Like millions around the world, I watched the royal wedding of William to Catherine and witnessed a sense of reassuring consistency through the traditons of the royal family.
In addition to the pomp and spledour – that no other country can possibly beat – the occassion was special for several reasons. First it gave hope that a couple – like any couple who beleives in values – may one day have children who just might do things a little better than we did. Not because they are born into splendour – as in the case of the royal family (which may not actually be as wonderful as you think) but becuase of what they will hopefully do with their gift of life and potential of giving.
Secondly because it was rare opportunitiy for people to celebrate a sense of identity and history.
Although I am not a Christian. I am proud to have been born into a country with Church of England ideals, education, values and tolerance – all of which I sadly see being eroded and abused by opportunists who believe in hype and self preservation over true faith.
I listened with great interest to what was said in the Westminster Abbey – particularly by the Bishop of London. He spoke of the reality and hardship in our world that could be addressed by love and kindness and through that, humility and compassion.
We unfortunately live in a world where we rely purely on ourselves for all the answers. We kid ourselves that technology and instituionally (commercially supported) sanctioned best practices will save all. But only this week 77 million users of Playstation’s technology were let down by such safeguards, Then last year BP, a brand with all the might and human-know how any organisation could possibly have, created the world’s greatest ever ecological disaster. Not because they were evil. That’s ridiculous, but simply because they were as falable as we all are.
Corporations promise we can have what we want when we want it (at a price). We believe it. It becomes our right, When we don’t get it we stomp our feet like children- or worse see ‘cracks in a system’ as opportunities to manipulate it for selfish gains.
I recently completed my Foundation in psychotherapy. One of my teachers, a brlliant clinical pyschologist told me how it was very common for men (and women) who rise to the top of their professions to feel lonely and have a sense of ‘ is that all there is?’ Looking at what everyone perceives them to be against who they sense they are ,they feel like frauds.
Psychotherapists beleive that truth is only what we create – based on what we have already witnessed or how we alone face and rationalise the future. Existentialists analyse the way humans find themselves existing in the world. The notion is that humans exist first and then each individual spends a lifetime changing their essence or nature.
We recognise brands which reflect power for taking at that moment , wealth, order and control to be seized whilst it can. In return those brands feed of our yearning for personal recognition and reputation.
Far too often when people become superflous to the needs of the commercial engine that drives the race. They get cast aside, made to feel inadequate: they can no longer keep up in speed or social pretence.
They become at first suspicious, then dispondent and finally resentful.
Contrary to the media proclaiming that the whole of the UK celebrated the wedding ( there were just 5,000 street parties throughout the entire country) the only bunting I saw in suburban London was outside places of worship which gave thanks for a country that allowed them to follow their faiths.
Beyond the film protected glasss screens of iPhones and iPads, real living communities seem to have faded along with a sense of a truly united brand UK. Once people were proud to respect its traditons and ancient religious values. Now we all too casually dismiss faith as myth and social madness to be replaced by the aptly missleading promise of freedom of self. At best such unsuported thinking only accomodates a universe of one. At worse, it creates a world of watered down beliefs and causes leaving nothing other than the bland leading the bland – in the name of equal blandness amoungst all.
Recession, inflation, taxes, overwehelming global competition, low wages for more output, worthless qualifications to live an affordable life, unafordable education, selection by process rather than personality, potential and experience,uncertainty, betrayals and broken families … little wonder in our struggle to simply stay in the game, we let traditonal values and identity slip – turning instead to cynisim as a pressure outlet or trinkets to amuse us for a week or so … or booze / medication that as Pink Floyd would put it, makes us “feel comfortably numb.”
Over the years I have met many professional comedians. Some are interenationaly famous. Outside the public view, six out of ten are depressed. It is little wonder. After all the ultimate target of cynicsm must be oneself. And that leads to a lack of confidence and purpose in everything.
Don’t get me wrong – having a laugh is totally brilliant! The wonderful recent T-Mobile viral is evidence of that – but who decides the line between satire and plain vindictivness in a desperate attempt to win approval. I just dont think the public is that dumb.
I recently read a rumour that the scientists at Cern are close to finding the elusive ‘God Particle’, aka Higgs boson. Once man knows that – the scientists say we are closer to understanding how everything began.
Perhaps, as in quantum physics, the god particle is right in front of eyes. Yet only reveals itself when we allow ourselves to see it – and in returns allows itself to be manifested.
Maybe there is still hope for people – rich, regal, poor, middle class, homeless young, old … everyone who has the power not simply to follow brands, but live their own brand and set examples for others looking for a greater purpose.
The same is true of commercial, religious and social brands whose greatest asset, next to their people, must surely be their reputation?. Or am I being naive? Is the ultmiate arbitrator of success or faliure money alone?
Maybe as brand champions, one day we can return to values that allow ourselves and those around us to have a sense of dignity,responsibility worth, love and respect.
The historian Simon Schama described the royal wedding not just as marriage between William and Kate but between the monarchy and the nation. (It was also much needed jolt for the good of the Monarchy’s brand).
It was wonderful to see that for one day at least the people were united outside Buckingham palace. Celebrating their heritage and reveling in their pride as a people embracing an identity rather than wrapped in envy. And that really does give hope.
In conclusion I say - “god save the queen … and gives us all the wisdom to open the doors to our big house of love.”
Jonathan Gabay talks to Good Morning America about Royal Wedding branding
also see Jonathan Gabay.com
From phones to hospitality and beyond, brands are banking that April’s royal wedding will mean cash in the till.
The Centre for Retail Research, estimates that the event equates to £515.5 million in sales for retailers, with souvenirs accounting for £222 million.
Statement pieces, influenced by royal and status public figures, are always popular with fashionistas. For example, in USA, when Michelle Obama wore the fashion brand label, J Crew, the brand sold out within hours.
So what can we expect from companies hoping that the pomp and ceremony of the royal brand, which boasts a sense of tradition, style and heritage, will be enough to encourage people to buy a little piece of history for future reminiscences
Hotel and travel brands such as Hyatt UK are offering wedding-themed holiday packages.
National Express, is partnering Camp Royale, a one-off camping event for 10,000 campers – cost: £75 per person for three nights pitching up on Clapham Common. (Don’t forget to take a royal wedding mini cushion from The UK Gift Company, cost: £66.50).
If you are a couple called William and Kate and happen to be near one of the ETM brand groups of pubs, you could win a three course ‘royal feast’. Or pop into London pub group Renaissance, and you could swap your old royal memorabilia for food and drink.
The Royal Mint offers a £5 coin to commemorate the event. Not to be left out, Prince Charles’s official shop sells a 250-piece jigsaw featuring Prince William and Kate. Price. £29.95. (Made in the UK using wood from sustainable forests. Profits – go to Charles’s charitable foundation).
The Middleton’s family firm, Party Pieces sold The Britannia Scratch Trivia cards. Price: £3.99
Masters of collectable merchandising, The Franklin Mint, reportedly enjoys brisk US sales of their limited edition (5,000) Kate Middleton Doll that retails for $200 dollars.
The current version features Kate’s engagement dress by brand Issa, London. (A follow-up version featuring the wedding dress design will be unveiled once the couple are wed).
If the American market fancies a nibble whilst admiring their collectable Kate, they could pop into Dunkin’ Donuts who have cooked up an 89 cents, heart-shaped ‘royal wedding donut’ to honour the occasion.
Closer to home, Tesco, one of the bell-weather indicators for the UK economy, is selling a blue dress that is almost identical to the engagement dress worn by Kate Middleton. Price: £16.
QVC, the shopping channel ,retails a teddy bear called Prince William that features a look-alike engagement ring for under £40.
Within hours of the wedding ceremony itself, Decca label records will be releasing the recording of the wedding as a download. The album will include a special collectors booklet featuring the complete order of service, the readings, vows, hymns and blessings – as well as all the music from the wedding.
And what would the day be without a royal wedding mug?
Amazon offers an official commemorative mug for £10.95. Or why not choose an Aynsley China Royal Wedding Loving Cup? Price: £34.95. It’s ideal for dunking in a McVitites branded Royal Wedding biscuit from a £5 special assortment, into a nice cup of tea made with a royal wedding teabag from German company, Donkey Products.
Whilst you are at Amazon, check out the 9.270 other items featuring the words ‘royal wedding’ including:
… as well as of course scores of royal wedding books.
Other merchandisers can also look towards increased sales. DIY brand, B&Q is stocking commemorative royal wedding gnomes at £20 a pair. Transport for London is offering a limited edition royal wedding Oyster Card.
One of the more technical royal wedding brand merchandising products is from Carphone Warehouse. It has released a smartphone handset made by Alcatel. The phone features a Union Jack on the front and the couple’s initials on the back. Smartphone users can also countdown to the big day using an App that streams the latest news on the nuptial preparation
There’s tac – and then there’s really tacky…
An enterprising graduate from the Edinburgh College of Art is reportedly making a profit for his Royal Wedding sick bags, decorated with a crown, a drawing of Prince William and Kate Middleton and the slogan, “Throne up’.
However the award for the most opportunist royal wedding associated brand product must surely go to Heritage Condoms ltd. The company has released their ‘Crown Jewels’ range of commemorative condoms. Describing the condoms, their website reads:
“ To celebrate the engagement of Prince William of Wales to Ms. Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, Crown Jewels Condoms of Distinction has commissioned a unique heritage edition Royal Wedding Souvenir boîte de capotes. Combining the strength of a Prince with the yielding sensitivity of a Princess-to-be, Crown Jewels condoms promise a royal union of pleasure. Truly a King amongst Condoms”.
With so many merchandising opportunities hitting the streets, brands – official or otherwise – are beginning to hear the tills ring in advance of the wedding bells at Westminster Abbey. (Which will provide just investment for them to get the product lines rolling again in time for next year’s Diamond Jubilee).
Jonathan talks to the BBC about the Olympic rings launched in London.
He discusses what should be done to capture the brand spirit of the games for ordinary Londoners and how to turn the UK into a world hub for sports excellence.
Has the global media been duped by a brilliant Coca-Cola viral campaign?
Revealed officially for the first time in history –the recipe for the world’s most successful drink brand of all time:
Fluid extract of Coca 3 drams USP
Citric acid 3 oz
Water 2.5 gal
Lime juice 2 pints 1 qrt
Caramel 1.5oz or more to colour
Orange oil 20 drops
Lemon oil 30 drops
Nutmeg oil 10 drops
Coriander 5 drops
Neroli 10 drops
Cinnamon 10 drops.
The recipe was ‘discovered ‘in a photograph from February 8 1979 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution which features a photograph of someone holding a book with a recipe claimed to be the exact replica of the original list of ingredients.
By sheer chance the discovery coincides with Coca Cola’s 125th anniversary. Commenting on the coincidence, Danielle Aarons from Brand Forensics Australia said:
“No one can deny the potency of an effective viral campaign, that can raise awareness of a brand on a global scale. The cynics amongst us may note that this sketchy information on Coca-Cola’s secret formula, coincides with the brands 125th anniversary. Maybe just fortuitous timing or maybe the result of some very clever viral marketing strategists? Whatever the answer its certainly got the media and public taking and thinking about the brand.”
Coca Cola was created by the pharmacist, John Pemberton in 1886. Curiously the ingredients were revealed to Rabbi Tobias Greffen in 1935 who needed to know them in order to have the drink sanctioned as kosher for Jewish consumers.
The Coca Cola logo was designed by Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson and is thought to be based on Robinson’s handwritting.
You can read the full uncensored story of Coca-Cola’s darker history and the actual alleged recipe – not fully discussed in the recent revelations in chapter 8 of Soul Traders
The king is dead. Long live the new pharaoh. And as Vice-President Omar Suleiman said, “May God help everybody.”
Hosni Mubarak finally relinquished his throne as president of Egypt, handing over power to the military who now will serve the interest of the new Egypt.
A local government official said Mubarak was in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, 250 miles from the capital Cairo. By Saturday it was rumoured his was in the UAE.
In the lead up, the recent events in Cairo and other cities kept the world spellbound to their TV and mobile screens.
Throughout the crisis, beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak, devoted practically all of his political airtime to classical propaganda.
And why not? He had lorded over his people since 1981.
In an attempt to cling to power, the country hijacked international mobile phone networks, broadcasting communications described by the Egyptian government as ‘messaging concerning national security and general safety’.
For example, France Telecom, which runs mobile carrier Mobinil, involuntarily broadcasted text messages such as: “ Egyptian youth beware of rumours and listen to the voice of reason. Egypt is above everyone – so protect it.”
(Quite a departure from the routine “get a 100 texts free” brand messaging that you would usually expect from a mobile phone company).
Yet are we being played a double-bluff by those who claim that this revolution was a new-social media one? The US media claimed that USA companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google helped free the Egyptian people. However taccording to the New York Times, only .09% of Egyptians have Twitter accounts. Moreover, Twitter and Facebook had been off for most of the recent events.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s own state run TV channel presented footage of charming views of a bridge spanning the Nile, alongside film of ‘evil protestors who were ‘traitors’ to the country – or maybe Israeli infiltrators?… (Cue sinister music a ‘la ‘mode of ‘independent’ TV stations like PRESSTV). [NB – I was censored by PRESSTV last month when I defended News Corp as a better alternative than state-controlled tv).
One senior reporter, Nile TV anchor-woman Shahira Amin quit her job with Egypt’s state-run Nile TV saying that she did not want to be part of their “propaganda machine. I am on the side of the people”.
Amin told the world press: “We (Nile TV) were only allowed to report the pro-Mubarak rallies that were going on, as if nothing was happening in Tahrir Square…”
Here comes the new boss – same as the old boss – We all get fooled again – and again…
Less than 12 hours afer the revoluiton, an official daily Chinese newspaper warned that: “Social stability should be of overriding importance. Any political changes will be meaningless if the country falls prey to chaos in the end.”
Propaganda techniques employed by the outgoing Egyptian government – as well as incoming opponents are discussed in my book, Soul Traders.
The worrying thing is that, come the next national revolution for change, (think any number of possibilities including Bahrain) political parties may once again return to techniques which are as old as PR Spin itself.
… And that dates back to days of sand dunes and stone pyramids built to honour men in glass houses and guarded by militia whose remit was to protect the new order for a promised better world to come.
JJ@gabaynet.com Jonathan Gabay
Cadbury brand owner, Kraft has kept true to character by putting profits before criticism in the knowledge that today’s consumers will put up with just about anything in a climate of fear and uncertainty.
Kraft has cut the size of many of its Cadbury brand chocolate bars – whilst keeping confectionary prices at pre-size reduction costs.
For example, a squatter version of Cadbury Dairy Milk bar has two less chunks, but still costs £1 at the till.
Toblerone has removed an entire ‘mountain’ from its bar.
Similar cuts have been applied to British brand favourites such as Mars, Snickers, Yorkie and Rolo.
· Rolo has been reduced from 11 portions to 10.
· Yorkie – 68g to 64.5g – a ‘chunk’
· Snickers is 7.2% smaller.
· Mars – 7.2% smaller.
Even the iconic Dairy Milk bar is now 120g from 140g. (Again its retail price has not been cut accordingly).
Kraft justified the slices by pointing to excessive charges for cocoa. (The commodity’s price rose to a six-month high, following reports of an export ban by the Ivory Coast – one of world’s key producers).
Last year the American company reneged on its promise not to close a Cadbury factory in Bristol.
Consumer Focus, an organisation that represents customer interests, told reporters, “Shrinking the size but not price of products could damage consumers’ trust in the brand they love”.
On the defence, Cadbury said, “… We believe our confectionary still represents very affordable treat.”
From a Brandforensics perspective, the trend is worrying. Brands including Dairylea, Pringles and Heinz have also used a comparable ploy.
The question now is just how far brands are willing to go to further gamble customer loyalty? How many more cuts, will consumers naively put up with before questioning the motives of brand ‘leaders’ that spend millions of pounds carefully nurturing imageries to suggest that they are people- before profits led organisations?
Years ago the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher declared, “There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”
Today’s gates leading to the utopian ‘Big Society’ are draped with a banner which reads ‘austerity will give you purpose’.
Thin on excuses
Using obesity as central to its logic for justifying less for more, back in 2009, the Food Standards Agency said it wanted food and drink companies to start manufacturing smaller sizes, “which in time will become the standard”.
Arguably, that motive was noble.
However in today’s world of increasing divide between money-strapped consumers and certain bonus-bloated brand leaders, this ‘shared austerity’ could be viewed as little more than a propaganda ploy to create communal apathy.
In the short-term that is good for brands wishing to placate shareholders.
Long term it could spell trouble as it dawns on consumers that despite all the marketing hype, it turns out that only ones who really believe they are ‘worth it’ are the same organisations which keep on insipidly ‘swearing on their mother’s life’ that the public still has a choice and comes first – honest.
This may be just one example of brand conceit and arrogance that is simply too hard for any consumer to swallow or shareholders to profitably sustain.
I have reached that age when it’s really difficult to sleep through the entire night in just one drop of the eyelids.
When I was a fit and slender boy – long, long ago – I lived with my family in a bungalow. At night from my room I could always hear the sounds of the TV in the lounge, or my brother and sister bickering over teenage anxieties.
The voices of the night carried me to ‘Planet Sleep’ where each continent had strange and wonderful people, and lands that were painted and speckled with bumpy roads of worries, warm seas of hope, mountains of struggles or valleys of possibilities.
Whatever concerned the people of ‘Planet Sleep’, eventually every one smiled the same smiles – which bizarrely looked a lot like mine.
The problem was that every night, I failed to notice them. (After all, I was too busy with other things like getting over bumpy roads, skinny-dipping in the sea and scaling new heights).
Nowadays, most nights I lay on my pillow facing the yellow glow of my DAB radio displaying the station name of either LBC 97.3, Radio Four or Radio Five Live.
If it is LBC, as the night gets increasingly tangled within its own bed sheets, phone-in callers become increasingly wrought and lonely.
Come daybreak, the Eleanor Rigbys give way to Angry Normans who complain about everything from increased taxes to incoming immigrants, outrageous politicians, on-going crime waves and ultimate deflated ambitions.
The diet of misery is relentless. The wireless wails are only occasionally punctuated by radio phone-in hosts announcing what a wonderful, caring community of souls London is. The hosts remind me of how nurses in a hospital ward deliver a cheery smile to patients wrought with diarrhea and drugs,who would give up everything he or she ever owned for just five minutes of normality.
With such an endless drip-feed of audible misery, it came as little surprise to me to learn that a recent Ipsos Mori survey of 24 countries pointed to the British being among the most pessimistic in the world.
Watching the figures that point to a radical diet
Only 17 per cent expect their financial position to improve in the next six months – half the number in Australia (35 per cent) and the United States (34 per cent) and behind Germany (29 per cent).
Britons share little of the optimism of citizens from fast rising economies like Brazil (91 per cent), India (69 per cent) and China (51 per cent).
The only countries with gloomier attitudes were Belgium (16 per cent), Italy (13 per cent), Japan (11 per cent) and France (8 per cent).
So what’s bugging the Brits?
Seventy three per cent of Britons feel less secure in their jobs than six months ago.
Only 27 per cent expect job security to improve. (17th out of 24 in the international table).
I dare to console myself that given the evidence of shoppers during the endless bank holiday that was Christmas and New Year, people are at least confident to buy.
Not quite. Rather than buy with self-assurance seventy-five per cent said they felt less comfortable when making a major purchase than six months ago.
Around 45 per cent defined their finances as weak, with only 26 per cent believing it to be strong.
From April the UK government gashes £81 billion from public spending – marking the start of the final years of employment for some 300,000 public sector jobs – due to be all but lost by 2015.
Reportedly many economists believe the VAT increase to 20 per cent will spur the Bank of England to instigate a faster set of increases in official interest rates. Worse still, it is widely expected that various tax rises will in turn prompt brand names to quietly increase prices, simply to cover running costs.
… And it still gets worse. Through a report commissioned by the development charity, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that the number of people living in absolute poverty in the UK will rise by 900,000 by 2010.
Recalling the mad rush to the shops during Christmas and the New Year, it was as if a community-wide sense of expectation of doom and even more gloom around the corner compelled the throng to buy-buy-buy because tomorrow we all die-die-die.
More than two to one (70 to 30 per cent) Brits fear the country is heading in the wrong direction.
Asked what issues worried them most, 45 per cent said unemployment and jobs, 40 per cent said immigration and 30 per cent said crime and violence.
Immigration was named as a cause for concern by more Britons than the citizens of any other country, with only Australia (33 per cent) coming close, and more than double the level of concern in Germany (19 per cent) and France (11 per cent).
Yet, in a quirky British way, few Brits – apart from those able to conceal their identities on the radio – openly discuss their anxieties publicly.
To stem the fermenting crisis, the social Stasi, who in hope for any kind of social control, appeases as many people as they can; checking words said in public for correctness and appropriateness.
The result is that everyone is forced to be like everyone else and so live a soup of blandness and fear of ‘rocking the boat’ – and thereby losing any chance for prosperity.
When left unchecked, that neurosis can give rise to fundamentalism promising to offer redemption to disenfranchised groups at every part of the social scale.
Where nationality or even religion can’t provide identity – entrepreneurs can and do – through branded products and services – all assuring salvation and escape.
If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it – complete a form
Messrs. Cameron and Clegg seek to understand the depths of depression unexpressed by brand-UK.
From April 2011, the Office for National Statistics will ask citizens to rate their well being, with the first official happiness index due in 2012.
The Prime Minister quoted US senator Robert Kennedy, who said GDP measured everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.”
However, responding to this, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan warned that surveys trying to measure happiness could make us selfish, introspective and dissatisfied.
He said that UK government plans to monitor mood would “encourage people to dwell on their own needs” rather than others.
America has a General Social Survey. There is also a Euro-barometer. Such surveys ask people to assess their lives as well as how they feel at any particular time.
Putting all this data together points to some interesting finds. Take for example the NBER Working Paper: Subjective Well Being Income, Economic Development and Growth. It suggests that richer countries are generally happier. However, Asians are less happy than you would expect from their income levels.
This despite the roaring ‘Peking Pound’ that accounted for almost a third of post-Christmas purchases of high end brands such as Burberry, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
For example, Hong Kong and Denmark enjoys similar income per person, yet Hong Kong’s average life satisfaction is 5.5. on a 10-point scale. Denmark is 9.
Latin Americans are ebullient, whilst the ex- Soviet Union could do with a stiff vodka, with just over 6 on the scale.
Then there’s Bulgaria, which – according to reports on Sky TV allegedly has gangs netting over 200 million pounds of income per year by coming over to London to pickpocket locals.
Bulgarians relative to their income per person, turns out to be the bluest place in the world.
All is not totally lost however.
By lucky coincidence the Royal Family announced that April 2011 will see the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
This will apparently give everyone just the ‘feel good’ tonic they need, including a day off from work. (Something the hundreds and thousands who expect to take extended garden-leave, will relish as they care for their specially cultivated Royal Wedding Celebration roses).
Up, down and up again
The most fascinating finding is called ‘The U-bend on Well Being.’ The Economist magazine recently devoted its main cover story to it.
Contrary to popular belief, the happiest days of our lives are not necessarily those of our youth. Nor the most cantankerous once we hit the crinklies of old age.
During late teens we reach quite a high (about 6.8 on a USA ‘well-being index).
Young adulthood is when hope is supposed to be future perfect. We can’t wait for things to start happening. Such yearning for immediate gratification spurs an entire culture of goods and services designed to squeeze time into little boxes of easily attainable satisfaction.
The far-reaching effects of such time crushes are profound:
Whatever image of perfection we are searching for – modern brands and policies promise to deliver. The more you invest into a branded (political or commercial) ideal and regularly update it – the closer you’ll get to your end-quest.
The ‘The U-bend on Well Being’ bottoms out at 6.3 (around the age of 46- 50). Thereafter it slowly creeps up again. Reaching 7.0 in the late seventies and early eighties.
By that point, to identify ourselves or prove to others that we belong, we no longer feel compelled to buy more and more stuff.
The older we get, the more past hopes are traded for present happiness – whilst we can still get it.
Rather than worry if people will love them when they are sixty-four, the older generation doesn’t necessarily crave for an iPod or games console in same the way more uncertain youth do to show inclusiveness.
Self-perceptions no longer need to be maintained solely by constantly upgrading technology, working out at the gym, wearing your heart on your latest Nike trainers or enduring others to network onto the next square of the game of life.
They don’t even blink when people don’t particularly like them –aged 64 or even 74. They are as chilled and fly as a G6. (Even if they confuse the aircraft model with the bus route number to the local post office).
Eventually we all become the brand smile of confidence and assurance that we always knew was hidden somewhere within us.
Last night I flicked on LBC. The conversation was about losing weight after the excesses of the Christmas and New Year season.
The interviewer asked a fitness expert about the holy grail of gaining a ‘six- pack’. Could the ordinary person in the street really ever hope to get a ‘six-pack’ stomach?
The expert replied, “Every person on the planet already has a six-pack. It’s just gets covered by the excesses of modern living – junk food, fast living … Remove the fat.”
So we are all equal after all.
With a smile, I closed my 48-year old eyelids and rolled onto my suddenly rather comforting overweight middle-age spread.
There have been riots again on the streets of London.
Legitimate protestors had arguments, rather than arms in the mind.
However, spotting an opportunity for a ‘good kicking’ many illegitimate rioters turned chants of complaint into assaults on democracy.
Meanwhile, following a pleasant lunch at the House of Commons restaurant, MPs, elected by the people on a promise, betrayed voters’ trust in preference to keeping their jobs during tough economic times with new coalition bosses. (Who says Parliament doesn’t reflect ‘real life’).
Long-term commitments, like memories in photo albums seem to be fading relics of the past. Unsurprisingly people – like the ex X Factor contestant, Cher, are led to believe it is their right that fortune must instantaneously follow fame – even if that fame is over in the rap of song.
Today, pictures of promises are becoming as disposable as people’s jobs at companies into which they invested their lives and from which in return they can confidently expect a ‘Good Luck’ card from their nearest and dearest bosses.
Bravery and independence as displayed by the likes of WikiLeaks has been kettled into place by a society that sometimes appears to have more in common with Stalinism than capitalism.
In the concrete jungle, just the promise of having a job in 2011 to pay the increase in rail journeys to work, has become enough of a carrot to keep the masses from protesting – too much.
With so many sniffing like dogs at the heels or any whiff of opportunity at all, those still with a job grow increasingly desperate to keep afloat.
The only certainty seems to be uncertainty of the future and fragility of the present.
We comfort ourselves in the high-definition lit delusion of our John Lewis TVs broadcasting around the clock Xmas dreams at the price of two for one.
Our sense of self and social demonstration of worth has become defined by the latest release of fashionable phones, computers, celebrity books (on a Kindle of course) or trinkets.
With populations doubling in size in years rather than decades, whilst tightening their grip around the neck of available community resources, the ordinary person in the street is forced to implode his or her id, ego and super-ego – so become increasingly self-centred – and obsessed – simply to survive.
Middle class professionals, complaining about the state of the nation retreat to a Sony/ Xbox/ Nintendo fantasyland, away from the harshness of the day to a place where they can be the celebrity, sex symbol, speed fiend or thrill seeking rioter they know they will meet again in their dreams tonight.
Brands such political parties, financial institutions, power-generating companies, and commercial enterprises – all promising to protect our futures – are regularly exposed as primarily concerned with protecting themselves before the rest.
With each exposure, people become much more immune and blasé. Like watching thousands die in Pakistan, or another story of a cleric abusing a child, shock is no longer shocking enough.
Our trust in leadership – religious, political, social and commercial has become as tenuous as our faith in liberal democracy
The UK government, faced with the cost for recklessly inviting everyone from anywhere to become someone in a land away from their home, has been hoisted on its own perturb.
Overwhelming competition for space, land, and jobs … has forced Parliament to repress accessible education for the masses, by imposing a lifetime repayment tariff for the foreseeable future generations of brand UK. Or to put it another way, a further tax for already hard-pressed parents who only want to give their kids some kind of chance for a future.
Perhaps eventually the only ones able to pay for places at top UK universities will be those from India, the Middle East and China (where the UK buys the components for consumer’s trinkets).
The rest will have to settle for the high street college near a MacDonald’s, which offers local students free Fries at lunchtime.
So money is tight. Cheer is translucent. Christmas has become little more than a sales promotion opportunity for companies to offer hope through gifts for the hapless horde.
Yet despite it all, in desperation to live the moment – capture a ‘buzz’ of happiness whilst they can, consumers consume as if the weeks leading to Christmas day mark the last supper of their lives.
Thanks to the Internet, redemption is just a click away from consumers walking the mile.
In the fervour to spend, consumers inadvertently feed the cycle of needs and wants kept spinning by wheels bigger than the one who guilelessly believes is in fact the biggest wheel in town.
And so the spiral goes on in the circles of the windmills of the minds.
This Christmas and into the new year, the greatest wish is for companies, politicians, students, surfers, bosses, individuals… to follow the philosophy of human greatness: communicate with honesty and integrity for others and in doing so nurture a market rather than exploit it and then reck it.
Do that and students will eventually inherit more than arrogance bred into them by adults who, by the time they mature, long lose their spirit – apart from the solace still lingering at the bottom of their glass.
Opportunists will link hands rather than take up arms.
Instant gratification will serve lessons for a long-term education.
Politicians will aspire to more than borderline expense dodges or pay checks in the House of Lords.
Brands will actually believe and act upon the message of social responsibility facetiously promised by their advertising.
People will stop feeling that in order for their drum to be heard – they have to bash the skin of their passions until ears burst.
Respect will be returned to the hard working…
But perhaps that’s all just a Christmas faith, that is as realistic as baby in a crib of straw changing the world.
Maybe we are all clutching at straws.
Or just perhaps the one who picks the short straw to make a sustainable change will be you.
“ I wanted to change the world, but I realised it was too large of a task for one person, so I tried to change my community.
That was also too hard, so I tried to change my family. That was also too hard, so I decided to try and change myself.
And though it was very hard,
I finally changed myself.
And once I changed myself,
I discovered my family changed, the community changed, and the entire world changed.”
Rabbi Israel Salanter
Jonathan Gabay discusses the rise and rise of the Meerkat brand in insurance