Most of us would subscribe to the theory that, as individuals, our
strengths are also our weaknesses. In business, as distinct from our
private lives, the differences are further accentuated. Of no group is
this more true than of inspirational entrepreneurs, particularly those
who break the mould.
The breed is typified by Anita Roddick, who last week stepped down from
the chief executive’s job to become co-chair of the Body Shop - about
three years too late, according to the consensus among City and retail
analysts. The line is that she will concentrate on strategy, but in
reality it is an admission of the problems that can occur when an
individual becomes the brand.
Roddick’s strength was that, to customers, she was the Body Shop. We
didn’t just buy her elderflower eye gel, we also bought her
heart-on-her-sleeve odysseys to the jungles of the third world. She so
obviously cared and we loved her for it.
Her weakness, for which the company has paid a high price, was that she
was also the brand internally. Nothing happened without her say so. But
running a retailer demands discipline, attention to detail and
delegation - none of which squares when the brand guardian is
uncontactable for a month learning about foot rubs from the tribespeople
of New Guinea.
The Body Shop’s new management must work out how best to use
There are two models it can look at. She can either become a Branson,
facing outwards and leaving a cadre of highly qualified managers to run
the business. Or she can become a Charles Dunstone, who no longer
features in Carphone Warehouse ads but instead focuses on the
By temperament and talent, Roddick is ideally suited to the former -
which may explain why Body Shop marketing directors have always had a
shorter life expectancy than Manchester City managers. Entrepreneurs
being what they are, however, my guess is she will continue to try to be
both - with the inevitable results.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Impulse’s gay ad had fallen
victim to the ’small earthquake in Chile’ syndrome, but it is
nonetheless remarkable that it has excited so little comment among
either the tabloid press or the increasingly tabloid TV and radio
You could say this is because homosexuality has become sufficiently
mainstream - take EastEnders, Brookside, even the House of Commons - to
the extent that nobody thinks twice about it.
Perhaps. My view is that the ad conveys the acceptable face of
homosexuality, hence the absence of controversy. First, the two men look
unthreatening - the kind anybody could happily introduce to their
Second - and this is the key - it’s still a boy-meets-girl story. Were
it a boy-meets-boy saga, it would be a different story.
Even allowing for that, it is quite an event for a major household brand
to plunge into such potentially shark-infested waters and we should
applaud the client. Still, I bet Unilever/Elida Faberge and Ogilvy &
Mather will be more than a little disappointed at the lack of an
anti-shirtlifters editorial in the Sun.