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Fighting globalization with globalization

Globalization isn't the problem: it's the misuse of this tag to harm the human rights and dignity of our planet's citizens by a select few. Consumers, not legislators, form the army to fight the corporations that abuse the poor. And branding is the tool to educate consumers as well as providing the means to moving workers to higher-gain jobs, one of the promises of globalization. Ignoring this need, of which the author argues the 21st-century consumer is cognizant, risks the potential creation of regional conflicts that threaten global security.

Jack Yan1

GLOBALIZATION is still seen as one of the evils of this planet by some groups. It elicits anger from protesters and the liberal media are keen to attack it. In a more subdued New York, there remained peaceful protests when the World Economic Forum summit took place there this month. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is concerned, requesting an investigation into globalization to be presented to the General Assembly.2
   With good cause: an Indonesian worker might get 40p making trainers that sell on the high street for £100. We know of the poverty in which the workers live. Anti-globalists point to codes of conduct set up by the companies that are not properly monitored or enforced.
   Yet there is some slanted reporting, too, that hardly helps opponents or proponents.
   UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told those gathered at the New York summit:3

Our problem is one of reality multiplied by perception. The reality is that power and wealth in this world are very, very unequally shared, and that far too many people are condemned to lives of extreme poverty and degradation. The perception, among many, is that this is the fault of globalization, and that globalization is driven by a global élite, composed of—or at least represented by—the people who attend this gathering.

While adding he believed the perception was wrong, he said:

Left alone in their poverty, [poor] countries are all too likely to collapse, or relapse, into conflict and anarchy, a menace to their neighbours and potentially—as the events of 11 September so brutally reminded us—a threat to global security.

Russia is concerned about removing trade barriers and domestic-producer protection in its quest to join the WTO. If the promises of globalization are not met in such a vast country, then chaos can only erupt from where some believe Russia is today.4 The global economy has a choice to either repeat past mistakes—as it did in Indonesia—or risk placing a nuclear power in civil disarray.
   Therefore, the issues are far from economic or trivial and global corporations themselves sign a death sentence if the 'moral globalist'5 does not emerge.
   This paper aims to discuss how branding and marketing now face their greatest duties, as the interface between world consumers on one side and corporations and governments on the other.
   Before discussing how globalization can work in the marketing sphere, we need to dispel some of the myths. First, there is evidence that globalization has caused disparity in some rapidly globalizing nations. Aggressive globalizers have more perceived corruption. They are bad at taking care of infants and providing basic healthcare measures. The other main problem amongst the aggressively globalizing nations is the deteriorating air quality.6
   The countries are generally better off, even the poorest. In other words, without globalization, the poor would be poorer still. There is more governmental spending on education, health and social security. There are improvements in sanitation and life spans have increased. Political freedoms have increased.
   In a global sense, however, the rich nations have become richer, the poor poorer. Progress has been slower in the last 20 years.7 While this is less a direct fault of the concept of globalization and more how states have managed it, it still needs to be addressed: the unfairness of the distribution of benefits brings it into globalization's responsibility.
   Ironically, those who support a pure and moral form of globalization share many of the views of those who denounce it.
   The supporters see the world as one unit, believing in equality and equity globally. They idealize about the disappearance of false labels that separate peoples. For instance, the author recently wrote in a branding journal, independently of the economic considerations that will be touched upon in this paper:8

We might even end a few wars because we no longer see ourselves as on opposite sides. Every conflict is caused by artificial distinction.
    Oh dear, say the critics. That is globalization. But if it is globalization, it also means peace. We don't use the differences to create conflict; we celebrate the unique differences between us. The celebration could even preserve the very cultures that are allegedly being marginalized by globalization. …
    All things being equal, brands should only succeed for the long term when there are real differences. Making artificial distinctions based on a tiny gene that determines our skin colour when we are otherwise technically homogeneous is futile.
    I'd rather see someone of a different ethnic group as a fellow human being, become fascinated by her or his culture, and know that no politician or a conflict prevents me from learning more about it, celebrating it, or even claiming it as part of a shared human heritage or experience. In other words, I'd prefer to brand the heritage, not the person. Let's shift that paradigm.

This may paint a picture of people holding hands and singing in the Coca-Cola 'Hilltop' television advertisement but it is not an unattainable ideal. It is frustrated by organizations that use the banner of globalization but act no differently from condescending empires pillaging colonies or barons abusing peasants. Greed motivates them, but the world is, in fact, better armed to deal with them than ever, with the rise of the internet and communications in the west. The army to counter the modern robber barons, the new "unacceptable faces of capitalism", to paraphrase Ted Heath, is one of consumers. The tools are information, branding and marketing.

Information: playing by their rules
Protesters are likely to polarize opinions based on a lack of information about their cause. When protests get violent, their cause is lost further. There are sympathizers on one side who are grateful for the voice that they lend them. On the other side, there are those who believe protesters merely rock the boat too much. Often, people will not investigate any viewpoint on an issue until it cuts too close for comfort.
   There is one irony that the author pointed out in an earlier paper.9 Those who protest globalization rely on it to get the information they use to attack it. They would also like to see their work have international effect.
   However, every consumer has a viewpoint. The viewpoints reflect what brands they buy. It is this consumer battlefield that presents an opportunity for a new entrant or a company that wishes to be the new leader in its field. It may be more effective for a movement to be reformist, bringing change within the current system.
   With the profile given to globalization today—the World Economic Forum summit has received considerable press and it is likely that the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico next month will, too—brands that faithfully execute strategies to alleviate poverty are bound to begin winning support.
   This profile helps lessen the marketing expenditure for a brand. Nike's founder, Phil Knight, once said that his company could not afford to get on the back cover of Sports Illustrated but it could afford to get on the front.10 A company that captures the growing support for corporate citizenship can quickly rise by using news around globalization conferences and the press generated by documentary-makers exposing sweatshops. Indeed, the corporation could even fund such exposés.11
   One company that rapidly rose to a high profile is ID Model Management, a modelling agency in New York. In November 1999, Donal MacIntyre's documentary, secretly filmed amongst the Élite agency, highlighted the misbehaviour of modelling agents and alleged the exploitation of girls as young as 13 entering a competition. One scene showed Gérald Marie, an Élite executive, propositioning one of MacIntyre's undercover colleagues, offering her £300 for sex. Another showed a drug deal. Élite promptly sued and the case was settled out of court. Although Élite founder John Casablancas semi-retired around this time, he did fax other agencies with a proposed code of ethics, although this did not lessen the bad press much.
   When ID boss Paolo Zampolli proposed to put live cameras into chaperoned apartments to promote his agency's talent, Casablancas attacked. The matter was covered in the New York press, but ID's profile rose. At the time, the author began a dialogue with Zampolli, concluding that his aim was to humanize modelling in the wake of the Élite debacle.12 The girls were not underage. The author further witnessed the ethical treatment of models at ID's New York offices in summer 2001. By the fall, Zampolli was one of the most famous model agents in the United States when Vanity Fair published a feature on him,13 in which he stressed he would not have affairs with models. He is even acquainted with President Clinton.
   Although the cameras-in-apartments venture, ModelsLife.com, was not realized, nor was support for it unanimous, the publicity against Casablancas helped propelled it, and ID Model Management's profile. It now represents Ana Hickmann, a high-profile model, and Audrey Tatou, the actress who had the title role in Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain.
   MacIntyre showed the negative side of the modelling industry and allowed the consumer to be the judge. Although the case has drifted from the public consciousness, for a time there were many criticisms from people who would not normally be involved in fashion. State prosecutors began investigation. This was a single, high-profile event not designed to compete in the fashion industry, yet hit at its heart. A corporate rival could create an ongoing campaign to inform, educate and make similar changes that win consumer hearts—provided that this does not extend into a form of "advertising terrorism", in which case it will be up to the press to verify its facts.
   Many cases, particularly in consumer products, are more black-and-white. Last year, the author noted how Hennes & Mauritz was able to turn around criticisms that it was using sweatshop labour, distinguishing itself from others who were exposed in a Swedish daily.14 It was able to support its claims.
   For products with less emotional attachment or importance, consumers consider less how their actions might affect others' welfare. This strengthens the need to build in an educational element into modern branding. It need not be negative or comparative or fought in the press. For example, an organization can, individually, have a section on its web site to display where its products are made and how ethically it treats its workers. A company that employs underage workers in Cambodia could address this on its web site, pointing out that they are brought there by their parents who have no means of sending them to school and without their jobs, their families would starve. But that same company could highlight how it was funding its own school in the factory, forbidding the children to work, and raising its wages. It could put in monitoring to ensure that factory owners, less cognizant of human rights, do not pocket the funding. The company should have a financial stake in the school and in its performance.
   The value to brand equity from such an exercise would be immense and it will be greatest for the first organization in each market. As with the MacIntyre documentary, people are willing to display disgust at the poor treatment of fellow human beings, when presented with the facts. Marketed correctly to the "consumer army", such corporate citizenship will command price premiums, so consumers would happily pay for the funding of the school and the increased wages. It will necessarily attract imitators, because without following such a route, the competitors will lose custom and, inevitably, market share.
   Longer-term effects are promising. Globalization should move workers from low-gain jobs to higher-gain ones, where workers can be looked after socially. Providing education is seen as a positive step not just for the corporation, but for the opportunity for worker families to find those higher-gain roles. Who is to say that such inequity, and most importantly, the lack of dignity and basic freedoms for sweatshop workers, do not foster conditions for terrorism that affects even the survival of the corporations? Is this not the core of the discontent of anti-globalization proponents, rather than something being "wrong" with the American way of life? Such education will solve other social ills, too.

Making it aspirational
In the printing industry, which can be more regional, most designers and those who contract printers know which players are more ethical and reliable. While printers have not traditionally advertised to the same extent as an international clothing brand,15 there are informal channels that help enhance the goodwill of the companies known for fair prices, good quality and ethical behaviour. The author observes that organizations considered less ethical by industry commentators try to compete on price—but are ultimately hurt by broken promises and low quality, even though that could take a client many encounters with the company.16
   One difficulty that more mundane products face is due to the era when celebrity and entertainment catch people's attention more than, for instance, Sister Nirmala Joshi, who succeeded Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Their manufacturers cannot readily find ways to inject an aspirational quality. Commodities are the most difficult. How can these brands make themselves aspirational? Can corn have cachet, or salt style?
   The author believes that the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have begun more introspection in first-world nations that have already answered these questions. While there have been the usual reactions—the attacks against big business, America, US foreign policy—the author has maintained that the west's ability to learn from internal criticism and citizens' freedoms fuel attacks against it. Nation envy is at the core, rather than any fundamental problem with freedom.17 Consumers have begun to point at this and other causes, which is why the Republican administration treaded so carefully when the attacks on Afghanistan began. It had to satisfy as much of the population as possible, to ensure that everything could be done for Afghans displaced by the order to attack. It is another aspect of the image that had to be fostered in a celebrity era.
   Therefore, the brand that looks after people taps in to this early 2000s' consumer sentiment. It begins to shift consumer perceptions and makes caring "aspirational". While good corporate citizenship has always been important, it is only now that this has become part of the Zeitgeist. It adds cachet in an era when aggression is out and caring is in. It has become an effective method to differentiate an organization. And despite the segmentation of markets, such a brand seems to bind many segments, seemingly untouched by concepts of mass customization and individual products.
   In this world, simplicity wins over complexity: the support for food that is not genetically engineered and the insistence by some consumers that eggs be free range and not produced by chickens in inhumane conditions are backlashes against products once pushed by 1960s' TV commercials' "man in the white coat" that demonstrated how much better man-made science could do things. The organization which shows values taps in to a first world in crisis, looking toward its roots.18
   The image is disappearing in favour of reality, something that had been happening as information became more democratized over the last 15 years (and particularly so in the last five). Consumers are finding information easier to access, so deceptions come to public attention more quickly. The war on Afghanistan is an example: it does not take long to find dissent against it, such as statistics that show that more civilians in Afghanistan have been killed since the bombings than had perished in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Meanwhile, another site proudly proclaims that 'an overwhelming majority of Americans' support a multilateral strike.19
   The internet, with both accurate and inaccurate reporting—the latter often due to false sensationalization of stories, which like bad products ultimately cost the media outlet credibility and readers—has created the ability for groups of like-minded people to band together rapidly to campaign for and against causes. The author notes that in less than a day of the New York attacks individuals had formed World Trade Center grief support groups at Yahoo! Groups, a service that allows virtual communities to be built around email communication. In this context, a consumer shift to more caring brands is not hard to fathom.
   Therefore, an organization that claims to help others must do so in an airtight fashion or face criticisms.
   Nike is an example. Recent attacks on its treatment of workers are dealt with on its site but it is harmed by opposing voices and reports. At the time of writing, the California Supreme Court is to rule on whether there has been a whitewash over its wage to workers at the foreign factories it contracts.20
   Nike rode an earlier wave to become the establishment player. Before their rise to fame, sports' shoes were not aspirational products. Today, some consumers see them—particularly Nike as an early entrant into the fashionable sports' shoes market—as status symbols. It became associated with fame and celebrity as Nike-endorsed and sponsored players such as John McEnroe gained stature, both for his playing and his mood swings.
   Tomorrow's brands will rise to fame because they incorporate a respect of human rights and freedoms, which can be marketed through mass media to become aspirational. It could become the job of a "superbrand", possibly one created from scratch with a group of like-minded individuals. Peaceworks, an Israel-based food company directed by Jews and Arabs, attacks stereotypes that the two heritages cannot work together.
   The corporation could be transparent, leaving it open to public scrutiny, as a nation should,21 so audiences have an idea how the profits are being spent. It could have a constitution where the positive activities are enshrined and possibly even entrenched.
   Properly capitalized, a new brand of sportswear can challenge Nike, if it takes a carte blanche approach to have directors who are opposed to the ill-treatment of people, uniting finance and marketing, all the while ensuring that its factories are either in countries where there are real human rights or are closely monitored to protecting them. It could still charge a premium to position the goods correctly in the market-place, one which consumers would pay if it knew that the profits were being used to educate workers or their children for higher-gain jobs, to end the cycle of poverty.
   Or perhaps this could be a new realm for Richard Branson and his Virgin brand, known not only for its distinctive attitude but Branson's community-focused leadership. Maybe even existing companies can be in a position to overhaul their business practices, if they do not want an organization coming in, being the first entrant in the new era, and winning market share. For realistically, such moves will benefit the first "superbrand" most and everyone else will be seen to be following the leader. When there is a will, there is a way, as the bullying tactics of old give way to the community tactics of today. The author is certainly prepared to attempt it, as others will be, too.
   Spinoffs will include entrants in other industries prepared to do the same. Organizations will gradually, as the workforce becomes better educated, help workers out of poverty and reliance upon the World Bank, the IMF and other bodies. Globalization might then begin to fulfil its promises.22

The third ingredient: PR
The public relations channel is perhaps the greatest complement to the new organization's brand. Assuming the other antecedents of identity, including organizational structure, vision and brand exposition, are in place, a complementary public relations' campaign can serve as the "superbrand" venture's catalyst.
   The public relations' campaign can be as distinctive as the brand. It probably goes without saying that it will have to be cross-media. It could find favour with those who oppose globalization at an early stage. This could draw criticism at one end, allowing the corporation's PR specialists to prepare themselves for how to deal with common arguments and using a feedback loop to the directors, to make sure that the humane purposes are sincere and the policies airtight. On the other, more positive end is the communication to anti-globalists that their words have been heeded.
   As the "superbrand" is intended to help people, then it makes sense that the PR be generated at a grass roots' level, too.
   The campaign should not be limited to that group. As one designed to help fellow human beings, Engeseth's concepts of "one-ness",23 where corporation and consumer are united toward the same end (one way is to bring the consumer in to the research and development stage) would find very strong application here.
   In jurisdictions where comparative advertising is permitted, comparisons between the spending by the new corporation and its nearest rival could be made. The media are interested in exposing corporate greed. Since the "superbrand" has been designed to fight it, then it can become "one" with the media, too.
   The author does not believe that such a campaign would be at odds with making the products desirable. There can be elements in the design and advertising that can make corporate citizenship au fait. A sports shoe superbrand could even be considered rebellious, fighting establishment brands—Diesel Jeans earned its position by being the underdog. The Body Shop's brand is founded on similar bases. GM's Saturn division showed that a "no-hassle, no-haggle" treatment appealed to a no-nonsense, Generation X consumer, demonstrating that positive motives can be marketed to work against negative, "traditional" behaviours. Saturn managed to carve—and maintain—a position as a trendy American "good guys" import-fighter despite an ageing product line-up24 and holds a high position in the J. D. Power customer satisfaction surveys. On February 14, 2002, Saturn had its fifth annual National Donor Day, where participating retailers held a one-day event 'aimed at raising awareness and encouraging blood, marrow and blood stem cell, organ and tissue donations.'

The world with the "superbrand"
Dangers exist if other globalizing nations handle their processes as, say, Indonesia during the Soharto era. China faces an environmental crisis if its globalization strategy is not handled properly. Russia has a proud industrial heritage that faces ruin if it moves too quickly to join the WTO, potentially turning a skilled workforce into another source of cheap labour—failing to fulfil one of the most basic promises of globalization, that workers be moved upwards to higher-gain jobs. And the brands that currently practise proper corporate citizenship are few in number, leading some people to have the wrongful impression that they are positioned on market fringes.
   The 21st century consumer is unimpressed by organizations that fail to give something back to fellow world citizens. There have been more than enough events since September 11, 2001 to indicate that consumers have a wider view of branding than ever before. Consumer sophistication and the democratization of information have led to more informed decisions. Growing consumer cynicism can be countered only by being "one" with the "consumer army". This includes understanding and capitalizing on the shift toward a more moral, ethical global corporate world, rather than one that is beset by a harmful reputation: that of a collective of modern, exploitative robber barons.
   The dangers of ignoring the "moral globalist" ideas are too many to number. Anarchy in nations that have been exploited has the potential to become regional conflicts, destroying the very markets on which corporations rely. An Indonesian invasion of its neighbours is not unforeseeable if conditions are not improved and extremists seek power. Then what of the lucrative Malaysian and Singaporean markets, not to mention the flow-on effects on Australia and New Zealand?
   Similarly, it does not take great imagination to see how the Israeli–Palestinian conflict threatens global security.
   The same global forces that unlocked the economic potential (and, some might say, victimization and marginalization) of countries can work in reverse: that has been illustrated numerous times by the old adage that when the United States sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. The rule works on many levels as the world becomes smaller. Regional anarchy goes beyond a region today. Introspection, rediscovery and an ethical–moral adjustment are among the scope of the modern branding practice. •

Notes
   1. LL B, BCA (Hons.), MCA. CEO, Jack Yan & Associates (http://jyanet.com); President, JY&A Consulting (http://jya.co). Copyright ©2002 by JY&A Consulting, a division of Jack Yan & Associates. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form without the written permission from the copyright holder.
   2. 'Globalization and its impact on human rights', resolution 54/165, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, February 24, 2000. In simpler terms, President Vicente Fox of Mexico said that we cannot escape globalization. 'It's here to stay. It is not good or bad, but we need to create a more human face to it.' Interview with President Vicente Fox, DW-TV, February 9, 2002.
   3. Sourced from Wurst: 'Annan calls on business to help the poor', UN Wire, February 5, 2002, <http://www.unfoundation.org/unwire/util/display_stories.asp?objid=23605>.
   4. Tayler: 'Russia is finished', The Atlantic Monthly, May 2001, pp. 35–52.
   5. Yan: 'The moral globalist', CAP Online, May 2, 2001, <http://jyanet.com/cap/2001/0502fe0.shtml>.
   6. Global Business Policy Council: Globalization Ledger. Alexandria, Va. April 2000.
   7. Weller and Hersh: 'Free markets and poverty', The American Prospect, vol. 13, no. 1, January 1, 2002.
   8. Yan, in Frankel (ed.): I-Branding Digest, no. 51, December 12, 2001.
   9. Yan: 'The moral globalist', op. cit.
   10. 'Why do it?' Branded, BBC TV, 1996.
   11. One example of this is Klein: No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. New York: Picador 2000. The publisher places its own brand in jeopardy because of Ms Klein's stance on branding, but it presents a valid viewpoint in the profession.
   12. Yan: 'The buzz is at ModelsLife.com', Lucire, March 25, 2000.
   13. Sales: 'Ze-e-E-e-en credible Paolo!', Vanity Fair, October 2001.
   14. Yan: 'The moral globalist', op. cit.
   15. The author believes that there is, therefore, potential for an international printing network brand.
   16. With less significant purchases, this becomes even more problematic without consumer education. Two nearly contemporaneous studies from ActivMedia Research and Greenfield Online came to opposing conclusions about the effect of branding versus price in clothing purchases. Niedermeier: 'Researchers divided on price and branding', E-Gateway, February 21, 2000, <http://www.e-gateway.net/infoarea/news/news.cfm?nid=386>. Online surveys can get subjects based on web links, so the contradictory results could be due to the subjects who were attracted by the webmasters who had adopted those links. Additionally, branding could have been defined differently in each survey, given how inconsistently it is applied. Neither study was examined for this paper.
   17. Yan: 'The moral globalist', op. cit.; Yan: 'Carry on globalizing', CAP Online, October 18, 2001, <http://jyanet.com/cap/2001/1018fe0.shtml>.
   18. A poignant post-September 11 article canvassing university students' views is Gaddis: 'The next generation', Hoover Digest, no. 1, 2002, pp. 50–6.
   19. 'Terrorism: support for multilateral approaches', Americans and the World. Washington, DC: Program on International Policy Attitudes 2001, <http://www.americans-world.org/digest/global_issues/terrorism/terrorism_multilat.cfm>.
   20. Barrett (ed.): 'Nike in court battle over working conditions', Just-style.com, February 7, 2002. Nike had claimed in a 1996–7 advertising campaign that it guaranteed a 'living wage' to its workers, which has been refuted by human rights' and labour groups and even an audit commissioned by Nike from Ernst & Young.
   21. See Olins: Trading Identities: Why Countries and Companies Are Taking on Each Other's Roles. London: Foreign Policy Centre 1999.
   22. The author plans to deal with this in a later paper with a consideration of how this could effect changes from third-world countries' perspectives.
   23. Engeseth: Detective Marketing. Stockholm 2001, q.v. Yan: 'Branding in the 2000s: the new forces at work', CAP Online, December 11, 2001, <http://jyanet.com/cap/2001/1211fe0.shtml>.
   24. With the exception of the 1996 Opel Vectra-based L-series and Vue cross-over SUV, Saturn's basic S-series models have a platform dating from when the marque began production in the late 1980s.