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.


December 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

IP COLONY – trailer

If brand is king, what happens to poor people’s brands? 

Read the story here.

November 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment


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.

November 20, 2011 at 2:47 am Leave a comment

A Preamble To #OWS Goals

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.*

*Debt: The First 5000 Years

November 19, 2011 at 5:34 pm Leave a comment


Why not be the hero you always wanted to be? Like, for real.

One thing would be easy: to satirize everything. And, truth be told, Mrs. Resnick does have the markings of a ready-made Saturday-Night-Live character. If I kept your attention this long, I may as well entertain you for two minutes. You may recall this from earlier:

But satire quickly turns into self-righteous hipsterism. Why not take the rubies-in-the-orchard mantra seriously for a second.

Once upon a time, in 1986 to be precise, the Resnicks bought a California pistachio orchard that also contained some pomegranate trees. They debated whether to get rid of them. Lynda Resnick decided not to do that and continued growing them:

They discovered that the “Wonderful” [who, what do you think, named it?] variety of pomegranate was naturally sweet and juicy and grew exceptionally well in the central Californian climate. The fresh fruit was soon embraced by retailers. But the season for the fresh fruit is short (October – January), and the Resnicks needed to find a way to make the delicious-tasting fruit available to consumers year-round. They began to experiment with juicing the pomegranates. In 1996, in response to the folklore and references in ancient texts about the fruit’s healing powers, the Resnicks engaged Dr. Michael Aviram to begin research on the antioxidant power of pomegranates. In 2000, medical research was published indicating the beneficial effects of drinking eight ounces of pomegranate juice a day.

With the research in hand, Lynda Resnick came up with the POM Wonderful logo and her in-house design team developed an hourglass-shape bottle. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice was first marketed in 2002.

Despite building small business empires with citrus, almonds, pistachios, flower delivery, etc., pomegranates feature significantly in Mrs. Resnick’s own narrative. She christened them Rubies in the Orchard. Her personal memoir/meditation bares the same name. In which she advises her readers how to find, keep and grow “your own, metaphorical rubies in the orchard.”

As before, this is not a pile-on. Keep the company, do well with Fiji Water, do even better if you can. It’s not easy. But the Vatukaloko Trust Fund schemes won’t do, not for IP colonists. This whole story, again, has nothing to say on what possible cocktail of incentives, pressure, idealism and shame could have Apple and St. Steve’s disciples change this iHell.

But in instances where companies do not just go abroad for Exploitation 1.0 (the old colonial biz model of getting labor and physical resources from rights-free global ghettos, ala Congo’s Coltan for Sony’s Play Station) but to actually get intangibles that underwrite their products’ retail value in Western markets where intangible value is king these days, in those cases cognitive dissonance should no longer be bearable.

Lynda Resnick, the educator and inspirational speaker, and her company’s British-colonial-officer-style condescension cannot stand together:

“They don’t have a ton of options for economic development,” Mooney [Fiji Water’s VP for Sustainable Growth] told U.S. News & World Report, “but bottled water is one of them. “When someone buys a bottle of Fiji, they’re buying prosperity for the country.” Without Fiji Water, he said, “Fiji is kind of screwed.”

It may take Tahrirs, Syntagmas, Zuccottis and all sorts of other parks and squares – orange, velvet, saffron, green and the rest of the palette of revolutions – to correct the old business model, but in cases of IP colonists an updated CSR standard will suffice.

# When you partner with locals in order to extract intangibles, you can no longer pretend that that is not what you’re doing.

# Your local partners should grow (and options are many) with you, the way you do, with intangible value and brand equity, not just production margins.

# If that is too tall of an order, and you still do everything to avoid it, the very least a company must do is (to pull out of Development’s phrasebook for a second) build capacity for brand ownership and management and (now the top biz buzzword) help leverage your brand into other export income opportunities for your local partners.

In other words, build a small band of supply chain analysts, brand managers, licensing gurus, and help them learn how to own, manage, and both exploit and create intangible value that gets rewarded with solid retail tags in developed markets: equip them with the know-how to capture the kind of share of retail value biz and b-school textbooks consider standard: 40-50%. Just like FIJI Water does.

It could be fun, too. Fly in Arianna Huffington, all marketing VPs and chief creative officers, and the rest of who’s-who in Mondo Marketing you’ve known for decades, for workshops, wisdom and inspiration (and some minor brandwashing opps for some of them, sure). Simon Anholt, too. Show the guests a good time in paradise and shoot a lot of good video of optimistic young brown people in good suits.

In addition to the Vatukaloko Trust Fund (apparently “0.15% of its Fijian operation’s net revenues,” but who knows) and perhaps even instead of it, give what amounts to pennies to finance feasibility studies of Fiji’s New-Economy cadre you help educate so they can secure implementation financing for their best projects. There is even a roadmap for that:

I think all this, or a variation on the theme, is in Mrs. Resnick. The world perhaps can be half-saved by pinko-liberals who got old, wise, rich, a little bit tired, and very very skeptical about the feasibility of saving the world.  Do do they need much to reignite the old flame? These 30 seconds below are as revealing as they are awkward. We haven’t been waiting for Obama, we’ve been waiting for Mrs. Resnick.

Soon enough invitations from the Church of TED would come and we would be listening to some strange, amazing stories coming out of Fiji, all told by a glowing Lynda Resnick.

IP colonist no longer. A social entrepreneur.

Continue reading An IP Colony: A Short Story

November 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment


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.

Continue reading IP Colony – A Short Story

November 9, 2011 at 5:00 am Leave a comment


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):

Continue reading IP Colony – A Short Story

November 9, 2011 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

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These pages are all about the murky crossroads of advocacy, markets, marketing, and intellectual property,