FRONT PAGE / POSTS
by Oliver Litten| Hamburg, Germany
Friday, 1 April 2011
tags: clients & brands, culture, europe, making sense, socioeconomics
While North Africa was erupting, Germans were more preoccupied with the premature end to the career of he country’s most popular politician. He stepped down at the beginning of March after two weeks of a bitter media battle. Subsequently his supporters took to the streets to get him reinstated. An unprecedented affair here in Germany.
The German Defense Minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, had been Germany’s shining star of politics for the previous two years. He was hailed by many as Germany’s only minister whose hionesty and integrity were unquestionable.
Independent, young, good looking, politically very talented. he lives in a castle with his beautiful blond wife, both independently wealthy. A unique positioning in German politics. The question was not if he became Prime Minister, the question was when.
Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg had developed a personal brand with a unique and sustainable positioning in territory uncharted for politicians for decades. Fair, open, amiable and aspirational.
Even a string of very awkward looking political moves including 180 degree turnaraounds, firing of high ranking personnel in the presence of the press and lacking the usual inquiries, could not tarnish his reputation. When Karl Theodor made mistakes the electorate was kind. Better any day than the right decision by a standard boring and mistrusted politician.
Then he got caught – big time.
A large proportion of his doctoral thesis turned out to be plagiarised. Whole sections copied almost word for word with no attribution in footnotes. A Summa Cum Laude thesis awarded by one of Germany’s best universities.
The minister denied wrongdoing. With self-assurance and just a hint of arrogance. Unfortunately, however, the evidence piled up against him and many Germans were aghast at the extent of the plagiarism. This time he was dropped. Not by his most ardent fans, not by the Chancellor – but by some of his colleagues, a large part of society and by a very vocal academic community.
Finally, he tried to reposition himself. From unique super-minister to ‚your average, power-clinging, truth-bending politician. Just like the others. But others often got away with it in the past. Not Karl Theodor. Despite all his efforts to downplay misconduct, despite all efforts by the press and the German Cabinet to support him, he had to go. His self-established core brand values were too strong to allow for this repositioning.
© Oliver Litten 2011