Belfast Telegraph

Why I do not believe these global brands are real thing

By Nuala McKeever

Apart from being the setting for the final scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I doubt if most of us ever give Bolivia a second thought. But this week it hit the headlines when one of its government ministers declared that when the Mayan calendar ends on 21.12.12 he hoped it would be the end of Coca Cola in his country.

This was widely reported as "Bolivia is expelling Coca Cola". It's not.

This was a personal desire from one of its ministers that the auspicious date would not be the end of the world, as some doomsayers are predicting, but rather the end of an era of capitalism and the beginning of a new era of communitarianism.

Now, I've nothing in particular against Coke. I don't much like the drink and I guess every company is entitled to extend its reach as far as it can in the world. But I really hope this guy's wishes come true.

He's calling for less domination by one brand and a return to people supporting individualism, local products, an identity based on what's at hand, not what's imported.

There will always be a debate between local and global. If we go local, are we being parochial? If we embrace global are we being homogenised?

Everyone will have a different idea of where the happy medium lies.

For me, I'd be delighted to go somewhere in the world and NOT find a Coke tin lying on the ground. I doubt this is now possible, except in perhaps some extreme outreaches of Antarctica and the Himalayas. But nearly everywhere in the world, Coca Cola is recognised.

What's wrong with that? Well, it's simply the whole blandness of the unibrand everywhere. It makes our brains lazy. We become sheeplike.

Big labels like Coke and Mc Donalds put the "Baaa" into braaaand.

We get the same logo and we reach for it unthinkingly. No change, no challenge, no imagination.

And it's all so processed. No connection to the root of the product. I think of the kids on the Jamie Oliver school dinner programme who couldn't identify vegetables like carrots and potatoes.

They eat them in french fries form but they don't realise these skinny salty things actually started out in the earth. Hell, they probably don't even know what earth looks like.

The beauty of the one world coming together is evident in the Olympics. For a few seconds we can forget wars and inequalities and rejoice in brilliance.

But the downside goes on for longer than a few seconds. It's constant.

In Devon, the town of Totnes has just agreed to let Costa Coffee open a cafe. Up until now, they have prided themselves on having no big chains.

There are currently 41 independent coffee houses in the place and a lot of annoyance that this spirit of individualism is about to be encroached upon by one of the Big Brands.

There is an inevitability that the bigger the corporation, the more removed its chiefs become from its customers. Motives change from making a decent living by offering a service, to making huge profits by whatever means possible. Just look at the banking system.

I raise a glass to the Bolivian minister's dream. A glass of something that doesn't need a big brand or logo to taste delicious.


From Belfast Telegraph