Can a tiger beat an ox?

30 Dec

The ‘decade’ lists have begun, blithely ignoring the fact that the first decade of the 21st century will properly be over only on 31st December 2010. But ‘tis the time for lists, and the lists must be made, because one of the things ‘we have always done at this time’ is ‘make lists’.

A list of 2009  would be dotted with little heaps of ashes. There is precious little left to ‘ring out’, we’re all wrung out . But as practitioners of all things brands, this year was a year of textbook brand flameouts as more brands bit the dust. Lets hope 2010 will see some rise from the ashes.

One brand with a little to celebrate is Obama. He got a Nobel Prize on a very peculiar ground: the hope that he will deserve it someday. In making such a peculiar decision, the Nobel Committee invited upon itself a global debate on the Nobel brand, which included questions like: 1. Had they lost their minds? 2. Were they of any relevance any longer? 3. Why were they meddling in global geopolitics? But the cherry on the cake was the Obama acceptance speech: it was almost universally praised, making, as one commentator put it, the only case where the debate on a candidate deserving a Nobel Prize was overshadowed by the pleasure his acceptance speech caused. Perhaps the best commentary was from a cartoon: it showed Obama’s high-school-going daughter being granted a school graduation certificate just for the effort she was going to make in the coming years.

As it turns out, Obama the brand has proved to be a windfall for America the brand. Someone put some serious-looking arithmetic to it and estimated that brand America appreciated by about a trillion dollars in the first 11 months of Obama’s presidency.

Tiger Woods apparently played far afield of golf. A brand of such spiritual magnitude, he was Accenture’s global face as it attempted to scrub its own brand clean of the taint of Enron. The world watched aghast as his wife attacked him with – of all things – a golf club, and out tumbled a list of, at last count, 14 extra-marital dalliances. The mushrooming Tiger lists are appalling: one list is the total amount of money already earned by the tell-all women, which apparently is approaching 20 million dollars. Cue the obligatory Playboy brand – scheduled to feature one of the ladies n an upcoming issue. Tiger Woods had climbed to such a height, he was but a year ago credited with making it possible for America to take the idea of a black President seriously. His physical similarity with Obama (tall, trim, handsome, accomplished) was said to have been of incalculable advantage to the aspiring President. And now, as the tawdry tales tumble out, he is … is …. no longer the brand he was. Another count calculates that Tiger has lost US$200 million in just 5 weeks, it being the money that he will no longer receive from withdrawn brand sponsorships.

Closer home, Ramalinga Raju demonstrated a personal talent for skullduggery and fraud that is global in scope. Singlehandedly he evaporated more than US$1.4 billion worth of monetary value, dealt a body blow to the Indian software industry’s global reputation and put the careers of more than 50000 Indians in jeopardy. A world of lies came slithering to the surface, including the fantastic device of fictitious emails from fictitious customers to genuine Satyam employees expressing fictitious satisfaction with the genuine progress of the fictitious projects they were working on. 

The first anniversary of 26/11 came and went, and there seemed to be more feeling for the day outside India than inside India. The pain, terror and carnage is now overshadowed by Mumbai’s breezy insistence that it is a city of overcomers and go-aheaders. What happened to the shrill outrage, the lipstick and candlelight vigils, the twee Facebook groups and sundry citizen committees that sprang up? To imagine that a 17 million-strong city has apparently found closure and has breezed on so blithely, the surviving terrorist has now taken to telling the court patently frivolous stories and all he gets is amusement.

The festivals this year were all a damp squib. The celebrations happened out of habit, and necessity, not out of enthusiasm for happinesses gained. The note was one of a wan caution, the smiles a shade too late, the gaze a bit too bleak. Even the fireworks decided to have taken a call by themselves and kept their thuds and sparks one note lower than they were supposed to do. Everyone quietly agreed that we were all agreed that we should all pipe down.

Michael Jackson died a death he did not deserve. The film made of his preparations for the imminent tour was a critical and commercial hit, which is a perverse proof of the scale of the brand he had become in the musical universe. Despite the lunacy of his personal peccadilloes, the depth of his misfortunes, and the insinuations that he battled, his sound held a pristine place in the hearts of his fans, and the final outpouring of regret and compassion teaches us an important lesson in which people elected to relate to and remember the Michael of the music, not the Michael of the madness.

2010 holds some promise. Obama has officially announced an end to the recession and the financial pundits venture that this could trickle down to India in the second quarter. Advertising is venturing cautious forecasts of a genuinely double-digit year. We’re all entering the new year very very gingerly, and if you look around, everyone else is looking all around them very very cautiously. 2010 is apparently the Year Of The Tiger, and all we see on the businessscape are pussycats in two minds about chasing mice. Lets hope for at least some strong meows, if not a roar.

2009 was The Year Of The Ox. 2010 is The Year Of The Tiger. Will a beast of prey better a beast of burden?

One Response to “Can a tiger beat an ox?”

  1. Ram December 30, 2009 at 12:25 PM #

    Amazing alvin, i love the post. I know u r creative and i also know your words and expressions are powerful. But this post is an action replay of some of the major events of this globe and what makes it lot more interesting is your words and your expression. I am going to post your web link on my twitter..! Wish to read more form you. Happy twenty ten , a new year with a difference. 2010.

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