“We are… the un-proud non-possessors of objects whose chief substance is that of the transient symbol. Our Puritan fear of the love of things turns out to have been groundless after all, for we do not love things or even possess them: they pass through our lives as barium passes through the digestive tract, unassimilated, their function merely to flash signals along the way.”
Branding, this aspiration of meaning
I was writing in the article, To have and to hold  on “the theory of holes“, also explained in the documentary Psywar. Its essence is best captured by branding. <<There comes a point when you realize that these things, these brands, aren’t “enough.” Having more or better or best doesn’t provide you with a lasting sense of having more or being better or being best. It’s a rather fleeting experience, this romantic attachment to brands, and I find that if I’m not careful, the search for having more or better or best is a precarious journey into the infinite. When you depend on finite objects-or brands-to provide you with a long-term sense of self or love or pride or achievement, you start yourself out on a path with no end. No object, no product, and no brand can provide you with ultimate, infinite satisfaction.>> Debbie Millman, in the book Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design.
From this perspective, there are several people who do not perceive a meaning of life  and of the world they live in , especially when the faith in God is diminished or inexistent. The more unsatisfied “holes”, the faster they run to “fill” them. With what? With products and services. See the excellent case study that is Great Britain , which has replaced the Christian religion with the consumerism religion .
Here comes the role of demiurge of the branding strategist. The more adored, wanted and purchased the brand is, the more will the buyer develop a positive relationship with the brand, through experience. A product under the umbrella of a brand can be tangible but the perceived benefits are intangible.
According to the Christian religion, only the adoration of God is allowed. However, the mission of branding is to create, as much as possible, a religious experience . Clients shall not dare say that this is what they want but this is the goal, this is the infinity of perfection to which a strategist’s work aspires.
Director Morgan Spurlock has found in the documentary Super Size me (2004)  how a significant part of the children in the USA rather recognize the Ronald MacDonald character than Jesus Christ.
Which is the answer of the Church to such competition? A first hypothesis, that we, however, know that it does not work in the real world of marketing, is that the branding of large corporations is not a competition for the Church. At least not directly. Eventually, the Orthodox Church has to confront the religious brands from its own category, as I was writing in the article The Branding of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Under the (Bene)diction of His Holiness Daniel (?) . However, connecting the dots, the indirect meaning of a confrontation for the time and preoccupations of the believers between the Church and the companies seems clearer and clearer to perceive.
Could this mean, as some tend to consider the conspiracy theory, that “the criminal agenda of the corporations doesn’t stop at nothing in order to suppress the souls of the poor consumers”? Eventually, the E-FIT of most of the corporations seems to be the one of a psychopath, or at least this is what the authors of the movie The Corporation  prove – definitely a must-see for all those who want to find out what they are “getting themselves into”.
Well, it’s not quite so. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The Romanian perspective, white OR black  will find it difficult to understand the tinges of apparently contradictory but existing truths. That is why I have decided to fathom the topic of consumerist marketing morality in an extended article whose first part I shall present to you today.
Branding is a coat, an image, for the body of identity
Branding, as a process, starts with the person, as a model, “clothing” the product with the suited traits, in order to be felt as similar, as alike. The identity  which is created thus has a body (the logo for which the company has the trademark), a spirit (the significance created by associating what is in the consumer’s mind with a certain trait), and a spiritual aspiration, a meaning to create fulfillment by satisfying a desire or a necessity.
What happens however when you proceed backward? Let’s imagine that we start with a product that we use to “clothe” the man with all his required desires so that he would want that product. The man already has a physiological body. His spirit receives the significance of the brand that the company wants to associate the product with. For instance, who is the most Nike of your friends? Nike thus appears, in this random example, as a much more clearly defined identity for the product, than for the one who carries it. Nike identity matters for the Nike culture. And those who are Nike recognize one another. The Nike individual also has a spiritual aspiration : that of comfortableness, movement in the open air, sports, and why not, freedom.
Starting from concrete (man) to abstract (brand) is an operation easy to understand by analogy, without a faith trick . It is always easier to start with what is tangible and visible for all. However, starting from abstract to concrete is an operation of controlling the content which can hardly be understood by empiricists, and especially by the Disneyland citizen, on whom I will particularly write in the second part of this article.
Let’s give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
The first truth is that any company, any firm, any corporation, is a juridical person. A person has rights and freedoms . It is easy to generalize when we deal with non-physical entities. Even though a corporation does not have a body to display to the law, in court and in the criminal law, its existence is just as real and it has rights, just as an individual. Among them, one can mention the right to pursue material gains, by promoting its products and services. When Joe Blow who sells insurances and works as a freelancer, or the aunt who has a stand at the market, or the administrator of the LLC who employs you, or the corporation Coca-Cola HBC Romania SA pays taxes to the state – they have the same quality of person before the law.
If what I wrote above confuses you, then this will confuse you even more: “Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is a property. The juridical personality of corporations is the legal fiction that a property is a person” .
Thus, just as every person (natural or juridical) has the right to be defended by law, similarly, any person (natural or juridical) has the right to promote their services and products, as they see fit and useful, as long as they comply with the laws. A young professional who specializes himself in a certain field can choose who to work for, who is good or bad to work for. Discernment  between right and wrong is made by each person’s consciousness. Moreover, the values by which they guide their success are different for each of them .
For instance, if I consider that it is important for me to respect  life as early as the time of conception, then I will most likely refuse to work for the image of any of the Companies Pepsi, Kraft Foods, or Nestle, and probably even never buy their products again, because they use flavor enhancers based on cells of aborted fetuses . Thus, I will sleep better at night.
I randomly chose this example. Some prefer to boycott entire ranges of services and products (e.g. those who only ride bikes and use the train because they do not approve of fossil fuels, and the wars that one comes to for securing ores and deposits ). There are all sorts of causes, and on the internet, one can find a lot of real proof against the behaviors of large corporations. Undoubtedly, if you search for all of them, you will soon be left without too large of a range of options. Nevertheless, one can always find clients.
I will speak frankly. For those who want to work in branding, the reason according to which corporations are actually the devil is not working, irrespective of what you believe (in). In the marketing war, quality does not always win. Doesn’t it work for you? Then become the best strategist you can be and the change you want in the world. This is an indisputable reality. It can be criticized, it can be judged but nothing of these can change it.
The fact that each corporation has rights and freedoms is the first truth, parallel to the next one, which is just as real, and related to which I will write in the second part of this article.
1 Grant, Marcus Victor (January 31st, 2014) A avea si a pastra, Economia Online nr. 21, http://economiaonline.ro/a-avea-si-a-pastra/
2 Psywar (2010) American documentary directed by Scott Noble and produced by Metanoia films. The film is available entirely and for free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eB046f998U
3 Grant, Marcus Victor (November 20th, 2013). Care este sensul vietii?, Discerne, http://discerne.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/care-este-sensul-vietii/
5 Grant, Marcus Victor (February 26th, 2014). Vrei “o slujba in Anglia”? Prea multi romani nu stiu ce ii asteapta, partea II, Discerne, http://discerne.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/vrei-o-slujba-in-anglia-prea-multi-romani-nu-stiu-ce-i-asteapta-partea-ii/
6 On consumerism in the 21st century, please read on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumerism#Consumerism_as_cultural_ideology– also, please read the rest of the article that it is part of
7 Episode The Persuaders (November 9th, 2004), directed by Rachel Dretzin and Barak Goodman, of the documentary series Frontline, season 23, episode 4 (reporter: Douglas Rushkoff), produced by PBS Television, USA
8 Super Size Me (2004), an American documentary directed and produced by Morgan Spurlock.
9 Grant, Marcus Victor (April 30th, 2013) Brandingul Bisericii Ortodoxe Române sub (bine)cuvântarea IPS Daniel (?), Economia Online, http://economiaonline.ro/brandingul-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-sub-binecuvantarea-i-p-s-daniel/
10 The Corporation, American documentary (directed by Mark Achbar & Jennifer Abbott, 2003, produced by Kathbur Pictures and The Con in association with Studio On Hudson, see my review at http://debugyourmind.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/the-corporation-2003/
11 Drăguș, Liviu (March 14th, 2012). Dorin Bodea despre ”cum e românii și ce vrea dânșii! Sau Dincolo de mituri, metafore și magii mioritice, https://liviudrugus.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/cum-e-romanii-si-ce-vrea-dansii-sau-dincolo-de-mituri-metafore-si-magii-mioritice/ review of the book ”Românii, un viitor previzibil?” by Dorin Bodea.
12 Grant, Marcus Victor (April 30th, 2013). Diferenta intre imagine si identitate si cum conteaza ele in pozitionare, Discerne, http://discerne.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/diferenta-intre-imagine-si-identitate-si-cum-conteaza-ele-in-pozitionare-psihologie-nlp/
13 Polyp, – Dogma, http://www.polyp.org.uk/cartoons/religion/polyp_cartoon_dogma.jpg
14 Grant, Marcus Victor (January 10th, 2010) The Quadrant of Making Things Happen, Analytic Vision, https://analyticvision.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/the-quadrant-of-making-things-happen-by-marcus-victor-grant/
15 Polyp – Minority of Troublemakers, http://www.polyp.org.uk/cartoons/democracy/polyp_cartoon_Corporate_Riot.jpg
16 Harris, John – It‘s an Illusion, video presentation, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOOF5uOcah0
17 Ce înseamnă ”to discern”, ”discerning” și ”discernment” în engleză (March 2nd, 2013), Discerne, https://discerne.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/ce-inseamna-to-discern-discerning-si-discernment-in-engleza/
18 Grant, Marcus Victor (September 4th, 2009) Which Are Your Values for Success?, Analytic Vision, https://analyticvision.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/my-professional-values-and-their-limits/
19 Grant, Marcus Victor (May 5th, 2010). Respect, Analytic Vision, https://analyticvision.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/respect/
20 Millette, Rebecca (May 26th, 2011) Pro-life groups call for Pepsi boycott over aborted fetal cell lines, Life Site News, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pro-life-groups-call-for-pepsi-boycott-over-aborted-fetal-cell-lines
21 Grant, Marcus Victor (July 12th, 2011). Iraq for Sale, Debug Your Mind, http://debugyourmind.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/iraq-for-sale/
Text Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2011-present. Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Pledoarie pentru branding in civilizatia Disneyland. Partea I. Companiile” published initially in Romanian at 28.02.2014 on the magazine Economia Online. Text Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved. Originally written in 2011.