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July01

What makes the Nelson Mandela Brand so enduring?

All successful brands are managed. Some are difficult to manage, others not. People brands are particularly hard to manage because they are like moving targets. The difficulty of managing them comes from the behaviour – public and private – of the people concerned which, either way, often ends up in the eye of the public. Young celebrity brands are particularly hard to manage because they are still making it in life and have plenty of mistakes to make. Amy Winehouse is a good – perhaps extreme – example in this regard. They have the uncontrollable attention of the opposite sex to deal with, peer pressure on the use of substances, sudden wealth and fame, all resulting in heightened media and, by extension, public attention. Everything that they do and say makes it into all forms of media before they can even say “who, me?” The immediacy of social media makes the task of managing people brands even harder.

 The Mandela Brand

The Nelson Mandela Brand has, since the man’s early entrance into politics (especially in the late 1950s and early 1960s) been associated with everything good and bad. While he was a hero for some, he remained a terrorist and agitator for others. But those who knew him and understood what he fought for stood by the good side of his name until right in the end, when he came out of 27 years of incarceration and became the first democratically elected President of South Africa. South Africans love him, the world loves him and, to boot, he has been the darling of world celebrities, politicians and the media ever since his release from prison. Positive media attention is crucial for the success of any brand.

Mandela and the media

Nelson Mandela the man knew from the beginning that media could be used cleverly to advance one’s aims. The man is even positively liked by some of South Africa’s most feared and loathed satirists and columnists. A rarity in political brands! The mystery as to how he has always kept a friendly smile even in the face of possible negative media scrutiny is something that many politicians need to learn. He has always known how to maintain a positive rapport with the media. The Mandela Brand is also jealously guarded by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, part of whose job is to protect his legacy and the brand’s interests. Those who manage it know which associations to tolerate and which ones to keep far away from the Mandela Brand. In this regard, they have plenty to teach other people Brand Managers the world over!

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