Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bullshit brand ethics

I have a battered old NGA 'Don't Buy The Times, Sun, News Of The World' mug on a shelf at eye level in my workshop. I'm reminded of the Wapping dispute every time I park up my bikes - and I never have brought one of Murdoch's scabby rags. 

So I want to rejoice over  the hacking-gate saga - the closure of NOW, bent coppers and now the apparent denial of Murdoch's attempt to control the airwaves too - it's the perfect shit-storm. But I'm afraid this isn't some victory of people power - it's a triumph of the bullshit of supposed 'corporate ethics'.

Some of the marketing wankers I have as clients refer without batting an eyelid to their brands' ethical capital. In their strange fucked-up world the perceived morality of their companies is an asset like any other. I'm sure business text books have been written on this but you can quickly get the idea -  fair trade organic coffee = good, oil drilling and refining = bad.  In an indirect way it acknowledges the simple fact that those of us who live under capitalism - 'consumers' - are generally not too happy about having the worst excesses of the system rubbed in our noses. So any business that  can mitigate that is on to a good thing.  And that I'm pretty sure is why Ford started the advertising boycott avalanche that led to the NOW's demise. 

With a record of union-busting, funding and co-operating with dictatorial regimes, and of course the notorious Pinto case when they decided that compensation for fatalities made better economic sense than product recalls - the Ford Motor Company has not historically been on some sort of moral crusade. 

But in positioning itself as the corporation that takes the moral high ground it effectively wrong foots all the others: Which car manufacturer wants to then be branded as the one who isn't sympathetic to the family of a murdered child ?  The positive PR is fantastic - and so much cheaper than taking out those pages of advertising space.

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