The rise of the branded state: The view from dystopia
This is part of PandoDaily’s “Dispatches from the future” series where we share prognostications on what may lie ahead. We encourage you to share your predictions in the comments or email editor Adam Penenberg ([email protected]) with ideas for your own guest posts, which we might publish.
It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m George Judson, and this is my robotic dog, Savoy.
I’m sure my name sounds familiar. After all, I was the first ever inductee into the cradle-to-grave branded world. I’ve been a Class A Brand Ambassador since birth, tattooed with a Walmart logo upon delivery at The Walmart Cornell Hospital in Bentonville, Arkansas, way back in late 2023.
My parents, long-time t-shirt folders at WalMart, applied for a better life for me and were accorded a 3.5 percent bump in pay and partially subsidized dental coverage in exchange for enrolling me into the then-inaugural [email protected] program.
While barely out of corporate day care, I witnessed firsthand as a child two major advances: first, cancer was cured. More importantly, though, the code for marketing was finally cracked.
CTOs, CIOs and Chief Scientists had taken over the corporate marketing function. It was a fait accompli, plus there were only a handful of long since emasculated CMOs anticipating the proverbial tap on the shoulder. Behavioral analytics, predictive search, and mind hackers could read the thoughts and track the sentiments of millions of consumers, culminating in the seamless integration of influencer marketing into business intelligence software.
Finally, consumers no longer needed to be “marketed to.” They just bought. It became as natural as breathing and eating.
Human generated logos and taglines were replaced with preapproved vectors and mission statements generated by algorithms with respective trademark registrations. The need for PR, i.e. calling harried reporters (now extinct) with harebrained pitches became obsolete when all stories were computer generated. The remnants of anachronistic print advertising, which placed some vague notion of “creative value” over scientific data, were thrown into the trash bin of history.
Marketing died off and branding was born as something more native, indigenous, organic and personalized – product promotion with a human face. Together it led to the rise of the fully branded state. Marketing then existed in two states, like Schrodinger's cat, which was both alive and dead at the same time depending on when and how you looked at it. Instead, in our world, it’s all marketing; none of it is marketing. Then the corollary: it’s all branding.
And the branded state replacing the failed nation state was, in this writer’s view, the biggest leap in human history.
Having companies seize control of large geographical territories away from bankrupt local, federal, state and national governments, and converting the United Nations into the United Branded Enterprise Republic (UBER), paved the way for measurable brand building. What started with renaming football stadiums and college bowl games in the late 20th century kicked off a much larger wave that’s truly a win-win for businesses and consumers alike. The book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana, heralded an era in which “traditional” first names could be replaced – for a price – by the brands everyday people love most. Take attendance in school and advertise Coca-Cola, SmartWool, Apple Inc., McDonald’s and Zappos.
It didn’t stop there. No more early 2000s illegible Chinese tattoos on the backs of American millennials or images of barbed wire around ankles, carefully screened people of all ages sport branded FoxConn, Bank of China and China Telecom, and in Mandarin, no less. Streets were renamed after products. Airports and municipalities were named, owned and operated by the city’s largest corporations (e.g. Omaha renamed PayPal, NB). It created a natural web of previously unthought-of brand extensions and seamless integration. Starbucks Labs and their scientists bioengineered branded homeopathic beans which eliminate the need for sleep. Tucks and Preparation H together branded a line of soft and plush couches and love seats. GoogleUP became the world’s exclusive incubator of all tech start ups.
But it’s the meritocracy that has been created that must make America’s late forefathers most proud. A breakthrough occurred when The Kids Klout Score replaced the IQ test as a dynamic barometer of an individual’s societal worth. That in turn allows consumers to better monetize their followers and other social connections but concurrently, via a real time platform, empowers brands to better calculate the fair value of a consumer’s connections.
It is all so logical and replaces the totally random and/or historically irrelevant naming of the past for dead US presidents and “civil rights heroes.” But, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. For example, when Detroit got out of bankruptcy by selling its naming rights to Chrysler in late 2013, the city changed its name to Dodge, Michigan. Tweets and posts like “Dodge ball”, “dodging a bullet” and “get out of dodge” flooded social networks. Just in the nick of time, Ford stepped in and bought the rights from Chrysler (at yet a further reduced price) and renamed the city to Ford Tough. Talk about branding done right!
In conclusion, my friends, keep out any unwelcome thoughts of your respective brand/s (including the name of their so called “competitors”), and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly and mandatory online continued brand education.
Above all Mr./Ms. Brand Ambassador, keep smiling.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pandodaily]