A peek into the Future: Countries becoming Brands and Companies becoming Nations

July 30, 2009 § 6 Comments

¿What type of Nation do you think Apple, Microsoft, Unilever or Sony Corporation would be?

That is a question that first came to my mind back in 2004, when I visited the Redmond WA area close to Seattle, where Microsoft Corporation owns its headquarters and long extensions of land. There, hundreds of mini-mansions for MS Executives decorate a Swedish-wanna-be-landscape. Was that a Microsoft country? maybe not, but that is how it felt while talking to people, driving the highway and exploring the suburbs. A particular kind of identity, lifestyle and behavioral agreements, very close to the Microsoft corporate image.

Maybe it is corporate identity that goes beyond the company, into people lives.

As it all sounds like science fiction, we should examine some realities. I guess it all started in 1955 with Main Street USA in Disneyland (The Happiest Place on Earth) where a typical American village was fully reproduced under the company parameters of Disney imagery. Then came Epcot Center, a vision of the existing world (third world excluded) from the Disney point of view, that featured the most touristic and iconic landmarks from an American perspective.

Main Street USA

Main Street USA

Back in the 70´s, the world was politically divided in Communism and Capitalism basically. After the coldwar and during the late 80´s the Perestroika, the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the political and economic changes in communist countries created an ideological change globally. People started changing their political beliefs and their affiliations changed to more private ones.

During the 90´, companies developed strong efforts towards positioning their

values transmitted via branding

values transmitted via branding

brands becoming economically and symbolically powerful; generating values, lifestyles, followers, collectors of memorabilia, urban tribes and radical beliefs in a global scale. Notions of culture, nation, country and culture mutate and people start believing in branded values, media promoted lifestyles and marketing designed ideologies.

Local, national and regional governments joined forces with the tourism industry to promote specific destinations, immigration, foreign investment and position economic value for countries and cities. That way, places like New York, Mexico, Barcelona and Berlin created whole new brands from their name, supported by local and global investors. Let´s think of Sex and the City, Barcelona Olympic Games, The fall of the Berlin Wall, or the FIFA World Cup as tools for touristic promotion and region branding transmitting values and beliefs, music, visual patterns, food and celebrations that make people come together and identify themselves with these parameters as their ways of expression.

Strong Marketing campaigns about certain regions, countries and cities at the same time that sold destinations, encouraged regionalism, nationalism and local pride. The impact of branding in this sense is double sided, and creates apart from consumption, social transformations followed by strong feelings about the branded place. Something close to the impact of corporate values among company sex_and_the_city_movie-6049employees and consumers.

So, where does the notion of national culture and product branding cross paths? a possible answer may be found if we ask people where do they belong? Do you feel Spanish, American or Mac user? What defines me the most? My place of residence or my habits? All these questions currently float inside a lot of people´s minds.

The Power of Mutinational Companies to provide services, products and messages to fill people needs has taken them to a position, where their speech may be stronger than politics, culture and the participation of civil society. Most of them have the power to influence law, politics, culture, governance and development in any country to the point of becoming providers of basic services covering people´s fundamental rights like water, electricity, food, health, communications, housing, education, retirement and security.

So, when only companies can provide people with most of the things half of the countries in the world can´t provide, ¿What is left of the notion of Nation? ¿What is the role of nations and governments in the new world order? pho_bg_vans¿What is left of civil rights when they enter the marketplace?

So here is my question again

¿What type of Nation do you think Apple, Microsoft, Unilever or Sony Corporation would be?

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§ 6 Responses to A peek into the Future: Countries becoming Brands and Companies becoming Nations

  • dac007 says:

    Would have to give the question considerable thought. Are you suggesting this concept is something we should be afraid of? I don’t see much of a future for traditional nation states but I had not previously considered the idea that multi-national companies may play a role in their demise.

    http://www.dacairns.blogspot.com
    http://www.eloquentbooks.com/devolution.html

    • algobuenobcn says:

      my point is about companies growing so much they develop a certain form of “culture” and a notion of community and also, about the way they participate in society as symbolic producers.

  • Peter Lucas says:

    Hello,

    Just don’t forget that our attachment to national countries was also created by a tiny minority of those who enjoyed some sort of political power and later on was sustained by the countries’ leaders and institutions. European countries wouldn’t have Christian character if there hadn’t been forceful and bloody conversions and if popes hadn’t gathered under their hands huge amounts of wealth and significance in the early Middle Ages.

    The second thing is that you seem to unconsciously differentiate between the culture and the power of corporations. Whatever cultures are (or is) (or is not), the phenomenons described are all products of our culture and are by no means separate entities.

    My best regards,

    Peter

  • Omer Kurkcu says:

    You touch a good point with asking that question in your essay. You have valuable thoughts about reflections of corporate culture to the society however I think that you could give more deep examples to identify the issue. Thank you for the good essay.

  • algobuenobcn says:

    Well to go beyond this, let´s take a peek at McDonald´s Numbers

    · McDonald’s serves 1% of the world’s population every day
    15 Facts About McDonald’s That Will Blow Your Mind

    · McDonald’s’ $24 billion in revenue makes it the 90th-largest economy in the world

    · Counting $32 billion in revenue from franchise stores, McDonald’s claims the 68th biggest economy, bigger than Ecuador

    · According to company estimates, one in every eight American workers has been employed by McDonald’s

    · McDonald’s’ iconic golden arches are recognized by more people than the cross

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/facts-about-mcdonalds-blow-your-mind-2011-11#mcdonalds-serves-1-of-the-worlds-population-every-day-1#ixzz1kRe5wtDu

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