Whatever you think of Nigel Farage, you can’t ignore him. As the public face of UKIP, he is newsworthy. He has presented himself as a man-of-the-people championing ‘Britain for the British’ while laughing at both himself and his opponents, and toasting all who come near with multiple pints of beer.
In spite of the caricature he has become, he has turned a party with a larger than usual lunatic fringe into something respectable enough to have 24 of the UK’s 73 MEPs and popular enough to overshoot their targets for local council elections.
So what has enabled him to have such an impact in British politics? Some might suggest his charisma while others his preparedness to go where others fear to tread, while others still that UKIP provides a convenient home for mischief or protest votes.
Underneath it all, however, when people are interviewed about why they voted UKIP, it nearly always boils down to one thing: a concern that the UK cannot accommodate many more waves of immigration.
An old colleague of mine once whispered in my ear that “people are only ever famous for one thing”. And although this may not be the entire explanation, it certainly seems to be a significant part of Farage’s success to date.
So as a leader, if people really only know you for one thing, want is it you want to be know for?
Al Ries and Jack Trout cogently argue in their highly influential book ‘Positioning: the battle for your mind’ that the mind protects itself from the billions of bits of information thrown at it every day by oversimplifying. We build simple associations such as what Coke is and what Nike is inciting us to do.
The same is true for people running businesses, so take care that it’s not something you don’t want!