Survival and the Business Class

Capitalists have always claimed that, because they have an intense interest in providing things for which people will pay money, they must be granted free reign to dominate society’s macro-level decisions. Any serious interference with the private business sector’s ability to make and sell whatever makes it the most profit will, the theory goes, only lead to disaster. Only capitalists, it is said, pay careful-enough attention to what people actually want and need. Hence, we must leave them to it.

bomb on dollar image

One of the classic hypotheses stated by Karl Marx was, of course, a converse notion. Capitalists, Marx observed, can and do care about what people want and need only up to a certain point:

“Après moi, le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society.”

This thesis is rather interesting in these days of SARS-CoV2, isn’t it?

In this vein, I was struck this morning to learn — somehow for the first time — that, in 1943 — 1943!!! — the business class forced FDR to fire none other than John Kenneth Galbraith from his post as Deputy Director of the Office of Price Administration.

Galbraith’s offense? Doing his job: administering prices and restricting capitalist production of “consumer” doodads so that fascism — the real kind — could be stopped from conquering the world.

According to the excellent book recounting this stunning bit of forgotten history, while ousting Galbraith, the Republican Party also pushed legislation that “would have barred anyone who didn’t have at least five years of experience in ‘business’ from running OPA.”

So, this idea of “run it like a business” is quite a bit older than Ronald Reagan’s epochal and ongoing triumph.

Interestingly, many years later, here is what Galbraith recalled about his experience trying to use the OPA to save the USA from eventual atomic war with Nazi Germany:

“There were weeks when Hitler scarcely entered our minds compared with the business types in Washington.”

Celebrate the Lifestyle

Was there ever a more honest marketing pitch than this one from the Satanic organization known as the National Rifle Association? Its tagline is a pithy summation of the insipid message and crude but obviously effective method of the vast majority of modern “country” music and associated commodities, not the least of which are guns.

nra ad

Paging Professor Santayana…

photo of bellamy salute The United States is all aflutter over the moral status of respect for its national flag and its peculiar, all-but-compulsory nationalist rituals. As usual, those offended by the disrespect are utterly ignorant about the actual genesis of what they defend. Turns out that not only was the author of The Pledge a socialist, but also “hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.”

But wait. It gets even worse for the putative upholders of tradition and original values. It also turns out that the “Pledge of Allegiance” came into the world in 1892 (not 1776), a year squarely within and contributory to the Nadir of American Race Relations, as a marketing scheme to sell flags and magazine subscriptions.

This is not all. Here is the original instruction on how to signal one’s endorsement of and/or compliance with The Pledge’s sentiment:

At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.

That gesture was known as the Bellamy Salute and was the official Pledge accompaniment until 1942, when, against the DAR‘s attempts to keep it even after a two decades of European fascism, Congress shame-facedly buried it (but not The Pledge itself).

Santayana nailed it: Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.

Brand-Building Through Catastrophe

Ad Age today has a thought piece by one “Tim Leake, senior VP-chief marketing officer at advertising agency RPA.” Mr. Leake says using natural disasters as marketing opportunities is “the icky thing to do.” Of course, he also answers a clear “no” to the the question “Should we just stay away?”

So, here’s what you do to make sure that devastation and sorrow make a contribution to your brand’s further implantation into targeted minds:

How should we say it?

Sometimes, to stop acting like a brand and start acting human, it helps to purposely do things that the brand wouldn’t normally do. A high-end production is likely to feel like an ad. A CEO speaking to her webcam is likely to feel more genuine. Or, if the brand’s Twitter stream is normally filled with product-centric messages, maybe share a screen-shot of a note from the people behind the brand. This will help put some distance between how you “normally act” and the gravity of the current situation.

Play humble and concerned, in other words.

Lovely stuff, Mr. Leake.

This Exists: ABC Pants

rube-goldberg-pic Great news! For the low, low price of only $128, you could purchase this desperately needed corporate product. Yes, these are — in the phrasing of the corporate maker — “anti-ball crushing” pants! At last!

This begs the question of which is more telling and hilarious: 1) the claim that pants, in themselves, have ever harmed or even mildly disturbed anybody’s testes, or 2) the product’s pre-literate promise to crush anti-ball.

Either way, such is the stuff of late corporate capitalism. As burnt forest falls from the sky, the only problems getting solved are the shareholders’ pending quarterly claims.

Not, of course, that the corporate marketers will ever admit this. Consider this shameless lie from Lululemon, the wondrous seller of ABC Pants:

Why We Made This

You’ve got room to move in these quick-drying, four-way stretch pants.

If you believe that, I can also get you a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn. LULU “made this” because, like all big businesses, it desperately needs to find new ways to commodify human perceptions and activities — i.e., to create phony needs.

Tony Gets a Hicksie

turd-trophy Anthony Bourdain is certainly somebody who would understand the immortal words of Bill Hicks.

Indeed, here’s what Mr. Bourdain said when General Motors/Cadillac slipped a product placement into one of his TV shows back in 2012.

But Bourdain’s principles end after a certain price arises, it seems. According to Advertising Age:

But this year another luxury auto brand, Land Rover, convinced Bourdain to give it prime product placement as part of its exclusive launch sponsorship of a digital extension of CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown” TV show. It represents the chef-turned TV star’s first brand integration deal with CNN.

Having a price point, alas, is no shield. So, an uncoveted Golden Hicksie hereby goes to Anthony Bourdain, the newest shill for this lovely little planet-killing phenomenon:

Ad Age: Some of the booming SUV market is driven by people who drive them in the city. Some might call them off-road posers. Do you target people who are actually taking the vehicles into rugged territory?

Kim McCullough, VP-marketing for Jaguar Land Rover North America: We often use the analogy with high-end watches that are safe for 40 fathoms deep. Now, no one is going to go scuba diving that deep, but they want to know that they have something that is engineered to that level, so that is part of the appeal. In the Northeast when you have inclement weather, when you have a lot of rain or flooding, being able to know that, ‘Hey I can get out of this situation because I do have a capable product’ is absolutely part of the appeal.