When I was growing up print, television and radio advertisements often used comparisons between their Brand (i.e. Ivory Soap) and Brand X. Brand X was meant to not directly poke the competition and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) did not favor this which is why companies no longer portray the competition as Brand X.
With the United States and much of the world trying desperately to recover from a sustained recession, comparing oneself to Brand X could offer some consolation. Although I’ve never actually met a North Korean, my impression is that these poor people (and that is entirely meant as a double-entendre) would not relish being thought of as a Brand-X country. Meaning the one that people compare their country to in order to tell themselves – ‘Hey it could be worse’.
But North Korea does not appear (to me) to even qualify as Brand-X. Yet to most of the western world Kim Jong-Il and North Korea have a very distinctive brand identity. They are the bad guys. Nothing middle-of-the road there. Ask anyone you know about North Korea and I can almost guarantee the response will not be anything like ‘Oh North Korea is not really that bad – Kim Jong-Il is just misunderstood…’
I think that Kim Jong-Il enjoys playing the villain. He has a stranglehold on North Korean politics, is grooming his youngest son to be the next ‘President’ (i.e. in this case autocrat), and most recently appears by all accounts to have decided to stir up the pot by torpedoing a South Korean warship. That coupled with North Korea’s insistence on developing nuclear warhead capabilities, make Mr. Kim and by extension, North Korea, the Darth Vader of the world community.
Being the ‘bad guy’ can be a very unique and profitable brand (think of what Vince McMahon has done with WWF!). It’s easy and even fun to position the antithesis to good by identifying what is perceived as evil. That’s all fine and dandy when we are talking about entertainment. But the oppression, hard-line and totalitarianism exhibited by North Korea is devastating to its own people, extremely serious, and downright scary. Mr. Kim might be the most dangerous man in the world today. And that’s a brand identity as well.
I just wish that were not the case.