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Brand equity
25 Oct 2005

[Commented on the PCIJ Blog article "Corruption worsened in the Philippines"]

Mr. Duck, just referring to your post that was directed to me back in October 22, 2005 @ 1:08 am (see the following link):

First of all I think you exaggerate when you say that I harbour a belief that "the race has been divinely rigged against us" and that I therefore "offer[] no hope, only resignation". Whilst I believe that we were dealt a disadvantaged hand, my assertion is that we RECOGNISE that we were in fact dealt a disadvantaged hand (which is our achievement-incompatible culture) and formulate SOLUTIONS that are BUILT on these recognised REALITIES.

I never invoke God in any of my arguments. And when I say things like "we were dealt a disadvantaged hand", I mean that figuratively referring to the way nature randomly and impersonally dishes out its resources the way Jared Diamond discusses in his books. I think because Pinoys are inherently "ma-personal", they are unwilling to accept that whatever virtues or faults they possess is the work of a god who is either happy or angry with us respectively. I think enough is enough with this "it is everyone's fault (including God's) why we continue to languish in absolute fauilure". Let's start looking for more logical attitudes that are grounded on the virtue of PERSONAL and COLLECTIVE ACCOUNTABILITY.

You said that "I believe that “culture” is the repository of our ignorance, and that we must probe beyond this convenient, loaded, catch-all phrase."

Agree 100% and while I do come up with my own wacky theories about how we ended up with such a dysfunctional culture, I believe my mission in the world is highlighting these dysfunctions. The reason why I liberally quote stalwarts of scholarliness (i.e. those who possess the shiny medals and credentials that never fail to dazzle Pinoy minds) like Teddy Benigno, Nick Joaquin, various journalists, and thinkiers like Diamond and Fukuyama, is because they are supremely qualified to make the analyses they make on the WHY's.

And yes, people are motivated by incentives. Finding the right incentives to motivate Pinoys requires an understanding of the cultural fabric of our society. As I have demonstrated, I make use of one example of such incentives -- CREDENTIALS. Because Pinoys society is such a small-mindedly CREDENTIALIST society, I therefore need to resort to quoting big people to augment what I believe are my own arguments that are otherwise logically sound enough to stand up on their own logical merit. If you will notice I only need to invoke my favourite "Cite specific examples of..." challenges to drive detractors up the wall.

I do beg to differ on what you stated is a "flaw" in Joaquin's thinking, where you say that "Go to Italy or Germany or many of the northern European states, you will find that their industrial/commercial base was built on small businesses; many have remained small and profitable, relative to western enterprises."

If you will look at the products and merchandise built by these small Italian and German businesses, you will note the vastly superior quality and design of these products. Lamborghinis and Aston Martins are still hand-built in job shops the same way our jeepneys and ohner-type buggies are. But the astronimical prices that the former commands speak for themselves. A relative of mine visited us here in Sydney last month and one of their "pasalubongs" was a small wooden figurine of a quintessential Pinoy farm folk (sporting the classic salakot and katya garb). The first thing I noticed is the way the foot of the figurine was hastily glued onto its base and was starting to come off. And this was a product straight out of a box! How can we expect our products to command the respect (and therefore the $$) when we can't even build top-tier quality into the simplest of wooden merchandise??

Of course the Italian supercar automakers have more capital. But that capital was built up over the years as their products earned more respect, commanded more dollars, and consequently, increased their respective brand equities, which in turn catches the eye of astute investors. Capital is not something that magically happens. It is the result of the CREATION OF VALUE. And I won't blame you if this is a concept that is difficult to grasp because we are, after all, a people pathetically reliant on external capital infusion to sustain our domestic commerce (not to mention our international commerce).

Why do you think the Catholic Church is so good at fleecing its constituents for donations? You guessed it! BRAND EQUITY is at work here too. The Catholic Church happens to own one of the most valuable brands on the planet -- GOD HIMSELF. It owns the rights (at least in the eyes of Catholics) to the distribution and interpretation (into DOGMA) of the Word of God and the doctrine of papal infallibility once encapsulated this brand equity. It uses this brand in the same way another world class brand owner -- NIKE -- convinces people that shoes made for $10 in Vietnam are worth $200 to the average American consumer. Back in the middle ages in Europe, people used to BUY graces from the Church. Today in the Philippiens, there continue to be vestiges of such attitudes.

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