Media: A Moment with Marquis

Nowadays, everything is a brand. Have you noticed? Not just Marmite or Rice Krispies or Finish dishwasher powder, but everything from the NHS to Britain to Beckham to the Labour Party.

Is this helpful? Does it add value to a term at the very heart of what we in this business are trying to create? We know what is meant by, for example, calling a political party a "brand": most things in this world are more than the sum of their parts and this is a passable definition of what a brand is. What's more, you can be sure that all the major parties talked and thought about themselves as brands in the run-up to this election.

But the truth is they aren't brands, can't be brands. They don't and won't obey some of the obvious rules of branding. For one thing, political events are not remotely susceptible to advertising. Over many years, the parties have used advertising (some of it very good) without it having any discernible effect on the outcome of an election.

True, political parties choose to adopt some of the trappings of branding - logos, corporate looks, music, straplines etc - but there is precious little evidence any of this actually works. Remember the famous Kinnock makeover in the 80s? Cue the next Thatcher landslide.

By the time you read this, we'll know - or be close to knowing - the outcome of this general election. Will branding have played a part in it? Maybe, but it won't have swayed a single floating voter.

What does sway voters then? Policies do (unfashionable, but true). Track record (why Iraq is the monkey that won't go away). But most of all, politicians sway voters. Not just when they are parroting their pre-scripted messages but when, as Blair did the other day, they sweat and fidget uncomfortably under the studio lights or, as Howard did, they heavy-handedly sack one of their number for stepping out of line.

Politics is about personality, trust, integrity, credibility, behaviour - of politicians. Their obsession with marketing and branding hasn't even served them all that well - the electorate now calls anything remotely slick "spin".

None of this is to decry brands and branding. But it does suggest that the terms may have been stretched too far and that they should retreat back into our world of marketing and advertising where they belong.

Marmite isn't just a funny little jar of brown, salty stuff, after all.

It's a loved (or hated) part of childhood, a taste never to be forgotten, as British as a wet Friday in June. That's a brand.