Anonymous gifts/thefts create no debts
Holidays upon us and always a good time to remind that Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, is not just a patron saint of children but also patron saint of thieves.
He also looks out for prostitutes and pawnbrokers.
If brand is king, what happens to poor people’s brands?
Read the story here.
A ________ company. Meta-Games-Without-Borders.
Slavoj Žižek is fascinated with intellectual property. He admits that his arsenal lacks good approaches to dealing with it. He often warns fellow Lefties that classicist Marxian exploitation does not explain Bill Gates. Going further than that has been hard.
Insights could be gained via brand extension. Slovenian’s own brand could venture into categories beyond publishing and public speaking industries. Mind-share and heart-share equity (hard earned with years of fighting word processors, agents, back pain, family and state institutions) could be leveraged into accessories, clothing, beverages, or a successful venture across categories.
Lifestyle and market segmentation lend themselves to a unique brand architecture design, with potential for hard-to-pull-off brand stretching.
What we truly owe
If a preamble to a movement that’s skillfully avoiding both NGOization and abduction by electoral politics is appropriate, it might be this:
What is debt, anyway? A debt is just the perversion of a promise. It is a promise corrupted by both math and violence. If freedom (real freedom) is the ability to make friends, then it is also, necessarily, the ability to make real promises. What sort of promises might genuinely free men and women make to one another? At this point we can’t even say. It’s more a question of how we can get to a place that will allow us to find out. And the first step in that journey, in turn, is to accept that in the largest scheme of things, just as no one has the right to tell us our true value, no one has the right to tell us what we truly owe.*
Intangibles and the Global South
How many brands do you know, do you use, that are neither Western nor Far East Asian? I dare you to find some. Email me, if you do.
Here is a visualization suggestion. Everyone likes short cuts to seeing trends and big pictures: a timelapse of world conflicts, or a map of continents according to GDP. One you have surely come across before is the famous night view of the Earth. There are many stories in that image, one being the unequal nature of the world. But, also, how things change as the image gets updated; there are spots that used to be dark and no longer are.
Consider what a similar map of the world’s brands would look like. It’s one way to look at the last 400 years.
It goes hand in hand with this change in the market value breakdown of S&P companies:
IP owners live in rich countries of the North.
Which means that the vast darkness on the map, the Global South, is toiling to produce more, to make better, to do it cheaper, to lure you to send your production plans their way. This is the cornerstone of the development mantra. An ideology and an economic development prescription that has both a little post-conflict Bosnia and a big and very poor Ethiopia both praying to Economous, the god of commerce, to bless them this year, maybe next, with holy letters of FDI.
What the mantra leaves out is that all of the developing world is competing for the same slice of retail value of products they would produce – the production cost margin of 5%. What’s more, a slice that has been shrinking for the last 30 years. Ninety plus percent of value is left on the table to be controlled by distribution and retail.
An Ethiopia has huge transportation costs, a Bosnia is too ravaged and too educated and when it comes to Fiji one look at the map explains why your company will not be putting an assembly there. No Asian tiger dreams for them, but yet pretend they must there are. It is one of today’s great tragedies that the majority of the world is putting their hard work and hopes for better future in boosting production and getting less and less in return.
It’s not that these poor places don’t have intangibles. It’s that when they do, others either own them or own the margins these intangibles earn. The story of Fiji Water is one such example.
Two of us have to go
One can imagine Fijis, Bosnias, Ethiopias, and LDCs, in an internal monologue of the Gandhi-Nehru type. If they go for Gandhi (who, as decades and socialist-capitalist failures roll on, ages well), resist infatuation with a certain kind of “modernity” and instead embrace conservative sustainability and radical local self-governance, then they better not play with neolibearlism’s strangest fruit – intellectual property and various other manifestations of intellectual capital.
But the Gandhi moment is impossible, even for Gandhi. Or isn’t it? That‘s for sure above the paygrade of this story. To repeat, almost like an adult’s advice to a teenager on proper use of credit cards, or 1940s home tutorial on electricity (good servant, bad master, etc.), if you have no choice but to play on neoliberal playground, play well. Industrialization dreams few dream these days, if any. Fiji certainly can’t. Your First World startup, dear First World reader, will not be sending an assembly line their way. We all know where you’ll go.
Nehru won over Indians back then with dreams of 50 years of development in 5 (and Gandhi quietly went away to die) and there is still little doubt that he would do it again. The only problem is that that kind of prosperity gospel, though both debatable and plausible for a place like India, never added up for Fijis of this world. Today, even less so. Put simply, Fiji, as a dot in the sea of blue, cannot compete on price as it will never be the cheapest alternative. Nor can it do scale as it is tiny. But it can compete on specialness; because it is pretty special. Foreigners who flock to Fiji don’t do it because it’s easily reachable. People who buy Fiji Water don’t buy it because it is the cheapest water. It’s a mine of intangibles. Those in the know, like our story’s main protagonists, know.
So do today’s Nehrus, such as the cadre in Beijing, sitting on the dream’s update. What is it?
In a quote (emphasis mine):
No big marquee brands means China is stuck doing the global grunt work in factory cities while designers and engineers overseas reap the profits. Much of Apple’s iPhone, for example, is made in China. But if a high-end version costs $750, China is lucky to hold on to $25. For a pair of Nikes, it’s four pennies on the dollar.
“We’ve lost a bucketload of money to foreigners because they have brands and we don’t,” complained Fan Chunyong, the secretary general of the China Industrial Overseas Development and Planning Association. “Our clothes are Italian, French, German, so the profits are all leaving China. . . . We need to create brands, and fast.”
And a graph (scrible mine):
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