David Weinberger brings attention to an incident that Tom Coates of PlasticBag encountered that involved a fictional corporate entity named Barry Scott who had commented on Tom’s blog about his post about his missing, but now found, father.
"Hi Tom, Always remember one thing. Life is very, very short and nothing is worth limiting yourself from seeing the ones you love. I hadn’t seen my father in 15 years until 2 years ago. I was apprehensive but I kept telling myself that no matter how estranged we’d become there was no river to wide to cross. Drop me a line if I can be of any more help. Cheers, Barry"
Sounds fine, doesn’t it? Except that ‘Barry Scott’ isn’t a real person – he’s a marketing vehicle for a brand called Cillit Bang and his weblog is a barely disguised viral marketing platform for the product.
I have to laugh about this more than anything. I mean are people really that surprised that things have gone this far (not that I’m defending it in anyway)? I mean we have corporations which are pitching themselves as "fictitious entities" on a daily basis on TV but no one complains about that because it’s "acceptable" (and doesn’t hit so close to home). We see commercials showing people (actors) from the law firm Stanley & Stanley (just made up that name) shaking hands with a client. In the background, we hear the commentator saying "Stanley & Stanley is there to help you when you need a friend." The company, the corporate entity, is your friend. What about the people in the company? Oh they don’t exist anymore because they’ve been consumed by the entity to keep it alive. 🙂
Here’s another example of how far I think this will go. I read a book not to long ago entitled The New Culture of Desire (which I need to add to my book list). What this book talks about in a nutshell is the ongoing transition of companies in becoming the "life guru’s" or "meta-physicians" of tomorrow. What this means is that in the future, companies will compete for your entire lifestyle and you will select one to fulfill all of your needs and solve all of your problems. Now imagine sitting down at your computer in the future (or whatever it is called then) and up pops your Corporate Guru assistant (aka virtual computer agent) to tell you how best to run your day and informs you of all the special deals on at each of the partner stores associated with this corporate entity. "You need to pick up Billy from baseball practice at 5:00 PM. His baseball glove is probably getting worn by now since it was purchased a while ago. I’d recommend stopping at Sport’s World on the way home to pick him up another one, as it would probably make him feel better and give him some added confidence in his game. Oh, I just noticed that they are having a sale on baseball gloves this week actually. Even better!"
What I’m getting at here is that this interaction with corporate entities will become more and more prolific and normal within our lives until eventually we will treat it as friend and tell our human friends, "Man, Fred my Guru gave me this awesome tip on where to find those new 10 foot by 10 foot Ziploc bags. He’s amazing!" Or "Fred is great! My father just passed away, so he recommended that I take a short break from my work and take a vacation. He recommended a trip to a secluded resort in Mexico and he booked everything for me. It was perfect and exactly what I needed. I feel so much better now and feel like I’ve come to terms with my father’s passing."
We will see this in our lifetimes unless we start changing our existing culture and put the emphasis back on the people hidden inside of the companies instead of the corporate entity itself. In other words, be a diverse group of people with a company instead of a unified corporate entity with a group of people hidden within it. Instead of advertising your fictitious corporate ideas, focus on marketing the different real people in your company who are doing great things daily and can actually be met by other people. And I’m not just talking about a flash of a face with a corporate business title below it. Show what these real people are doing daily and explain why these different people, in each their own way, help to define the company (instead of the company defining them).
The same could be said for any country, like Canada or the United States. It is the people themselves within the country, with their diverse ethnic mix and outlooks, that truly define the nation as a whole. I mean if the government just showed a white male actor standing beside a flag, then I think most people would be ticked off by this. Instead it is the mother, fathers, daughters, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers, and so on of all different races and cultures that make up the nation and make it so strong. It is this diversity, not uniformity, with which gives each nation its strength. And it is this very diversity of character and thoughts within each person that makes them so interesting and appealing to each of us.