Napoleon Branding

humphead wrasse 3

Napoleon Bonaparte was meeting with his PR team in the Saint Helena conference room. Emma was showing him some colour swatches, and Katrina was talking about social media. Napoleon nodded and made listening faces, which he’d learnt about at a leadership workshop one time. He swivelled a bit on his swivelly chair, his little legs dangling above the carpet.

Although Napoleon was no longer personally right at the centre of global politics, he felt brand management was still very important. That’s why he’d engaged the services of Dynamic PR, whom he was reliably informed were all about originality, reach, and emotional connections. The bulk of his branding was in canned goods.

“How’s the memoir coming along?” asked Katrina, who’d obviously finished talking about social media for the time being.

“Eeeehhh…” said Napoleon.

“If the publishers don’t get something by the end of June you have to give the advance back.”

“I know, I know,” said Napoleon. (He’d already blown it on bicornes.)

“Have you given any more thought to the viral videos?”

“I just don’t know if that’s me, you know? I’m more stoic, stately, leader.”

“That’s why it works: juxtaposition,” explained Emma.

“Self-deprecation’s always a winner,” said Katrina.

“I’ve never been very good at self-deprecation,” said Napoleon.

Katrina laughed. “See? That’s funny.”

“What’s funny?”

“In the sense of it’s curious that you’re good at so much stuff but not that.”

“What about James Corden?” wondered Emma. “Carpool Karaoke?”

The erstwhile ruler of France grimaced.

“Conan does those remotes, right? That’d help with the whole exile, um, thing,” said Katrina tactfully.

“Might not be the right…” Emma looked over and saw Napoleon had got distracted looking out the window. She lowered her voice, “He’s quite… tall.”

“What?” said Napoleon.

Aaalllright, let’s move on… to… naming rights!”

Napoleon brightened. “Excellent! What have we got? Libraries, stadiums, themeparks?”

“Actually, yes,” said Katrina, looking through her notes. “Very exciting indeed. We have a group of marine biologists keen to discuss… with you – drum roll, please – the humphead wrasse.”

“The what?”

“The humphead wrasse.”

“What’s the humphead wrasse?”

Katrina adjusted her glasses, and continued scanning her notes.

“Is it a shark? A type of whale?”

“It could be a whaleshark,” suggested Emma.

“Yes!” said Katrina.

“Yes whaleshark?”

“Yes I found it, and it is… a… fish.”

“A fish?” said Napoleon.

“Quite a big fish.”

“A shark’s a quite big fish,” said Emma.

“All sharks are fish,” agreed Katrina.

“But all fish aren’t sharks,” countered Napoleon.

But the humphead wrasse is actually bigger than some sharks.”

“Some sharks are quite small,” said Emma, putting sharks in their place.

“Baby sharks.”

Napoleon sighed. “What does it look like?”

“Like a fish with a hump on its head.”

“No,” said Napoleon, with imperial authority. “No fish.”

“Thing is,” said Katrina, “these guys–”

“The marine biologists,” clarified Emma.

“–Don’t actually need your permission.”

“This is slander!”

“I only did the one semester of law school before switching to Business and Creative Arts, so my memory of defamation stuff is a little hazy, but I don’t think it’s slander to, er, name a fish.”

“Ugh,” said Napoleon, crossing his arms.

“There are these geologists…” began Emma.

“No rocks.”

“Again, they don’t actually need your permission.”

“Why can’t I get the sorts of deals he gets?”


“Wellington,” sneered his nemesis. “Beef, boots. Cool stuff.”

Emma mentioned she was a vegetarian, but it didn’t seem to cheer her client up.

“Did you hear about the New Zealand Tourism Board thing?” asked Napoleon.


“You know what they’re calling the capital city?”

“Um… Wellington?”


“We do have some attractive offers,” said Katrina, consulting her notes, “from several small settlements in such promising locations as Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, not to mention Indiana.”

Napoleon slammed his fist down on the conference table. “If the name of Napoleon Bonaparte is to grace another entity, it must be one worthy of that honour. Some exquisite pastry, a fine cognac, a ginormous canon.”

Katrina cleared her throat. “There is one proposal here for a complex.”

“Like, apartments?”

“Moving on…” said Katrina.

“No, no – tell me.”

Katrina told him.

“People who are angry because they’re short?!”

“There’s a little more nuance than that.”

“It’s a complex complex,” said Emma.

In his fury, Napoleon leapt to his feet. Nobody noticed the difference.

“I’m not short! And I’m not angry!”

Saying this, he snapped in twain his pen – which he always brought to meetings (another leadership workshop thing), and mostly used to draw unflattering doodles of Wellington. He then realised he’d gone and got ink on his hand. It wouldn’t come off so he hid it in his jacket, his usual solution.

“Imagine,” said Katrina, “branding a whole size!”

“A half size,” said Emma.

“Still pretty good.”

“Why small?” said Napoleon. “Why not BIG?”

“You’re… not?” said Emma, whose future in public relations was limited.

“I, Napoleon, one of the greatest men who ever lived, am no shorter than the average Frenchman of my time, and maybe even bigger!”

Katrina was about to say “Baby Frenchmen” but her continued future in public relations was likelier, so she didn’t.

“Baby Frenchmen,” muttered Emma under her breath.

“It’s all about storytelling, you see,” said Katrina. “We could portray you as the underdog.”

“I don’t want to be the underdog. I want to be the Emperor of Europe.”

“On that theme – the united Europe thing – do you ever watch Eurovision?”

Do I?” said Napoleon.

“There’s this group – Swedish – want to do a song about one of your battles. It’d be great exposure.”

“Nothing to do with the height thing,” said Emma.

“Not that the height thing’s a thing,” said Katrina.

Napoleon was thinking. “One of my battles?”

“That’s right.”


Katrina bit her lip. “No, one of the others.”

“It’s Waterloo, isn’t it?”


Napoleon frowned. “Is Parkinson still on?”

“Alan Carr: Chatty Man?” offered Emma.

“I could get back to Desert Island Discs…” said Katrina.

Napoleon looked out the window.

Napoleon Branding

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