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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

How to spot the corporate swamp: look out for lots of initials

Business is divided into two utterly different worlds: the corporate one, where the aim is to climb the ladder high enough to escape the consequences of your folly - and the real one where you are the one who pays the bills - including those others have run up.

In the corporate world (the summit being government and the BBC) shameless wretches who ruin banks, destroy savings and leave thousands on the streets get obscene salaries, knighthoods and fat pensions. In the corporate world, some are feted for engineering pointless acquisitions that feed egos but create no value; others are rewarded for acts that are clearly criminal but cannot be prosecuted successfully. In the corporate world, people trot from one pointless meeting to another achieving little more than extended employment.

We in the real world are squeezed to fund the costs of corporate folly. We cannot get loans from banks - though they force us to cough up for their past ineptitude. Pension funds we have worked a lifetime to build are stolen by megalomaniac politicians. We pay too many taxes because we don't have the funds to shelter our ownership in the Cayman Islands. And this happens because no matter how much governments talk they love the corporates, not us. After all, that's where they get cushy jobs after they've done their worst for the country. The Bliar is a good example. Try and work out where his money has gone.

Besides the endless meetings, one sure way of spotting the reptiles in the corporate swamp is simple: watch out for initials. I spotted a good example at 6 a. m. today in Malaysia's Advertising and Marketing Daily: "TBWA's new EVP, Microsoft's new APAC CMO, LB's digital investments plus more".

I greatly fear that Asia's lively entrepreneurial spirit will be stifled by this sort of thing, because too often they ape the worst of the West, status is so important there - and what confers more status than a string of initials?

Just to ensure I do O.K. whichever camp I'm in I now sign myself Drayton Bird, FIDM (Hon), FRSA.

Bet you didn't know that, did you?

By the way, the very model example of corporate success is Mr. Adam Crozier who has just left a very lucrative little stint at the Royal Mail. He created the illusion of profit by what I call the toilet roll strategy – charge the same price but give fewer sheets, or in this case slash the service to ribbons. The problem with this is that the customers notice eventually and start to wipe their arses with something else.

Just before Crozier left he banned bikes for postmen in favour of "electric carts" on Health and Safety grounds. How can a bike be less healthy than an electric cart?

Lastly, my old friend Christian Digby-Firth has dispelled my ignorance about the ghastly Olympic puppet as follows:

I fear you have failed to consult the begetters of Wenlock and Mandeville, Iris Worldwide ("world class skills across a range of disciplines"). Had you done so, you would have learned that:

To capture people's imagination you have to create something iconic - something unique - something as individual as you and me. We have created a flexible design that allows you to make the mascot your own, while celebrating what is great about Britain - our heritage, our culture and our creativity. They are inclusive, because they invite everyone to take part and get involved. They aren't 'the' mascots - they are your mascots.

"The result is a world first - a multi dimensional, adaptable design for the digital age, which will allow you to customise the mascots online later in the year. And who knows what else, after all we're just at the start of the journey and the possibilities are endless."

Your mascots, d'you see? Which you can customise endlessly. I hope that sets your mind at rest.

Thanks, Christian. You're a real pal.

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