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Last week while working on a campaign for a client, some new research rolled in showing that only 53% of Britons know the name of their MP. This revelation spurned chatter in the office about the implications of this in terms of personal branding.

Are MPs also brands? And if so, does it matter that there's such low brand-recognition amongst the target audience (read: constituents)?

Some of these questions were answered following an interaction with an MP, whom I presented the findings to via Twitter.

Using Twitter I sent messages to a handful of MPs and PPCs who have active accounts. Many chose not to reply (perhaps an indicator that they're not doing a good job) but a few did. Most notably, Labour civil service minister Tom Watson replied:

This position was that in the long run, name recognition amongst his constituents is less important than advocating on their behalf. He stresses a communication budget.

However if his concerns are less to do with the people knowing who he is, it suggests his communication budget is for a one-way stream to people who don't really know who he is.

With general election on the horizon, one could think that name recognition would be most vital to anyone hoping to win a seat in parliament.

But, perhaps I'm off in my assessment. Perhaps MPs are impervious to the concepts of brands and personal branding. I can't say for sure. Nonetheless, it is troubling data and certainly raised some questions in the branding and marketing community. 

My belief is that politicians are themselves brands. Brand recognition is hugely important. But what do you think?

Ben LaMothe

Published 7 December, 2009 by Ben LaMothe

Ben LaMothe is a web & social media strategist with Florida-based advertising and marketing consultancy Renaissance Creative. You can follow him on Twitter.

22 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Matt Law

Interesting point, however, I think that for the most part in this country people vote along party lines rather than evaluating the position and policies of individuals. For the most part the policies of the individual drones are indistinguishable from the party line anyway, since consistency within political parties is very highly prized nowadays and 'dissent' or 'party rivalries' is a sure fire vote loser.

One exception to this might be if the candidate is particularly well known politician or personality (eg Martin Bell standing and winning against Neil Hamilton) when they will swing a result just because people know who they are.

On the other hand, in other political systems, where there isn't an effective two party system, personality or 'personal brand' has much more of an impact. I was in Chile recently where they are having a presidential and senatorial election, and there the entire focus of the communications seem to be about getting the candidates known.

Election marketing in Chile http://bit.ly/6OnjrK

over 7 years ago


Interesting ideas

100% Agree with article author

over 7 years ago


Tom Watson

You've inferred a little more than you should from my single, 140 character tweet.

A comms budget allows regular dialogue with constituents through surveys and the like. It's reasonable for a young pup PR man to crassly assume that politicians live in the old analogue word, after all, many of them do.  However, in the case of the only politician that was generous enough to answer your tweet, ie me, it is not the case. 

Being a good advocate is what builds your personal brand (if you must call it that) as a local MP. 

As your previous commenter notes, many people vote for parties not individuals.

Finally, I'd never heard from you until that open ended question on Twitter.

It may be that others chose not to respond to your rather terse question because a; they had never heard of you either b;you were using a twitter handle for an organisation and not for yourself and c; they probably thought that you would be writing a half baked post for a company blog. 

So here's my advice Ben LaMothe. You can have it for free, but next time I shall charge a consultancy fee.

1. Sign up to Twitter in your own right.

2. Start by asking for advice and show a little regard for fellow twitterers. Even the old crusty ones.

3. If you're conducting research for your company blog, tell people first.


Tom Watson MP

over 7 years ago


Ramzi Yakob

Good on you Tom for laying the smack down. Ben you'll have to admit that he's right re: basic Twitter courtesy and its quite refreshing to see an MP demonstrate a better understanding of digital media culture than someone who writes for e consultancy.

[insert fail whale picture here with Ben's face on it]

over 7 years ago


Mike Rawlins



over 7 years ago


Ben LaMothe

Hi Tom:

Thanks for your comment.

It was less to do with research and more to do with generating conversation on the subject from MPs. I did get response from other MPs and PPCs whom I asked, however none had the response that you gave.

I do apologise if I've upset you. You can find me on Twitter at @BenLaMothe. You'll note I recently began following you. When the message was sent to you, before replying you could have checked out the source of the tweet. 

Being a good advocate is what builds your personal brand (if you must call it that) as a local MP. 

I agree with that. If your reputation proceeds you, then yes, you've established your own personal brand amongst your constituents. 

It may be that others chose not to respond to your rather terse question because a; they had never heard of you either b;you were using a twitter handle for an organisation and not for yourself and c; they probably thought that you would be writing a half baked post for a company blog. 

I don't believe the question I asked was at all terse. I asked for reaction from the MPs and PPCs whom the research was about. If you wanted to reply, you were welcome to. If not, then so be it, too. For the record, you were not the only MP to reply. However your response was indeed the most surprising.

My intention was not to upset you. And I do recognise that the tone in which I wrote this was more terse than I had intended. However I still believe the answer you gave was an interesting one and, in terms of branding, marketing and other related realms.

You are right in that you are one of the few MPs who are actively tuned into the web. If you are not too offended, I would be interested in interviewing you about your approach to Web 2.0 for Econsultancy. However I can understand if you would rather not.

Kind regards,

Ben LaMothe

over 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

It's good to see that Tom keeps an eye on what people are saying about him. In my experience local politicians are more in-tune with people than the big wigs. I've many time posted comments on websites or twitter id's for cabinet ministers and received no reply. 10 Downing Street on Twitter is a PR stunt in my experience, there is no engagement which misses the point of how social media could be used by politicians to influence people.

I'm not naive enough to think they aren't busy but don't bother pretending that you want to hear from people if you have no genuine desire to engage or reply. 

I personally think the person is more important than the party. There is no political party I would trust with the future of this country. However, I've read and listened to some very interesting and articulate individuals - I would welcome them being more vocal. Let the party get on with empty rhetoric for vote winning and some more expense swindling!

Would be good to know if anyone has done an audit of all MPs and mapped out usage of social media???



over 7 years ago


Stella Creasy

Hello there,

Have just seen Tom's post from his facebook site on this and so this blogpost- Just for the record as one of the PPCs Ben contacted, and I did reply very quicky with a question about the research. I'm still waiting for a response!

Perhaps a little less judgement of political people on twitter and a little more interactivity is the real lesson of this exercise for your clients... 


over 7 years ago

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