As a keen student of history and erstwhile Unilever executive who has worked for Patrick Cescau, I was somewhat puzzled by last week’s Marketing Week front page cartoon.
The inspiration of your cartoon was Tenniel’s 1890 Punch magazine cartoon also called “dropping the pilot”. In Tenniel’s cartoon the ship is Germany and the pilot is Bismarck, the iron chancellor who unified Germany. The ship’s captain is Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany who dismissed Bismarck. The story goes he wrote to his granny, Queen Victoria, and told her he was getting rid of Bismarck. She was having tea with Tenniel, who got a scoop by publishing the cartoon before the news broke.
Wilhelm was a very unstable character who played a major role in the origins of World War I.
You can see why I was puzzled. Patrick Cescau is a very sound executive who has started to pull the fragmented Unilever group together. He is more like a Bismarck. Captain Birdseye certainly does not deserve this Bismarckian role, as frozen foods have been a poor contributor to Unilever over the years. They are right to get rid of it .
It’s a great idea to use these old cartoons as an inspiration for a new age, but let’s be sure there is no cognitive dissonance.
SVP Unilever Global Beverages
The Cescau/Wilhelm II parallel is too rigorous. The cartoon has been used more loosely by a number of imitators; for example, to illustrate Churchill’s dismissal in the 1945 election – Ed