Opinion

AIG: Corporate Welfare King Mouths Off

Most Americans know American International Group (AIG) as the global insurance behemoth that was so recklessly managed it had an outsized role in tanking the global economy.

Rather than feeling a bit humble for wreaking havoc on the lives of millions, AIG's new management is feeling rather cocky. Apparently AIG CEO Robert Benmosche has figured out the magic formula for selling insurance. Benmosche told Bloomberg News that he likes to do business in "red states" where the firm signs up more reliable customers than those in "more liberal" areas.

Egyptian Protests Expose Fraudulent U.S. "Spreading Democracy" Meme

The Egyptian people have exposed the great myth that prevails in the sphere of United States' foreign policy, namely that U.S. foreign policy elites are concerned with "spreading democracy."

That is because, as Hampshire College's Michael Klare has written, since 1945, the United States has maintained a foreign policy that is centered around "blood and oil." The foreign policy establishment often uses "democracy spreading" as a public relations platitude because it sounds much better than saying, "We went to war for oil." But caring about democracy goes out the window when one truly scrutinizes U.S. foreign policy through a critical lens. Sourcewatch calls this phenomenon Big Oil, Big Lies.

Why Facts No Longer Matter

nothinkingA recent PRWatch story discussed how corporations are increasingly turning to cause marketing to get around people's ability to tune out their daily deluge of advertising. Cause marketing, or "affinity marketing," is a sophisticated public relations strategy in which a corporation allies itself with a cause that evokes strong emotions in targeted consumers, like curing cancer, alleviating poverty, feeding the hungry, helping the environment or saving helpless animals. The relationship avails the company of a more effective way to grab the attention of their audience, by telling them compelling stories linked to the cause, for example tales of survival, loss, strength, good works, etc. Once the company gets your attention, it links its name and brands to the positive emotions generates by the cause. The company then leverages that emotion to get you to buy the stuff they've linked to the cause -- and improve its corporate image.

Cause marketing works, which is why its use is spreading like wildfire. The operative word that the whole idea turns on is "emotion," because the ability to manipulate people depends completely on generating an emotional connection that the company can exploit.

Who Really Benefits from Voluntary Corporate Codes of Conduct?

PinnochioA recent investigation by BBC Television showed British American Tobacco (BAT) violating its own voluntary marketing and advertising codes in Malawi, Mauritius and Nigeria. Contrary to BAT's public pronouncements that it doesn't want children to smoke, the company was caught using marketing tactics in these countries that are known to appeal to young people, like advertising and selling single cigarettes, and sponsoring non-age-restricted, product branded musical entertainment.

As trading has become more global and corporations have become more multinational, countries started discovering that they have little recourse to rein in the harmful behavior of corporations. As public clamor to regulate multinationals has grown, companies have increasingly responded by adopting "voluntary codes of conduct." But what are the real purposes for these codes? Are they just window dressing, or worse?

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