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November 24, 2003

Global Branding with the greatest of human sense 

Last summer I took a week off at a Club Med. A funny thing happened. I met an American at dinner and our conversation turned to what is superpower (of a country or a global company or whatever). Coming from a humanitarian marketing definition that wants to profit by promoting the world to be a better place for people my definition of superpower was along the lines of : compete as much as you like with your strongest competitors but collaborate with the weakest who most desperately need help. Use your power to earn the goodwill of being the world’s most super. My American friend started with a conflicting definition : the superpower country, he said, is the one most able to strategise on how to profit from choosing where to go to war. At our initial conversations, and we had them at roundtables through 5 dinners and 5 lunchtimes, it was probably a jolly good thing that a few GOs (Gentil Officers) – Club Med Youth staff had sat down at our table as their job is to see that guests good humor is brought to every table. They did such a good job at moderating that guests from many other countries joined into the discussion of what is superpower, and though we couldn’t agree on anything, the American and I enjoyed each other’s company as people even if we couldn’t agree on any fundamental belief. My American comrade was a great wit- and superbrain alumni from Columbia University - with stories that made some people eyes pop out of their proverbial heads. It turned out incidentally that he was one of the leading technical management consultants to all sorts of American defence sectors.

Looking back on this I realise that I have a proposal for the next World Economic Forum or actually the world’s 20 CEO’s whose companies spend the largest global advertising budgets. Why not take over a Club Med for a week. Each go with 4 team members, say a financier, a brander , a risk expert and whomever is the responsibility or sustainability soul of your company. Invite 100 people from the NGOs and peace laureates of as your guests. Invite 100 people who represent the poorest countries at world trade talks. And invite 100 creative people: I’ll give an example in a footnote. Make the whole week a discussion of superpower branding. As well as your dinner tables, invite if he will, Harrison Owen ( and to open space beech parties on this theme too. By the end of the week you will have gone Beyond Branding to a place where your organisational systems will both compound much more wealth for long-term shareholders and much more responsibility around the world and engage every other stakeholder in win-wins. What’s more my friends you will find that you spent less money and burnt less of your valuable time than a week at the 2003 World Economic Forum on Trust (or that of 2002 on proximity with all the world’s stakeholders) where all the conversations are going one way from the podium instead of exploring every human common sense you could be in the middle of animating.

Footnote: Even if you didn’t get quite as far as I believe openness would take you in a week with your own top 20 brands: what if you’ve invite among the 100 creative 25 upcoming youth stars like Britain’s Alex parks recent winner of the BBC’s fame Academy to provide some of the entertainment as well as join in your open space beech parties. If you could convert 10 of these budding superstars into folk who also heroically took up world causes, the 21st C brandaid or is it bandaid that you would have set in motion would be a wonderful way of spinning mass media differently. ( I must state a self-interest : University of the Stars is a budding movement which I support amongst the world’s youth and women’s networks aimed at offering mentoring swaps on what upcoming superstars would like to learn (a virtual university for folk who have no time to go to a real one) where the exchange involves make a free guest appearance for a cause should they choose to adopt one).

You could also have great fun. One of the secrets of Open Space facilitators is that in between the hard work sessions where every self-organises tutorials on ideas to make a better world, we have time outs arranged by the world’s most extraordinary facilitators of spirit- eg a musician who can show you what fun it is to make music and dance in which everyone participates and the least capable performers get the most fun out of the experience.
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