Brand Dyslexia Declared ‘Epidemic’

Dec. 8, 2072
ATLANTA–The Center for Consumer Diseases today announced the official classification of Brand Dyslexia Disorder, or BDD, as an “epidemic.” The change in classification frees up federal funding for round-the-clock research and steps-up authorization for nation-wide epidemiological studies. “The acceleration in the spread of BDD is alarming and unprecedented,” notes CCD Head of Syndromal Illness Research Dr. Evelyn Ditch. “The re-classification is meant to mobilize the research community in hopes of containing and treating this debilitating disease.”

BDD is a progressive disorder affecting the ability of its victims to perceive and remember the correct relationship between brands and branded objects. People suffering from BDD often have difficulty picking out objects according to their brand preference. At later stages, victims consistently confuse branded objects with other, nearby branded objects. “At first it seemed almost amusing, and didn’t happen that often,” explains Robert Lilo, afflicted with BDD for the past 18 months. “Later on it would happen all the time. I’d be in the market, thinking I was grabbing Coke off the shelf only to get home and have my wife explain to me that I’d actually got Pepsi. Now it happens at home, too. I’ll think I’m putting TIDE in the machine, when I’m really putting in Liquid-Plumr.”

Little is known about the causes of BDD, but early research suggests the disorder is linked to excess stimulation of a region of the brain’s limbic area known as “Folgers Region” and associated with brand perception and processing. CCD’s Ditch explains: “In BDD, we see excess neural firing in the Folgers Region, almost to the point of seizure. In addition to neural hyper-activity, patients afflicted with BDD typically have much more neural development in the Region, leading some of us to suspect that there may be a genetic marker for predisposition to BDD.”

Though currently classed with other neurochemically rooted perceptual and learning disorders in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IX, BDD’s recent infectious spread has experts concerned that the disorder is contagious. Statistical “regression analysis” of the timing and distribution of reported cases has suggested that BDD has more in common with the flu than with other psychiatric diseases.

Amid speculation that BDD is spread by a conventional infectious agent, at least one BDD researcher has suggested, instead, that the disorder may be caused by excessive viewing of brand advertising and branded media. “We might imagine, at some point, a sort of saturation of the brain’s ability to process brands,” notes Johns Hopkins Professor of Clinical Psychiatry Dr. Josef Blitz. “The brain becomes over-programmed. The brands are too deeply embedded, ossifying the Folgers Region, paralyzing the brain’s ability to respond to new brand stimulus. This theory would explain the epidemiology we see. In the same way that an individual brain reaches a saturation point, so too might a population. The more branded media we dump into the population, the more BDD will spread.”

Some public health officials have expressed misgivings about the CCD’s BDD re-classification. “I question whether this decision was made based on the health threat posed by BDD, or by the threat it poses to the advertising industry,” notes longtime CCD critic Dr. Lilly Labour. “BDD has gotten an awful quick response from the administration for a something that’s not life threatening. Is this the government spending health dollars to protect the health of real people, or to protect the health of American brands?”

Oprah Enters Public Domain, Fans Mourn

Oct. 28, 2075
CHICAGO–In a blow to billions of hopeful fans worldwide, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Oprah Winfrey has entered the public domain and is no longer entitled to continued existence as a protected trademark. The decision is the most recent development in Oprah’s decades-long legal struggle to maintain the corporation’s privity with its founder. “We’re down, but not out,” declared Oprah lead counsel David Boies shortly after the decision was announced. “We’ll continue to push for appropriate Congressional action on the issue, and we have papers under consideration at WIPO. This is not over.”

Though speculation remains concerning the broader implications of the Court’s ruling in the case, legal experts agree that the decision has killed Oprah. Harvard Law Professor Yasmine Yarble explains: “The fundamental problem is that corporations typically have perpetual existence, while people do not. Oprah the legal entity has outlived Oprah the physical entity. The managers and shareholders have an understandable interest in maintaining that Oprah is still legally alive. That’s what this case is about. That’s what these past twelve years of litigation have been about.”

Over a dozen or so years, and in over twenty litigations, Oprah has sought to maintain that its continued corporate existence perpetuates that of its founder. Until a binding arbitration resolved the matter last year against it, the company had maintained that the stipulation in Oprah’s bylaws that “each security, note, and debenture certificate issued by the Company” be embossed with “a security and authentication stamp” including a freeze-dried “cell of the Founder” was sufficient to establish privity between the company and the star, and to entitle the company to “the continued enjoyment of the legal rights and privileges” of the beloved mogul.

The company continues to argue that the widespread adoption of the “O Chromosome”–a genome supplement encapsulating each of Oprah’s SNiPs and distributed through lickable add-in cards in birthday issues Oprah’s popular magazine properties–constitutes a de facto perpetual “life” for Oprah as part of the genome of her fans and their descendants.[p]
Recently the company had pinned its hopes on the theory that her continuing value as a brand was sufficient to establish “life” for legal purposes, and had won a sympathetic hearing in Illinois probate courts and, on appeal, in the Illinois Supreme Court. The latest U. S. Supreme Court ruling, however, undermined that theory by refusing to recognize the company’s proprietary interests in her name, likeness, and associated trademarks. In a per curiam opinion, the Court announced that “‘oprah’ has, despite the apparent best efforts of appellant, become an ubiquitous and generic part of the language and has hence been constructively abandoned to public use.”

The consequences of the ruling for the company are many. Not only will the corporation lose its most important entertainment property, but it is also likely to face heady estate taxes as it struggles to recharacterize itself as a trustee of Oprah’s estate. The company will also face complex and contested probate proceedings, including a number of unconsolidated class-action claims by bearers of the “O Chromosome” that their genetic relation to the star entitles them to a slice of the estate.

The company, further, must “write down” the portion of its assets attributable to the Oprah brand, a move sure to decimate the company’s market capitalization. “Most of these celebrity corporations carry a huge amount of goodwill on the books,” explains Jupiter Analyst Amanda Freeh. “That goodwill represents the value of celebrity. It’s typically the firm’s chief asset. If you lose it, the market will come after you with a vengeance.”

Reaction outside the financial community was more positive, with votes of support and sympathy pouring into Oprah’s Chicago headquarters. Speaking at a candlelight vigil outside the headquarters, Geraldine Creak, Oprah CEO and author of ‘Awaken the Corporation Within,’ remembered Oprah fondly, and called for fans to “Buy and Hold the Oprah within” and to continue to pursue an “IPO of the Spirit.”

Sperm Warfare ‘Realistic Threat,’ Study Concludes

Feb. 14, 2012
SANTA MONICA–A recently released RAND Corporation study identifies Sperm Warfare tactics as the most “realistic threat to the morale of American Troops deployed in forward and danger areas.” The report, commissioned by the U. S. Department of Defense, calls for U. S. officials to seek emendations to the International Biological Weapons Convention clarifying the weapons status of reproductive gene therapies.

Sperm Warfare tactics involve the strategic deployment of aerosol-borne, non-pathological, asymptomatic “Cuckoo” viruses affecting the genetic content of human spermatozoa. The “Cuckoos” lurk in the vas deferens, attacking newly formed sperm cells and replacing their genetic material with DNA designated by the virus programmer. In the eyes of proponents, these “Cuckoos” do no “damage” and are not “weapons” covered by the Convention because they merely replace the victim’s DNA with the complete, healthy DNA of another man.

“Sperm Warfare really is more a form of propaganda than of physical attack,” explains RAND research associate Tigre Fielding. “It targets morale. You let the enemy know that you are using these tactics–announce that all of their children will, genetically, be related to somebody from the other side, even to some enemy leader–then deploy the cuckoos secretly. Soldiers might hesitate before killing the fathers of their own children. Either that or they’ll be afraid of having to raise a brood of little Hitlers later on.”

Originally developed as a “peace keeping” technology to be deployed in regions threatened with ethnic and racial violence, customized “Cuckoo” viruses with “offensive functionality” are reportedly either in production or under development in military labs worldwide. Refined versions of the viruses more effectively evade detection both during deployment and once inside the body. The RAND report warns additionally of a new class of “Stealth Cuckoos” that piggyback on reproductive cells, camouflaging their genetic contents with a “ghost” copy of the original DNA accurate enough to fool most widely available genetic tests.

Defense Department officials responded to the RAND report by issuing a new set of standing orders and practices to be followed in the event a Sperm Warfare attack is indicated. Soldiers in affected zones immediately don protective masks and manually induce ejaculation until given the all clear. Ejaculation in the minutes after exposure has been reported to dramatically decrease infection rates.

Asked about the new orders, most soldiers declared themselves resolved to do their duty. “You get over the awkwardness of the situation pretty quickly,” explains Pvt. Jake Reede. “We have to do what we have to do to respond to the threat. My only real problem is the constant drilling. I’m worn out.”

McDonald’s New ‘Surplus Value Menu’ Pays You To Eat

July 13, 2067
OAK BROOK, IL–In yet another example of the through-the-looking-glass pricing schemes that have become popular among consumer products bellwethers over the past 18 months, McDonald’s announced today that it will begin paying its customers to eat select combinations of its menu items. Starting August 1, customers ordering from the new “Surplus Value Menu” will also receive cash payments ranging from $.15 to $1.45. The flagship of the new menu, the “Big Mac Surplus Value Meal,” including a Big Mac Classic sandwich, french fries, and a branded soft drink, costs the customer nothing, and comes, instead, with a cash payment of $.99.

“A number of related insights lead to the development of the ‘Surplus Value’ strategy,” explains McDonald’s Marketing VP Friedrich Shank. “The first is that we live in an attention economy, and in an attention economy you pay for eyeballs, or, in our case, stomachs. The second, and more important, is that consumers with more money buy more. Ford kept wages high so that his workers could afford to be his customers. We’re taking that one step further and paying our customers so that they can afford to be our customers. A huge percentage of our potential worldwide market continues to live at the subsistence level and can’t afford our products. This new strategy will bring them into the McDonald’s fold.”

Fielding questions from concerned investors, Shirley Wheere, McDonald’s IR Chief, noted that “McDonald’s is adopting this new strategy from a position of market strength. We continue to dominate the quick-service and education channels. The ‘Surplus’ strategy aims at top-line growth, from which we expect notable bottom-line follow-through.”

“Sure, I’m concerned,” opines independent industry analyst Orna Kincklenum. “Whenever you see something like this it gives you pause. Dramatic loss leader pricing is a desperate measure. You don’t amputate the limb unless it’s about to fall off anyway.”

Economic and business theorists characterize strategies like the “Surplus Value Menu” as attempts to “extract internal value from negative enterprise externalities.” Harvard economist J. Yis Prudome explains: “The classic example would be the relationship between a polluter and a company that supplies clean-up equipment and services. If, by polluting, I make business for the clean-up guys, I can partner with them, both to tailor my pollution in order to make their clean-up more efficient, and, more importantly, to get payment in exchange for agreeing to continue polluting and making more clean-up business. To understand how a company like McDonald’s can afford to do something like this, you just have to ask yourself who, outside the firm, benefits when people eat more Big Macs? That’s who’s paying you to eat them.”

Others tie the McDonald’s announcement to its recent retention of FeedBank, the financial services and consulting subsidiary of temporal networking giant Futurefeedforward. “If you look at the SEC filings of all of the companies who’ve announced something like this in the past year,” points out Plum Difference, director of investor and consumer advocacy group FIGHT, “you’ll see that all of them partnered with or hired FeedBank in the months preceding the change in business strategy: BP, International Paper, MT&T, all of them. FeedBank pushes the idea that the time value of money is about to reverse, that future dollars are worth more than present dollars. What’s happening is that FeedBank is helping the big guys pawn-off their present dollars on an unsuspecting public.”

The Surplus Value Menu will be available, beginning August 1, and for the foreseeable future, at participating McDonald’s franchises worldwide.