Kleenex Expressions & the Depravity of Capitalism

The United States lacks national health insurance, universally good and equal schools, a sustainable transportation system, and a government that responds to popular wishes.

The whole human race suffers from mass poverty, illiteracy, looming unaddressed environmental and energy crises, a severe paucity of trans-national democracy, and still-proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, how are the good folks over at Kimberly-Clark, one of the original U.S. mega-corporations, directing their firm’s entrepreneurial spirit? How are they allocating the reinvested portion, whatever it is, of the $16.7 billion in book profits K-C reaped in 2006?

Here you go:

another capitalist technological breakthrough! It’s “Kleenex Expressions” folks!

This, you see, is the latest manifestation of K-C’s ongoing efforts to do — what? To “leverage the strong emotional bond forged by K-C’s trusted brands,” in order to “transform insights and technologies into innovative, proprietary and profitable solutions that deliver superior returns to our shareholders.”

Now, you might think the scandal here is old and confined to the shocking waste of human and natural resources — as Helen Caldicott says, “Kleenex” (long a synonym for all paper mose-blowing tissues) is founded on the K-C-cultivated false claim that cloth handerkerchiefs are unsanitary — inherent in corporate capitalists’ long-running efforts to peddle egregious junk like paper tissues.

But that’s only part of the story. The rest of it has to do with the criminal wastefulness that routinely occurs via the BBM sub-discipline of “product management.”

As I explain in The Consumer Trap book, product management is the art and science of viewing the end commodity itself as a bundle of marketing stimuli, as a collection of spurs to profitable “consumer” behavior. In PM, first you run a focus group to discover the weaknesses and irrationalities that exist in the “target” audience of potential buyers. Then, you build a production line to manufacture objects to convert those weaknesses and irrationalities into corporate cash flows. The ecological and financial costs of the process to the end-users and the human race? Ought these to trouble us, since they increase our profits?”

So, here’s how Advertising Age reports on K-C’s latest PM endeavors:

Tony Palmer, CMO of Kimberly-Clark, at Ad Age’s Media Mavens event last week, answering a question about what he would like for Christmas. Mr. Palmer made it clear that he thinks marketers need agency partners that let ideas and consumer insights drive channel choices — rather than their existing departmental structures and revenue requirements. And he doesn’t think the industry is there yet, not by a long shot.

Mr. Palmer might sound like one of those change-agent types, but in the style of a good old-fashioned marketing man, he sat on stage and later wandered the halls of the Hilton proudly brandishing a box of his company’s Kleenex.

Or perhaps I should say an oval of Kleenex, for these were K-C’s “Expressions” in their tony, trademarked, almond-shaped container.

The oval might not sound like a big wow, but it was a significant innovation in the category. The move was designed to attract younger, design-conscious consumers who didn’t like having the old rectangular box sitting on their Kohler commodes. Reports suggest the boxes have been best-sellers and spurred some growth in a stagnant category.

But, as Mr. Palmer pointed out, they didn’t happen without ripping up existing processes, changing people’s job functions and investing heavily in a whole new production line. (Ad Age, December 3, 2007)

Beyond funding overclass financial speculation, offshore bank accounts, and third homes, this is how corporate capitalism now works. It picks the subconsciouses of deluded hipsters to “create” next-generation iterations of products that simply should not (and, under economic democracy would not) exist.  Such lovely stuff is what new factories get built for.  Not for feeding or housing the poor.  Not for restoring and modernizing the railroads.  Not for making parts for new schools.  Yes for “Hip Chick” Kleenexes.

Caligula and Nero were amateurs compared to this system’s murderous decrepitude.


It preys upon petty vanities. It passes itself off as real human interaction, which, along with corporate capitalism’s #1 form of bread-and-circuses, commercial TV, it helps crowd out in favor of time spent on “marketing platforms.” It is owned by the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s infamous media mega-conglomerate. Its ulterior purpose?

Take a look… The print version of this ad (see the latest edition of Advertising Age) ends by calling myspace.com “the world’s largest targeting platform.”  That, and not any desire to improve human life, is precisely its raison d’etre.  No more, no less.
There you have it.  Corporate espionage as “self expression.” “My” space indeed!

If you fall for this trick, you are feeding the devil, selling your soul for a plastic nickel. Don’t do it.

P.S. It also shows you how “new” the new media are. The hipster creeps who invent and run these things are, if anything, WORSE than the quiz show hucksters who preceded them.

Obfuscation Through Clarity

another Step right up, suckers, er, “consumers”! The overclass continues to lavish more of its booty on material and symbolic propaganda to disguise from the public the extreme dangers of the impending near-term death of its core product, the personal automobile.

The latest advance in this expanding shell game is yet another instance of that latest and greatest of unrecognized oxymorons, a “green car” — the Honda Clarity.

Orwell’s Big Brother would have creamed his Levis over this “Clarity” name, as the entire reason the “new” vehicle exists is to further trick you into hoping against hope that science will soon find a way to suspend the laws of thermodynamics that confine Earthlings to living with finite supplies of usable energy, thus magically/entrepreneurially rendering our autos-über-alles transportation order sustainable.

The Clarity, you see, is (breathe a baited breath!) an actual hydrogen-fuel-cell car! Oh, the rapture!

If you bother to investigate this phony breakthrough, however, you will see reality: Clarity and its “green car” cousins exist not to provide any viable answers to our energy-supply gathering troubles and the capitalist technological dictatorship that insist on ignoring them, but rather to convincing you (and perhaps also the more gullible among Honda’s investors) that hydrogen is somehow a new “alternative” source of energy. Of course, it is not, as admitted by none other than Jerry Hinkle, the president of the National Hydrogen Association:

“Hydrogen can be produced from a wide range of sources including natural gas, coal, water, wind, nuclear power and biological methods,” Hinkle says.

There’s exactly where the body is buried: Hydrogen, you see, is not lying around, ready to burn, in the ground or sky or anywhere else. On the contrary. For reasons of elementary chemistry and physics, hydrogen must always be stripped away from the other elements to which it inherently binds, at very high energy cost. To “liberate” hydrogen for burning in cars, it takes the same old quantities of the same old stuff — “natural gas, coal, water, wind, nuclear power and biological methods.” Those old energy sources, of course, are now both peaking and being very rapidly squandered. Hence, hydrogen cars are dead letters.

Nevertheless, if you’d like to ignore this simple inconvenient truth and help Honda and other corporate capitalists parade their murderous “green car” distractions, you can apply to be one of the lucky few to obtain a heavily subsidized lease for a Clarity. All it will cost you, after the subsidy, is — $600 a month, or a mere ten times the wage of a corporate factory worker in Nicaragua!

Ford’s Latest Lie: “All Things are Possible”

We humans are at or extremely near the top of the Peak Oil curve.

Alas, the corporate capitalist investors who dictate which technologies we may use are also intractably addicted to selling cars. They will continue to attempt to do so, no matter the costs, until we remove them from power.

Meanwhile, ponder the Huxleyan/Orwellian (that’s the worst-of-both-worlds character of our unchallenged, rampaging overclass) nature of the waste-pushing propositions they continue to foist upon us. The latest to strike my eye is Ford’s shocking attempt to sell people new cars by saving them 5 or 6 button-pushes a day: “Sync.”

Yes, friends, what we all need to do is boost “our” economy by spending $40,000 on another huge, toxic, petroleum-guzzling contraption, all so that we can turn on the stereo without having to move our fingers! “All things are possible,” say Ford and its partner-in-this-crime, Microsoft, as they announce this glorious breakthrough in human civilization!

Not only is this tag-line mega-laughable in this bought-and-paid-for, market-totalitarian madhouse of a nation, but it is also patently, egregiously, and especially relevantly untrue. The laws of thermodynamics that govern the known universe contradict the childish statement that “all things are possible.” Some things are possible. That’s it.

Meanwhile, very high on the list of impossible things in this universe is the sustainability of the USA’s auto-über-alles transportation order beyond another few decades, at most…

The View from Xmas 1928…er…2007…

The U.S. overclass responded to Vietnam, Watergate, the great democratic cultural quickening of the 1960s, and the economic stagflation of the 1970s by clearing its collective head and tapping a new generation of war-mongering “trickle-down” ideologues to run the state for it.

Ever since, the rich have been dancing from victory to victory, socking away ever-more cash and goodies, and creating new bubbles when old ones pop — as they inevitably do, since new elite “investments” are now usually only loosely related to the employment of proletarians.

The ensuing quarter-century poker game, though, looks like it is breaking up. The red-eyed 4:00 a.m. headache has arrived. Capital has won all the money, and even in the business system’s core selling zones, the bottom four-fifths are simply too broke to borrow any new chips. Banks and “mortgage companies” are unwilling to extend third (sub-sub-prime) “home equity” loans to those needing, once again, to “consolidate debt.” Instead, all the remaining non-elite “equity” is gone and the chits are finally hitting the fan.

Evidence of this barely deniable (hence, in the corporate media, still massively denied) reality abound. The role of this blog is not to dwell too long on the underlying political economy, but simply to pass along a special branch of the evidence on this topic.

To wit: This item from a story on the worsening implosion of corporate ad spending (itself a major indicator of trouble, as BBM growth always, always outpaces the overall economy) in the latest Advertising Age Mediaworks newsletter:

If you’re in the market for good news, keep an eye on venues for luxury advertising. “We’re seeing our bookings coming in earlier than the same time last year,” said Gina Sanders, VP-publisher, Teen Vogue. “There are no huge storm clouds we see. And at this point last year we were already aware of some non-returning business. No such issues seem to be on the horizon.”

“Our fourth quarter was up 17% in ad pages,” Ms. Sanders added. “It’s my hope that that momentum is going to carry forth into the first quarter.”

[T]he trouble with technology and automotive advertising can be increasingly offset by that familiar bright spot: luxury. “There is a new age of affluence out there,” [a Fortune magazine representative] said, citing recent account wins such as Four Seasons and Cathay Pacific Airways. “Fortune is covering the business of luxury, and I think that we will try to capture some more lifestyle advertisers.”[Advertising Age Mediaworks, December 3, 2007]

Translation: Game over. The rich have “won.”

Good luck to them (OK, not really), and to us, and to the billions who will never get a chance to default on a “consumer” loan. We’ll all need it, sooner rather than later.

Emotionomics: A Noteworthy “Revelation” of Market Totalitarianism

Capitalism’s apologists have always painted their allegedly history-ending system as the anti-thesis of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism, of course, is the sort of modern social order in which a ruling elite tries to control all aspects of life among its underlying population, especially via threats and appeals to forms of propaganda-induced unreason.

Capitalism, they say, is the opposite of totalitarian, as it is inherently not just respectful of, but actively encouraging of, the advancement of independent self-interested calculation and free choice among the masses.

Alas, they lie.

As Noam Chomsky says, in the real world, capitalists hate the kinds of competitive “markets” classically assumed by Adam Smith. Those “classic” (and purportedly still-extant) situations are simply not conducive to maximizing owners’ profits, as they tend to require price- and management-minimization. Because of these noisome pressures, amid the Great Depression of the 1870s-1890s, the overclass used its clout to launch the corporate age. Capitalism quickly became corporate capitalism.

By the 1920s, the overclass began to realize that diverting some of its bounteous new corporate cash flows into managing not just workers, but also off-the-job behavior settings could, if well and carefully done, become yet another source of ROI.

In the 1950s, accelerating movement in this direction yielded the breakthrough now known in boardrooms and business schools as “the marketing revolution.” Ever since its consolidation — most especially in the core selling zones created by a combination of early capitalist plunder and employment patterns, mid-20th-century democratic footholds, and the need to bolster the Cold War storyline — corporate capitalists have devoted ever-growing budgets to managing the realm of what we uninformed commoners still quaintly think of as our “free time.”

With this in mind, over the coming weeks, I will help you take a look at Emotionomics, a new book in which corporate consultant Dan Hill reports and muses on the growing practice of corporate “neuromarketing.”

Here’s the overall context:

Described by marketing super-guru Philip Kotler as “a revelation,” the book not only tips the hand of core big business marketing attitudes and methods, but it is indeed a “revelation” — an especially clear, not-for-public ears enunciation of the true voice of corporate capital.

Hill’s core revelation is a naked, un-self-conscious admission of the reality of market totalitarianism at the heart of corporate capitalist normalcy.

Hill, whose “blue-chip clients have included Target, Toyota, GlaxoSmithKline, Allstate, and Kellogg, among many others,” counsels his audience of corporate planners to once-and-for-all stop kidding themselves about the “world’s love affair with rationality”:

Breakthroughs in brain science have revealed that people are primarily emotional decision-makers…Emotions are central, not peripheral, to both marketplace and workplace behavior. As a result, companies able to identify, quantify, and thereby act on achieving emotional buy-in or acceptance from consumers and employees alike will enjoy a tremendous competitive advantage.

It doesn’t get much plainer than that: both workers and “consumers” are objects of detailed, ongoing, essentially emotional managerial control campaigns.

As Noam Chomsky also frequently points out, big business corporations are “unaccountable private tyrannies.” These days, they are also getting increasingly clear amongst themselves about the classical nature of their tyranny: Stripped of the standard self-congratulating, self-excusing managerial jargon, this nature is nothing less than pure totalitarianism.