting or not.

 This week the Prime Minister reaffirmed his support for his Culture Secretary, despite Jeremy Hunt’s evidence to the Leveson Inquiry indicating that his office had close and continued contact with News Corps during the bartering over the BskyB bid. Vince Cable was removed from his quasi-judicial role in the process, when unguarded comments revealed his personal bias, only to be replaced by Mr Hunt, whose pro-Murdoch position is a matter of public record. Yet Mr Cameron is satisfied the Culture Secretary “acted properly”. Why? Because he said he did. Oh, that’s okay then. I presume Mr Hunt submitted a note from his mum as evidence and was closely monitored to check he wasn’t crossing his fingers.

 Labour insists the Culture Secretary broke the ministerial code and misled parliament. By only sending him to Lord Leveson however, the Prime Minister perhaps felt that would not be discovered. No harm in standing behind someone if you’ve made certain they can’t fall over.

 However, the Telegraph reports the chairman of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) warning that the initiation of an investigation into breaches of the ministerial code do not need a nod from the PM. Mr Cameron has used more robust rhetoric in defence of Mr Hunt, than he did for the now arrested Andy Coulson. But before you nail your colours to the mast, better check which way the wind is blowing, because the forecast still looks decidedly changeable.

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