Secrets always titillate the imagination. Create interest. This may lead to increased sales, brand value enhancement, etc. Corporate management discovered this long ago. The apple’s story eventually led to many “Apple”-based brands. “The Big Apple” (New York City) and “Apple Incorporated”, the most valuable company by market capital.

Actually, the big secrets lie in the realms of politics, global finance, warfare and love affairs. Best to leave them buried. Any attempt to unearth them could lead to an unfortunate accident.

Remember the Wikileaks chap, Snowden, now ageing not so gracefully in the Ecuador Embassy in London. Technology has made assassinations super easy. Just place the “Hit order” on the dark web and pay by crypto.

The Coca-Cola Company partly started the secrecy fad. The famed Coke formula is in a fully guarded sealed vault at their headquarters in Atlanta, the USA. Visitors only get to glimpse into the strong room. Coca-Cola was once the most valuable brand in the world. It is still worth USD 72 billion but declining at 1% a year. All over Pakistan fake Cokes are said to be available without the formula.

Dr. Pepper, a niche product, went a step further. Their product formula is also top secret. The written formula has been cut through the middle. Each half has been stored in a sealed vault at different locations. Wow. The crown jewels are not that well-guarded.

Elon Musk has recently killed a bird – TWITTER. The brand was valued between USD 3 and 5 billion. He should have teamed up with Holland and Holland, the shot gun manufacturer. Co-branding is the latest thing.

One shot from the H&H barrel did the trick for the high-flying bird. The choice for the replacement brand, X, is dubious. ‘X’ marks the spot for buried treasure. X-rays. X-rated movies. Actually, Elon Musk will double his wealth and become the most powerful executive in corporate history. His “STARLINK” enterprise is cloaked in secrecy. STARLINK is playing a significant role in the Russian-Ukraine war. Many governments are worried. More to come.

Saudi Aramco was thinking of an IPO listing on the New York and London stock exchanges in 2014. The finances of Saudi Arabia are embedded in deep secrecy. The Saudi Aramco finances the Saudi Royal family.

Transparency could not be guaranteed. Saner counsel prevailed and the IPO was cancelled. Saudi Aramco is now contemplating a Riyadh- based listing. Sir Richard Branson created the eponymous “Virgin” brand, that now extends to dozens of products and services.

When the airline “Virgin Atlantic” opened their Pakistan office, around 2005, I was in the loop. Sadly, the airline has exited Pakistan. Nobody has been able to unearth the finances of the Virgin Group. Are they profitable? Stable? Or closed to bankruptcy? A big secret.

Big pharma has big secrets. The Covid pandemic can be described as the most recent. cover-up galore. An emerging industrial segment, climate change, is also rife with secrets and industrial espionage.

Going “Green” is full of pitholes. It is slowly emerging that the mineral ingredients seeding the “Green” boom might be more damaging than extracting Hydrocarbons.

Nestle is the biggest nutrition company in the world. By any measure Nestle is a great company. But two decades ago, suffering from corporate hubris, Nestle launched a baby formula claiming that the ingredients were secret but the product was superior to mothers’ milk. Public push back forced Nestle to withdraw this claim. And the various claims made by many candy manufacturers about dark chocolate being a (brain booster) have never been substantiated.

And then there is “Victoria’s Secret”. The lingerie brand was launched in the late 80s. The company flourished. Now, sadly it is in decline. The brand anchor “Victoria” was portrayed as a real person with a secret location and address.

Models and super models earned millions. When does a model become a super model? Our domestic modeling scene is great. More power to the ladies.

The real super model with a local heritage was Yasmeen Ghori. She was big time. Sleek, suave, svelte, alluring and much more; she walked the talk. After all she was the talk of the town. Be it New York, Paris or London.

But the real “Victoria Secret” hark back to the reign of Queen Victoria – the empress of the largest empire. The secret she was privy to would outclass those in the ultra-secret vaults of the Vatican. If a reporter had asked Empress Victoria about the secrets concealed in her ample bosom, she would have probably replied, “We are not amused”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Farooq Hassan

The writer is a former Executive Director of the Management Association of Pakistan


Comments are closed.

KU Sep 13, 2023 11:15am
An equally impressive business history of our companies is steeped in secrecy, BR should attempt research on this topic. Media has mostly focused on the success and exports of our industry but less talked about is their contribution to unequal pay structures, poor worker safety and health records, and the silent pollution and destruction of flora and fauna all over the country. But then, when a demon called corruption is ever present in society, this is a natural expectation.
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