The Third Man by Peter Mandelson

Two of my biggest passions are politics and marketing and the other night I sat down to read Peter ‘Mandy’ Mandelson’s biography ‘The Third Man’.  If you are not from the UK I should probably explain that Mandy was behind the rise of New Labour, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in British Politics and is one of the UK’s best known spin doctors.  Such was his cunning as a marketer of New Labour that Private Eye Magazine nicknamed him ‘The Prince of Darkness’.

Politics and Marketing

Now you may be upset when I talk about parallels between political parties and the business of marketing but as Mandelson says in the book ‘Both had products, in politics they are called policies.  Both competed in the marketplace and for political parties as much as businesses, if you forget your customers they would soon forget you.’

As a marketer I picked up a number of insights from The Third Man including the development of Tony Blair as a great communicator and big-issue leader and Gordon Brown’s focus on tactics at the expense of strategy.

If you are politics nut, regardless of your affiliation, then you will find this book interesting in terms of the high drama, history and personalities involved.  Marketers will also find the book very instructive in how to plan campaigns and combine broad marketing strategy with tactics, especially PR.

You can get your copy of the book here.

Favourite Quotes from the Book

“He said he felt that while Gordon had the intelligence and the ideas, the drive and determination, to make a success of government, ‘none of that is the most important thing for a politician. It is intuition – what to do, when to do it, how to say it, how to bring people along.”

“Gordon did see the big picture, but he tended to create tactical opportunities, rather than a strategy to advance it. Tony, by contrast would conceive his strategy at the outset, and then paint a big picture in order to carry people with him.”

“I learned three basic rules of spin-doctoring that remained with me. Don’t overclaim. Be factual. And never arrive at a briefing without a story.”

“I was especially impressed by a ministerial trip to the United States, on which I saw at close range an array of business success stories. During a visit to Silicon Valley the boss of Hewlett-Packard, Lew Platt, threw a question to me about the Labour government being anti-success, and opposed to rewarding entrepreneurs who took risks and grew rich. ‘We are intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich,’ I replied, ‘as long as they pay their taxes.”


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