Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 23rd, 2012

Is the goal of a brand to changing kids’ worldview?

Seth Godin said in an interview with Debbie Millman: “Has a corporation the obligation to change kids’ worldview? If the answer is NO, selling products that match kids’ expectation is what shareholders need the company to do.  If the answer is YES  “companies have the obligation to transform worldview” then, there is a long list of brands that we could talk about.

Branding is rarely presented to the world with this message: “authentically made by people who believe exactly what you believe…”  There’s a long history of marketing not being authentic. For example, AXE antiperspirants brand sells half the time by appealing to horny avarice, and half the time to tapping into the insecurity of 15 year-old can feel…

Margaret Youngblood said: “There is a significant shift in consumers attitudes: Consumers are demanding facts and truth in the product, in the company ethical positions, their organizational behavior, how they treat employees, how products are manufactured, how they spend their profits… You see kids graduating and they don’t want to “just get a job”:  They want to work for a company they respect and has the same values they think they have…”

“Consumers know that companies are private entities with objective of making plenty of profits. But when people start suspecting that public institutions and governments are not honest with them then, they feel obligated to question corporations deeper and deeper on their value system, on how honest they are acting and behaving.  Consumers were pressured to taking matters in their hands as public institutions failed to seriously regulate and monitor the safety and health of products and services…”

Bill Moggridge is on a war path: He wants “design” to be taught early on in kids’ schools.  As Bill said: “It doesn’t occur to most people that everything is designed...”  At least, high school kids should study design, and business leaders to understand that intractable design conundrums can be solved by interdisciplinary design teams.

The success of design hinges on designers’ empathy for a public that may not be as well-versed in design as designers are. He said: “We are often guilty of designing for ourselves…Designers have to learn a more nuanced language…”

(I agree with Moggridge, and I go further and say: “It doesn’t occur to most people that every human value is politics…”  Brands are specifically designed to tapping into the current ideological system and into the opposed political trend.  Brands are practically telling a story that either sustain the current predominant cultural structure or siding with the “rebel” attitudes for changing the consensus value-system climate…)

Note 1: Seth Godin published short books “Purple cow”, “Meatball Sundae”, Tribes, Linchpin, “Free Prize Inside”, and the latest “Poke the Box” sold on Domino project with Amazon.  Seth start-ups are Yoyodyne, Squidoo, and MBA program…

Note 2: Margaret Youngblood is director of Trinity Brand Group and former executive designer at Landor.  She worked on projects for clients like FedEX, Xerox, Danone, Pathe, the 2002 Winter Olympics, YWCA, H&R Block…

Note 3: Bill Moggridge is cofounder of IDEO and is currently the director of Cooper-Hewitt, the National Design Museum.  He contributed to the creation of the first laptop.

Who is Peter, Jesus disciple? Where is this town of Shame3 in Lebanon?

Apparently, the Moslem Shia sect in Lebanon consider Peter (Simon), Jesus disciple, as a prophet and a close cousin to Mary.  The Virgin Mary was his aunt from both her mother and father sides. Simon, Peter…is also known as Shimon Safa in the town of Shama3 near the city of Tyr. Safa means the lean stone in Arabic, Kifa in Syriac, and Peter in Greek.

Peter was born around 10 BC and lived in the town of 7amoul or (Hamoun) near the village of Nakoura in South Lebanon.  Peter’s father was Hamoun Bin 3aama in the town still known as Hamoul where he is buried.

Hamous had two sisters: Hanneh and Elizabeth. Hanneh married Omran and gave birth to Mary. The mother of Peter is the sister of Omran.

In the year 64, Peter fled Rome after Niro escalated his persecution of the Christian, and settled in Babylon by the River Euphrates for a while. He wrote a letter to the community of Karkisia by the Euphrates River.  Peter travelled to Palestine and when the Jewish revolt (66 to 70 AC) started persecuting the Christian, Peter fled to Northern Galilee (Tyr district) in 67, but the Jews followed him and killed him by a blow on the head. Peter was 77 year-old.

The community of his ancestors in Hamoul buried him there by his mother in the town of Shama3, which is short for Shimon.  The upper story is one thousand year old, but the lower one is pretty ancient. Thousand of Moslems make the pilgrimage to Peter’s tomb every year, especially during the celebration of the 40 days of Hussein martyrdom.

An inscription on the two-story tomb reads: “Peace on the prophet of God, peace on you Shimon Safa, peace on you and on the prophet of God…” People in that region have a saying: “O Shimon Safa, your secret has not disappeared”

Shimon and his brother Andrew were fishermen and threw the net in Lake Tiberiad (Tabaraya).  Before Tiberiad, they learned the profession of fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, in current south Lebanon.

Most of Jesus disciples were close cousins and close relatives from the district of Tyr (Lebanon):  This should come as no surprise for normal people.  As Jesus was standing trial, all the disciples huddled in a remote house and dared not step out for a week.  The disciples were scared, but mostly ashamed for following this “insane cousin of them” who kept his silence and refused to defend himself.  An insane cousin who ended up crucified like common criminals, between two confirmed criminals. An insane cousin who had no one to support him after a “King” entrance to Jerusalem a week ago, mounted on a donkey! An insane cousin they had high expectation to becoming an important personality and honoring the extended family back in upper Galilee in the district of Tyr (current south Lebanon).

People are suckers for stories. When a person likes a story, the story takes a life of its own.  What if the story is loved by 2 billion people (Christians and Moslems)?

The story goes that attitudes changed after Jesus reappeared to the disciples…and Peter was not crucified in Rome, upside down, as the Church of Rome found it convenient as a credible story…

Note: This post was inspired by an article by Hala Homsi in the daily Al Nahar. The reference is author Ali Dawood Jaber “Shimon Safa: the in-between Christianity and Islam”

Why salaries not rising with companies’ profits?


A trader walks past a display screen
The gap between medium and low-income earners and those at the top of the UK’s pay scale began to widen years before the global economic crisis began.
Pay for ordinary workers has not kept up with economic growth and rising company profits. Duncan Weldon, senior economist at the Trades Union Congress, stated several reasons.

Have you noticed how your boss seems to be doing quite well, but your own pay is stagnating?

The cost of living is going up, but your wages are not keeping pace?

It is easy to blame the recession, but you may be surprised to hear that the trend for weak wage growth predates it.

The British BBC is trying to explain why salary is not increasing.

“Pay for ordinary workers had flatlined before the current global financial crisis began. (Continue reading the main story)

Duncan Weldon, senior economist at the Trades Union Congress, stated several reasons: “Essentially the workforce has been separated from the proceeds of growth… and at an accelerating rate

Stewart Lansley,  author of ” The Cost of Inequality” wrote: “Research by the think tank  and The Resolution Foundation, which focuses on people of modest-to-low incomes, reveals that between 2003 and 2008, there was a pay freeze for people earning the median wage or less.

James Plunkett, of The Resolution Foundation, said: “We saw almost no wage growth for those in the middle-income bracket and below despite the fact that the UK economy grew by 11% in that period

Basically, little of the economic growth of recent years found its way into the pay packets of ordinary people. A large part of it went into company profits and to the very top earners.

Why This growing pay divide?

Since the 1970s there have been major structural changes in the British economy.

The impact of the globalisation of production and technological advances since that time have combined to radically change the nature of the labour market.

The financial sector accounts for much of the UK’s wages growth of the past two decades

Some jobs have simply vanished, either replaced by machines or outsourced to lower cost countries.

Other jobs have been made much more productive – a financial trader armed with a quick internet connection is able to make a lot more money than one reliant on a telephone and fax machine.

In fact, it is estimated that around 80% of the UK’s wage growth in the last 20 years has been in the finance sector.

Matt Oakley of Policy Exchange wrote: “By giving tax credits, this allows firms to actually pay less wages than it would do otherwise. It acts as a kind of firm subsidy, reducing wages”

Some analysts refer to this as the ‘hollowing out’ of the labour market. The idea is that the old middle-income jobs have gone and what is left are either very highly skilled, highly paid jobs at the top or low skilled, low paid ones at the bottom, like in retail and the care sector.

Throughout the 1980s, a larger share of national income started to flow to those at the top of the earnings ladder as they disproportionately benefited from the increases in productivity brought by globalisation and technology.

Earnings for those at the top rose at a much faster pace than for those in the middle and at the bottom.

From the late 1990s, that trend became even more pronounced, with the top 3% of earners starting to detach themselves from everyone else.

Some argue that these trends alone do not tell the whole story. Technology and globalisation are obviously important factors but other forces are at work, too.

They point to the fact that these wage discrepancies are less marked in other advanced western economies, suggesting that governments can do something to influence them, either through the tax system or through a better minimum wage – or indeed that stronger unions can negotiate better deals for the workforce.

How did we get this False sense of wealth?

The notion that median wages, (the cut-off line between 50% of the population wages) were not growing in the five years running up to the fall of Lehman Brothers may seem odd.

Duncan Weldon presents Analysis on BBC Radio 4 on Monday, 20 February and said:  “People did seem to feel better off at the time and, indeed, now look back on it with something approaching nostalgia.

Whilst wages were not going up for many, other factors were mitigating this – house prices were rising, making home owners feel wealthier, credit was easily available and the system of tax credits topped up the income of lower earners.

Yet policy analysts on the centre-right think the generosity of the welfare state encouraged companies to pay less”.

Matt Oakley points to the rise of “in-work benefits” introduced under the last Labour government:

“The tax credit system spanned households with incomes of up to around £55,000 ($87,000), so a large chunk of households were taking tax credits home.

“There’s been some evidence it can have an adverse effect… by giving tax credits, this allows firms to actually pay less wages than it would do otherwise. It acts as a kind of firm subsidy, reducing wages.”

Gavin Kelly of The Resolution Foundation said: “It will take a long time for many households to recover the position that they had previously attained prior to the recession. We’re looking towards 2020… and that’s assuming that the economy does recover”

It is important to remember that wages, although very important, are only one part of household incomes. A two-earner couple with children will have an income made up of two sets of wages, child benefit and possible tax credits and interest from savings.

Through the 1980s and 90s, the entry of more women into the labour market was a major driver of household incomes as second wages topped-up family budgets. In the 2000s, the introduction of tax credits did the same.

So the question is  “is there anything else that is going to drive up household income in the next ten years”?

With the tax credit system being scaled back and with childcare costs preventing many women increasing their working hours to boost household income, it may well be that wages will become a more important factor in increasing incomes.

The problem is that they show little sign of growth at the moment.

If the economy does return to growth, one key question is: “who benefits from it? Will it resemble the growth of the 2000s and flow to those at the top and into company profits or will ordinary people get their fair share?”

Without the alleviations of a generous tax credit system, a high increase in the number of two-earner couples or cheap credit, wage growth will be crucial in driving living standards higher.

Note: Related stories The new world of work; Earnings fail to cover inflation; Explore the Analysis archive




February 2012

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