Stuart Rose faces a problem at M&S that will exercise his leadership skills. Bryan Ferry, who has been modelling clothes for the company, extols Nazi iconography. Calls are made for boycotts of Marks, and of Bryan Ferry
The glorious place held by M&S in the history of modern Jewish entrepreneurial achievements is under threat. The company has been promoting its gear through aging Rock idol Bryan Ferry. Ferry turns out to be an admirer of Nazi iconography. A recent interview for Welt am Sonntag has quickly turned into an international furore. According to the UK’s Daily Mail
The singer, 61, had angered Jewish groups by telling a German newspaper of his admiration for the Third Reich’s cultural achievements and admitting he named his recording studio after Hitler’s bunker .. But in a statement released on Ferry’s behalf, he now said the comments “were solely made from an art history perspective ..I, like every right-minded individual, find the Nazi regime, and all it stood for, evil and abhorrent.”
Ferry has also modelled for Burberry, another company which has hit a storm of adverse publicity recently as it reported increased profits and closure of a factory in a deprived area of South Wales.
Rights, wrongs, and Rose
Ferry is intelligent enough to discuss Germany’s cultural heritage. He has been naïve enough to ignore possible repercussions of remarks acknowledging any aesthetic merits in German art the era of the Third Reich. The story presents a leadership dilemma for Stuart Rose.
He is custodian of another icon, the Marks & Spencer brand. Ferry is visibly identified with that brand. Should Rose:
(a) ignore it, as a storm in a tea-cup
(b) intervene swiftly to say it is just a storm in a tea-cup
(c) intervene swiftly to say it was a major error of judgment by Bryan Ferry who has agreed to make some economic or symbolic gesture of his deep regret
(d) announce that Bryan Ferry has damaged the brand, and that M&S is terminating the contract
(e) do something else altogether
Put another way, what might be the rationale for justifying one of these courses of action over the others?
Labour peer Lord Janner is a former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and a campaigner on behalf of Holocaust survivors. He has indicated his preference for (d).
According to the Daily Telegraph
When asked about Ferry’s remarks and his subsequent apology, Marks & Spencer said it did not give its opinions on views that were expressed by people in other situations ..A spokesman for the company would not comment, when asked whether it planned to review Ferry’s contract.
The trouble with (d) is that it is a Nazi-type response. Ferry has explained his context , and he has a good point. After all, in real life, the Nazi regime was very good at marketing. Lord Janner is playing on emotions — and probably also his own — to push buttons for reasons that are nothing to do with undertanding history. He wants an emotional response of “never again” rather than a rational response of “never again”. The problem with the emotional way is that you will not rationally recognise the (emotional) Nazi-type stuff and response of others in the future. Emotions are great for selling something, but they can also get people killed — and in the millions!
Well, I am not sure what M&S can do about this one. Its a tuff situation. I guess they are gonna have to get rid of him.
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Marks sparks ‘Nazi’ furore | Leaders We Deserve