January 27, 2006
Cross-posted from Jack Yan: The Persuader Blog
In the 1990s, we were all optimistic about globalization—and in my case, it was about how the internet could unite populations. Every one could become a critic of a bad product, with an ability to reach the company directly. Emails could be sent for free—a revolutionary idea at the time.
Only that some companies weren’t listening.
The one-to-one theory only works when companies devote people to read the emails. Some did. Then, however, they needed to have the clout to get those messages up the chain to top management. Few did.
So in 2006, where we continue to face a large rich–poor gap, where do we head?
Humanity seems to make a regular mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water when one path doesn’t work.
But many of the ideas submitted in Beyond Branding and elsewhere still work. Some of the best ideas came in Simon Anholt’s Brand New Justice, which I heartily endorsed when I ﬁrst read it.
All these economic ideas given to us by many of the world’s experts failed because they only looked good on charts, but had no real connection to the people they summarized in numerical form. These experts all spoke in jargon—to hide their incompetence or disconnect. So why do we continue to treat this branch of commerce with such reverence, worshipping it more than religions themselves—and, indeed, fudging the plain meanings of helping people with so many equations that even the idea of God seems easier to explain?
In business, I still believe brands remain the only interface between organization and consumer. And if that interface can be reﬁned, then that “united world” idea can still happen.
Right now, ﬁrst-world brands are so successful the world is in danger of global oligopolies. I have mentioned many times that in New Zealand, one French combine owns Just Juice, Eta, Grifﬁn’s and Fresh-up—four brands considered by most Kiwis to be domestically owned. Oligopolies are one area where the economists are right: they can form monopoly powers, raise prices and make life hard for consumers. Just look at how much you are paying for gasoline. And I still have not heard from Danone after it sold me Citrus Tree orange juice that had gone off in 2005.
They do not need to listen to consumers because they have the power to do as they please. Their brands are so strong that people will consider buying from them without question in so many cases: McDonald’s, Nike, and the others which have been subject to Naomi Klein’s criticisms.
What if third-world brands had the expertise and polish of ﬁrst-world ones? Simon submitted this and I even tried to get a forum under way, though I never launched the latter with enough oomph to make a big change. Nor are there enough people in remote villages with web access, another obstacle in the path to moral globalization—so we need people who can take the idea to the people, like Saﬁa Minney of People Tree. But I hope this can still happen: a forum where third-world entrepreneurs can get information from ﬁrst-world branding consultants, for free. Comments and volunteers welcome—we already have a few Medingeites signed up. Redressing the balance. Brands are proven to command premiums on pricing, so let’s give that premium to poorer nations. Create enough competition to the oligopolies that they have no choice but to listen to consumers for new-product-development ideas, and more.
That way, each consumer has the power to act. The balance is already shifting in the consumers’ favour—email campaigns exposing misdeeds are now common—but whether they affect consumer behaviour in the long term is open to question.
I still say raising the incomes of poorer countries and closing the gap will still allow each nation, ﬁrst-, second- or third-world, to become richer through specialization. We just need to stop worshipping the economists and look at the real world: are the people in a better state, or are they in a perpetual race to the bottom with falling wages? And can they develop brands which can command premiums, so their communities become richer and they do not need to rely on the mega-retailers such as Wal-mart who continue to drive their prices down?
I’m not asking for the branders to be worshipped, mainly because (as some high-proﬁle authors have shown) most do not have a darn clue of what they are talking about. Or they couch things in 1950s’ sales’ maximization terms, taking us back to the Wall Street-is-supreme idea that landed us into this mess in the ﬁrst place. But for the most part, those with a humanitarian agenda generally have a workable, practical, consumerist method for working us out of the abyss. We have to. We built our ﬁrst-world, private-sector clients using those methods. Now we should apply them, using our own time, to show we aren’t manipulative, establishment-hugging cronies.
The guts of the forum are here, but it needs some TLC—and monitoring to prevent spammers from posting porn and gambling links. Assistance welcome. permalink
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HI ,Post a Comment
I couldn't find nothing too helpful on the site...I am very very interested and about to start doing some consultancy for small and medium enterprises...I will charge of course, but would like to make some noise about the subject in Mexico...
Any ideas ?
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