Are today’s global brands the new colonial powers?

In August I had a chance to visit Malaysia and Singapore, both different but neighbours
I remember visiting Singapore, probably many years ago and memories of its cleanliness and crispness were reconfirmed.
However, this time I really noticed some how mainly Western brands have come to dominate the skyline and super flashy malls.

From a business perspective I wondered how these now global brands have managed to, ‘pull off’ such an attraction. The same faces / models pose all the way from a local shop in London to dedicated flagship stores in downtown Singapore.

Does this mean that being both local and global is simply just another strap line? It reminded me of the Holiday Inn scenario once taught to me.
You can apply this to any organisation that has a giant world-wide presence. Imagine waking up in a Holiday Inn. How long would it take before you realised that you are now in another country? Phoning reception will not give you any clues. If you stay at an Airport based one, it maybe even more difficult to trace or discover where you are? Multi-lingual staff and menus will not help either! Ultimately, you will have to exit the hotel and talk to some of the locals or even call for a cab before you can determine your exact location in the world!

A more cynical perspective is to maybe consider why Global brands have become so dominant. Why are people running after them? Do they have the potential to brainwash? Obviously, pop Stars and food chains simply make greater money the more they promote themselves as lifestyle normality yet they are really just cosmetic and making their owners (primarily western) richer. For example, as a pop star increasing your audience can reap huge financial returns. Maybe todays global brands / multinationals can be compared to yesterday’s colonial powers.

A few weeks back I had a chance to watch Atonement, it was part of a special open day event at a local Arts centre. Just before the film a special short-film was shown from a locally commissioned film maker. It outlined a perspective of a victim (Sikh) who had been harassed. The film also featured interviews with the local police chief and a council advice/ monitoring group. Between the footage we were treated to views of the local area’s glossy offices, logos and some interesting sunsets. I asked the filmmaker if she had filmed the latter as a way of signally that these giant corporations were passer by’s, silent observers whilst people were being hurt in their shadows. She replied, that she just thought they looked, ‘pretty’.

Maybe that is part of the problem. The brands look pretty but they are subtle in the ability to be both apathetic and unknowingly destructive!

Categories: 2007, Corporate Responsibility

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