Brand Crisis

  • June 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm


I googled the word “crisis”.

There are about 359,000,000 pages that feature the word. Give or take a million, I assume.

I narrowed my search by selecting “news”. I assume it means mentions in the media. It suggests recent coverage. There are 47,500 news articles.

When I narrow the date range to in the last month I get 74,000 results. The past week’s count is 89,500. The past 24 hours – 88,800. Past hour – 112,000.

I have no idea why you get more returns as you narrow the time frame.

I had to chuckle at the first news article, at the time of my search:

Coconut milk crisis as supermarkets run dry - Harry Wallop - ?20 minutes ago?

A global shortage of coconut milk has led to empty supermarket shelves, leading to a crisis for middle-class gourmets hoping to whip up a Thai curry this weekend. By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs

Quick, act now! Stock up on coconut milk.

I shouldn’t laugh. For a lot of people, not being able to grab a can of coconut milk might be a serious matter. A crisis, I think not.

Looking through the first few dozen pages of search returns I am led to believe that there are crises going on in footy teams, sport governance, recruitment efforts, and local kindergartens in parts of the U.S, to name just a few examples.

Even Europe has its very own crisis – the European Crisis, as it is imaginatively branded. Not that this is so special. Dozens of countries have a crisis named after them. Libya, Yemen, Syria, and other traditional hotspots have their own unique and all-encompassing crisis. Some of these nations seem to have been in crisis for a long time, some decades.

Of course, most crises reported are economic. Environmental, health, and morality are all close behind.

Heading further down into the search returns, one can find all manner of slightly amusing crises. Of course, I am sure each situation, a.k.a. crisis, is not the best thing for the people involved. But, a crisis, I think not.

All this talk of crises makes one think about the psychology of the human race. It seems certain that we are not a half-glass full species. We are surely not even glass half empty. We seem to be a glass empty bunch.

Or more correct perhaps, we are a “glass empty and going to blow up in your face” mob.

Of course, if we take a pure dictionary definition of crisis, it means a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined. A crisis is a turning point.

But in the way it is used on the nearly half a billion pages across the web, it often means that everything is dire, at dangerous levels, and about to collapse.

There are several things that worry me about our maniacal obsession with crises.

Firstly – the effect on the children. If all us adults seem to talk about is the end of the world, or part thereof, what are kids to think? I think it’s a form of global child abuse.

I worry about the effect on us as individuals.

As consumers of these endless dire straits, we must get affected. We must feel less light. It must bring us down, in some way.

What about all the people living their lives in the middle of the crises? Obviously there are the journalists who write about this stuff. Do they take their work home, even subconsciously, and create their very own personal crisis?

Then there are the sources of most of the crises. To put them in one big pen, I will call them pressure groups. They are often the ones that first attach the term “crisis” and disseminate the urgent matter to an eager media. Are these organisations corporate anxiety clusters?

What about all those political advisers and public servants? They are the people who will field the ultimate question – what are we going to do about it?

One can only imagine what it must be like for their bosses – the politicians. How can they possibly make good policy decisions if everything is in crisis?

One thing can be said for us humans, give us more time to think about something and we will probably come up with a better decision. Forced into a corner, cajoled to act immediately, we make bad decisions.

A key difference between considered and rushed decisions is the ability to ponder inadvertent outcomes. Acting in crisis mode must leave us more open to inadvertent outcomes. There is always a chance of collateral damage. Friendly fire is a potent potential outcome of crisis.

There must be bad policy outcomes that can be blamed fairly and squarely on the lack of time caused by a sense of crisis.

Sadly, we seem to have created a master brand – CRISIS. Sadder still, it seems to be a love brand, in a twisted way. We seem to like the steady diet of really huge problems.

If I was king, I would set up a crisis commission. People would only be able to use the word with the commission’s permission.

I would kick off a public information campaign that educates my subjects on the wondrous nature of life and the power of positive thinking.

After a suitable period of consultation, I would outlaw the word entirely.

I would aid the transition to a crisis-free community and economy with a little book that I would wave at my adoring flock. It would be called “The Golden Book”. The full title would be “The Official Guide To Other Words For Crisis.”

Each child would receive a copy of The Golden Book at birth.