Doing Business As (A Mercenary)
January 7, 2008
Brand naming was legally born out of removing the proprietors name from the trading name, enabling franchising. Because of this, creativity took the ability to be fictitious, enabling narratives to enter the sales pitch. Using a logo as the emblem of the narrative, we seen the legal entity move from icon to verb. Marketeers Just Did It, so you can Just Do It – whatever they wanted you to desire.
Imagine that. One single bit of business legality gives birth to what we know as Marketing.
The problem is, no one really believes the stories marketing peddles, especially when the narratives are masking the reality of the Business Trading As. Naked Conversations maybe trying to resolve the fact that All Marketeers are Liars, but this amounts to tinkering with the logo, the identity by enhancing the ‘gestures’ of the companies operations. Brand as a Narrative prevents the Brand existing as Embodiment. Brands need to live within the architecture of life, not on the perception plane. Trying to get a purchasing audience to care about a Brand is costly compared to using your Brands affordances to improve the infrastructure of life. In this case giving is cheaper than advertising.
Branded Utilities, Branded Content and Brand Experiences are all ways of reshuffling the first order objects of the audiences relationship to a commercial service, but frankly, it doesn’t matter which part of the pizza you eat first, you’re participating in a fiction that delivers the need you wanted in the first place, but you have to go through the speed dating of a brand to get the money shot.
This maybe partially necessary, not for selling you the service/goods/lifestyle in the first place, but actually easing the guilt of the transaction. Consumerism has an after taste, and like a bottle of booze, it’s an acquired taste which comes through education. And guess who’s teaching you about after taste. Consumerism is not consumption in the personal sense – it’s a cultural activity. We share consumerism, we never personally experience it.
One of my persistent thoughts is how to get clients, brands, company operations into the infrastructure of life – - fundamentally, getting under the skin, or label, of society and ensuring the brand is doing something useful.
We’ve been repetitively told, we first we have to pass through Permission Marketing to get an audience to accept the narrative of a brand. It’s no more than the first question you ask a potential customer on the shop floor: “How can I help you?”. So much for big insights, Seth.
Take a look at this.
Tide, A P&G brand, rolled in to New Orleans, with the help of The Gigunda Group, during the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster with a truck stacked with washing machines capable of doing 300 loads of washing a day. Food, water, security and other key essentials where being laughably delivered by the US official task forces. What people needed, to get them back on their feet so that they could move forward with rebuilding their day, not their city, was clean clothes – an incredibly soft touch to a horrific disaster, but one that got people motivated. Need alone does not inspire people – desire/inspiration/care activates the cognitive value of meaning in people.
Once rationality is operating, construction ensues.
Once New Orleans stabilised, to the point of mild sanity (and sanitation) P&G pulled back the trucks but did drop in other initiatives – such as concert as a fund raiser and handyman around New Orleans – with R&B star and product placement God send, John Legend.
But I think P&G missed a trick here or it shows that marketing teams really don’t have any real business power inside the corporation – nor does Corporate Social Responsibility.
Tide’s, Clean Start, tactical Branded Experience may have put the heart back into people – but in times of catastrophe – natural disasters and war – aka Acts of God – it’s a sweet spot for a brand to step in a GIVE support. Now, most Acts of God, are the moment the military and corporations rub their hands and expect a spurge in profits – real needs equals real profits. This is essentially tactical thinking.
What is up for grabs is to get into the new infrastructure before it’s gets rebuilt under Government controls.
Now, most corporations will go after the bid for Government contracts – the legal framework to make dollar from crisis.
What if the corporation showed that it wasn’t making money from the short term tactical play upon the catastrophe?
BlackWater is a government commissioned mercenary enterprise. They tend to acquire No Bid Contracts, that is, they are GIVEN the contracts to do ‘stealth’ operations. Like the A-Team, without the humour, and people die. Quite a lot of them, actually.
Government contracts for Iraq are the lucrative. Massive risk, but lucrative. And owned by the participating governments, owned in the sense that Taxes are set.
Now, before we panic and thinking, heck no, we don’t want Coke and Mcdonalds being in the infrastructure of a societal rebuild, think what you the consumer are paying in taxes to the government for BlackWaters ‘unregulated’ services.
Consumer infrastructure services tend, on the whole, not to have a mandate, nor licence, to kill people. It is in their interest to make their lives more profitable, so that they can acquire more products and services.
ENRON, went for Infrastructure, just as Google is now. It’s the Accountability of the Transactions that will make the dfference if Brands engage with building cultural infrastructure.
Think about the long term play on this. It’s not about Brands ensuring their product is on display in the right stores, it’s not about the talkability of the Brands Ideals, it’s not about LoveMarks – these are all lowering purchase considerations.
Brands within the infrastructure of the cultural mechanism, are the verbs of life, they are not about trying to facilitate the consumers interests – it’s deeper, more transparent, more beneficial – it’s about the organisation working towards a common goal – and that is – mutuality.
A brand that is part of the daily exchange mechanism of language – not a parody of Just Doin’ It – but actually generating value in an individuals actions, is part of the fabric of reasoning, not a point of difference.
If Brands think that their role is to rise above ‘acceptability’, then they are going the wrong direction. Brands, if they want to be the life of the consumer, must be the reasoning of the consumer.
The way in, as above, is to GIVE operational support to the community; mesh your CSR into the habits of the communities – not fundraisers, not sponsorship nor charity, but become of institutional use. If your organisation is malfunctioning – “Nobody talks to anyone” mentality, then you’ll fail instantly. But maybe, if you start to get your organisations logistics closer to the communities, this could start internal/external conversations. Keep it at a personal level. “Brand talks to Man on the Street” is nonsense. “Man who works for Big Corporation talks to Man on Street” is good.
But think also about how this has to work on the web. Brands that help build the infrastructure of Communications, Manufacturing and Networks remain in the daily existence of the audience without the hoopla of permission marketing. Look how Web2.0 services that do small simple things reside in the daily activities of communication. Look at the first round VC money – it’s within any Global Corporations budget to invest, create and experiment within. You have to think functions, not applications. That’s what Google’s 20% rule is all about.
But before we all start thinking this is Corporate Social Responsibility extremity, focus the attention towards the largest global religion - Finance – because beliefs, although mailable, are the Social Object’s force in cultural frailness. And Frail Nets are Good. It is the Methods within the Financial-Social Object that require crafting.