Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas Apple, Nike and Starbucks Are Alright Tonight

Sovereighn Entities

What are corporate entities?

Empires, artificial, evolving, organic, creatures, a hybrid of the two? probably, but, in essence, huge monlothic centres of the global economy. Gargantuan, predatory, mammoth-sized beasts that roam the dark, capitalist forest in search of consumers to gobble up - how very Roald Dahl.

They are banks, retailers, manufacturing plants, financial services companies, multi-disciplined units, anything that makes money for its shareholders. In fact the root of the word comes from the Latin corporatus, to form into a body.

We recognise them as logos, slogans, expensive mind-catching ads that drill deep into our psyche and force, often involuntary, movements from wallet to them.

Brands like Apple Inc - with the original sin logo of the bite out of the apple - Nike with the iconic throwaway Swoosh and 'Just Do it' ; Starbucks and their sexy, secutive mermaid and backward linkage to Herman Mellville's Moby Dick classic and their 'Share the warmth' 2013 Christmas campaign - homelessness ends here! Nice thought Mr Schultz.

These are all representative symbols of the corporation's identity that circumscribe corporate personality, character and qualities. They identify with us, rather than the other way around and lock us in to a world which we 'imagine' is the way we would want things to be, the way, indeed, things, accoding to our brand of the moment, should be. It is illusory but extremely potent, hitting us in our memory banks and our vision of what might be or could have been or what should be.

The corporations live with us in our micro-universe, touching our hearts with £7 million ( $11.4, € 8.3 million) persuasive, animated, sentimental bear and hare advertisements. Mini movies that resonate and represent, somehow, a perfect, sickly reality that we (somehow) feel we should all strive for. They always have that Hollywood happy ending!

I must say I have never, ever, experienced a happy Disneyesque Christmas as portrayed on TV, but like everyone, everywhere would love to enjoy one! A Christmas where my working life and the financial realities of just breathing are a million miles from my thoughts ( as if!). Who doesn't count the cost in the New Year?

Happy New Year, hey wait a second, wait a second, just got my Sickly Sweet Happy Bank statement - the bank that always says YES and does all these wonderful things for people, nothing is ever any problems to us Sir, it says on the ads - Anyway I have just received my bank statement, this can't be right...what's this extra charge for? And this one?

Sickly Sweet Bank of Neverland : we will always be there for you

Nevertheless, we are locked into happy fast food, family orientated vignettes that tell us 'We're loving it', where the family drool over exciting foodstuffs and grandpa falls asleep ( which is cute). Smiling-faced kids and their open toothy mouths prepare to bite into large, juicy-looking burgers ( we never actually see them eat the food, or if they do it seems as if they are chewing cotton wool they are enjoying the food so much, mmmm!).

Yet, while we are being fed all this honey-sweet hedonism, large numbers of the 700,000 fast food workers who operate at over 14,000 McDonald's restaurant in America are signing up for the new Service Employees International Union.

In the USA alone the industry employs something like 4 million people so the union has a huge potential catchment, and already claims 2.1 million members.

But before Americans can say 'what's that got to do with me or the price of my burger, man?' - it is worth reminding ourselves that around $7 billion to $8 billion ( £4.3/4.9 billion, €5.1/5.8 billion) of their money was paid into public assistance for fast food worker's and their families between 2007 and 2011. So, the average American citizen is basically, subsidising huge companies like McDonald's who pulled in $1.5 billion (£1 billion, €1.1 billion) in profits in the third quarter of this year and realised overall revenues of $27.5 billion (£16.8 billion, €20 billion) in 2012 ( thank you for your support people of America).

Part of the reason the mad admen of gargantuan corporate entities can pull off such wonderful campaigns - cue music, something to bring a tear Bright Eyes? Walking In The Air? with appropriate animated movie about little furry animals and big soppy bearesque creatures tugging at the wallet...sorry..heart strings...

Did I say wallet? Can't believe I said that!

(Written in Kimbles, St Enoch Centre Glasgow and Starbucks, West Nile Street, Friday 13, 2013. My next act is to contact Howard Schultz and ask him about his Share the Warmth Starbucks campaign.)

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