The Pepsi Generation (of Profits)

For major corporations, competition through the marketing race is the preferred alternative to the old-school price competition that was supposedly an unavoidable part of capitalism, but turned out to be both despised by actual capitalists and controllable via corporate oligopoly. Why the preference for expensive marketing efforts over unfettered Adam Smithian price cutting?

The answer? Cutting prices almost always hurts profits, while the pricing power bestowed by an organization enjoying oligopolistic market power ordinarily permits both increased brainwashing outlays and increased profits.

Exhibit A: “Higher Prices Profit Pepsico,” a report from today’s edition of Advertising Age.

PepsiCo, the world’s largest snack-food maker, posted a 4% jump in third-quarter profits, aided by price increases on snack and beverage products around the world.

“PepsiCo has been more aggressive raising prices than they have in a long time,” said Jack Russo, an analyst with Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis, Missouri. “All the staples companies are seeing cost pressures.”

Despite its long-standing projection of a youthful, silly, fun-loving image in its numerous marketing campaigns for its various junk food products, Pepsico is about as stolid a corporate capitalist cash engine as you can find. Its board of directors includes a Rockefeller and ye olde John Sculley.

Hence, the advancing profitability of operations like Pepsico is the main reason the overclass continues to hoard cash amid the jobless “recovery.” Indeed, such is the very heart of the reason large corporations remain the clear core of the system, despite the more publicized continuing expansion of the financial sector. As a big-time investor, you can’t beat them, in boom times or bust.  They continue to pump out the dough that ends up in third homes, private jets, and hedge funds.

And just how does Pepsico pull it all off financially, hiking both marketing spending and returns to shareholders?

According to Ad Age, Pepsico’s third-quarter sales were $17.6 billion. Its third-quarter 2011 cost of goods sold, the amount it had to pay for the raw materials and labor that went into making (as opposed to marketing) what it sold? $8.45 billion, less than half its sales revenue, says Ad Age.  (Note: Because some of the COGS costs, of course, are marketing-mandated expenses — the costs of labels, specialized packages, etc. — this comparison actually understates the degree to which basic labor exploitation funds the whole marketing endeavor.)

And they say Karl Marx was wrong…

How to Help Plastic!

greenwash The greenwashers over at RecycleBank, a new marketing front that “rewards” its victims users by sending them more junk in exchange for swallowing corporate green shopping dogma and making tiny gestures with their old junk, are devoting a whole webpage to the topic of “how we can help plastic make a better impact.”

This tortured, whorish double-talk is of a piece with the rest of RecycleBank’s attempted assault on the public mind.

“There’s no denying that the invention and eventual widespread use of plastic was a major advance for society,” says RecycleBank, complete with a supporting weblink to “The Benefits of Plastic” on –wait for it —!

After listing some beneficial uses of plastic, RecycleBank delivers the core proposition:

While a huge benefit of plastic is its durability, this very property is also sometimes a downside — some plastic takes centuries to break down, taking up more room in landfills for a longer time.

This, of course, is absolute malarkey.  The chief problem with plastics is not their durability, but their grossly excessive use as packaging by corporate capitalists.  Nobody denies that plastic has a place in the world.  What people are rightly concerned with is why there is so god-damned much of the stuff being heedlessly made and sold.

But that concern is exactly what greewash marketing like RecycleBank exists to massage into tame, misconceived channels.  What we need and ought to be demanding is access to the macro-economic decisions that determine when and where plastic gets used.  What we get instead from RecycleBank and its paymasters is two things:

1. the fiction that recycling could ever compensate for the consequences of those macro-level choices, over which the public remains utterly powerless; and

2. the transfer of all responsibility onto “consumers,” among whom Recycle Bank positively encourages “green guilt.”

Oh, and the sponsor of the RecycleBank plastics “awareness” mindfuck?

Naked Juice, the “healthy” plastic-bottling subsidiary of PepsiCo.

Farce Day

What if the Montgomery Improvement Association had responded to the segregation of the city’s buses by calling for an annual Transportation Day, instead of a steady campaign of direct action and movement organizing?  What if SNCC had held a rally once a year, rather than launching expanding waves of lunch-counter sit-ins?  What if, instead of marching, fighting, and continually and radically educating itself and the wider society, the Civil Rights Movement had launched Black Seal, a new “foundation” to certify select corporate products as minimally racist?  The United States would still have Jim Crow apartheid laws.

Nonetheless, today we are supposed to “celebrate” Earth Day, and forget the fact that it is social movements, and only social movements, that have ever mattered in the effort to use politics to make large breakthroughs toward a better world.

denis hayesDenis Hayes, the Earth Day founder who recommends car tires via “foundations” dedicated to the proposition that “the power of the marketplace” has any chance of being anything but a net ecological disaster, today tells The New York Times he thinks it is “tragic” rather than logical that corporations have turned Earth Day into what that august paper terms “a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services.”  What did you expect, Denis, when you suggested that an annual “day” was somehow a serious attack on our overclass’s institutional dedication to planetary ecocide?  Gestures are not social movements, no matter how hard one tries to gesture.

pepsi dream machineMeanwhile, at today’s Earth Day rally in New York City, those keeping track will get another chance to see that corporate capitalists are routinely pulling of feats of propaganda that would make Big Brother poop their pants in fits of jealousy.  PepsiCo, the conglomerate whose core business is peddling various forms of unhealthy sugar water cased in plastic, is going to unveil its Dream Machine recycling kiosks.  For each bottle shoved into one of these stations, PepsiCo promises to make “a per-bottle donation to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, a business training program for disabled veterans.” The amount of that donation to such an amazing cause?  Unspecified, of course.  But, rest assured, it will be “an amount.”  1/1000th of one cent?  That’s an amount, isn’t it?  And what vet, fresh back from killing poor people for no reason, doesn’t want to go get harangued about “entrepreneurship” by PepsiCo?  That’s just as good as the old G.I. Bill of the 1940s, right?

But all this isn’t the half of it.  PepsiCo, the massive plastic and sugar-water pusher, is, all the while and right into the future, a long-standing major opponent of bottle bills, widely and uncontroversially known as far and away the most effective and efficient incentive to beverage container recycling.  On behalf of its shareholders and corporate retailer customers, PepsiCo finds bottle bills to be “unwieldy for store customers and suppliers, and inconvenient for consumers.” In other words, bad for profits.  Ergo, Pepsi and it corporate capitalist allies work the nation and world to make sure that bottle bills don’t spread from the handful of places where they already exist.

Welcome to Earth Day!