The country of vampires : how bad branding sticks to you

After surviving the Communism era, the Romanians went on a crusade of finding meaning in their lives and redefining themselves.

So the collective eyes went after Dracula for meaning, since he is eternal and an indisputable symbol. But it’s bad for branding! Well, at least it’s a more authoritarian [and hence respectable] type of figure than the spongmonkeys in the image below.

And yeah, vampires do exist! Remember those life-sucking relatives of yours? Or those friends of yours that you aren’t friends with anymore? “Vampire genes”.

Quiznos Gods of #BadBranding

Or at least this was an amusing way to bond with a client from Texas, that was all cowboys and pistols. So long live the stereotypes, because they shelter us from deeper meaning.

We clearly aren’t the first to be victims of #badbranding as you can see above.

Problem was that in order to find meaning in our lives, it took the pains of birth in order to start to articulate words and emotions, considering the extreme censorship that existed previously.

And we seem to be still struggling to weed out the hate from any popular speech or at least from its reactions.

In a way it’s funny and it’s still joked around today: you couldn’t say anything against the country’s rulers, you had to obey or you risked your freedom and now you can say anything and it still doesn’t matter — things don’t seem to be improving by talking alone. Well, no, unless you’re #GaryVee or some other figure that has #goodbranding.

But what happens when you have #badbranding?

Well, I guess that in a newly post-trumpian era, that would actually be a good thing, because — hey! — we found out that all publicity is good publicity.

So #badbranding sticks to you.

We didn’t actually quite get that then and I don’t think we’re brave enough to embrace it yet, since it shatters parts of our self-esteem.

The seek for meaning that Romanians did actually had a nice journey of stumbling upon Dracula as a leading figure. Why? Because everybody knows Dracula ! So at least everybody heard of Transylvania and some of the more chosen ones can actually find it on a map.

A funny quote about Geography from Mark Twain, which I’ll present in an “extended version” - is something like: God invented war so that people would learn geography.

And if you’re in the Northern hemisphere, you can probably exchange the “people” part with your own nationality easily. It’s more obvious with the Northern hemisphere, since a lot of Empires emerged from there.

Although, I think we weren’t the conqueror type. That archetype didn’t actually shine in this region, and when it did, it sort of became this transcendental figure of defending a border against other offending Empires.

Being castrated for 50+ years in the Communism, only made us thirstier for other authoritarian figures, the Messiah types, that would come and save us from our misery and give us purpose, somewhere from outside of us.

Problem is that everyone was also hungry for what they didn’t have. And probably, on top of that they felt betrayed because they learned new ways of how much better their life could have been earlier.

So everybody started competing with everybody, like a tacit war of man against man, family against family, region against region, that bore politicians, business-men and everyday average Joes that needed to make a sense out themselves — so they started accumulating money or at least fought for survival, but mostly everything was weighted in terms of this amount of money.

But what happens when you go out into the Western world — “the civilized world” as some of us still call it — and then see that people don’t care who you are and how much you’re making? Heck! People don’t care about you anyway, since they probably find it hard to care about themselves.

Well — you need something of eternal value — enter Dracula.

But this aura of meaning has been extended to other new emblematic figures in football ( Gheorghe Hagi ), gymnastics ( Nadia Comaneci ), medicine ( insulin — Nicolae Paulescu), aviation ( Henri Coanda ), cybernetics ( Stefan Odobleja) and a lot of others and now even tennis ( Simona Halep).

The way this works is that we feel proud if things go well, like we contributed in an invisible way, and then feel betrayed if things go bad. Yes — this is a button. “What does this button do?” — seems funny when it’s a cartoon, seems hard to find out, when you can’t detach the button.

I mean — YES — no doubt about it — we had some incredible contributions to the human race through those remarkable persons — but HEY! so did every other remarkable person!

We’re in this together. It’s called Earth — you probably heard of it. Even if you hitchhiked your way here — you know it’s a little blue speck in the ocean of life.

Or at least we should be in this together….

The problem with defining part of your being with the accomplishments of others is that — well, for starters — they’re NOT yours. Direct experience trumps the story of someone else’s experience and if feels better — a.k.a. in a “real life” type of way.

Repeat after me. Experience is the new sexy. Everybody’s saying it, but who’s doing it?

So although the country of vampires was an incredibly peculiar way of defining a group of people, like an obnoxious sticker masochistically applied to the forehead whenever we wanted to get appreciation outside the borders, we somehow managed to have a self-fulfilling prophecy.

After all, our culture is rooted in mythology all the way to Christ and beyond.

But vampirism is in essence a way of draining resources from one part to another and we’ve done that in a number of ways:

  1. we’ve collectively managed to drain the country of some of the most work dedicated people (an estimated 14% / 3 mil. emigrated), which in turn made us be defined as very hard-working and responsible in the eyes of foreign people and that in turn boosted part of the economy.
  2. we’ve collectively managed to pursue an agenda of “non-uniform economic development” ( to be politically correct), where — as it happens in places around the world — richer get richer, poorer get poorer (as an average) — and although this is a tough reality, but it’s still better than 2/3 of the world anyway — and we should be more grateful
  3. our competitive nature made us do some great progress, but in turn made us have a sort of follower mentality — it’s like we’re looking towards our “bigger brothers” over borders or seas and we’re thinking doing generalizations : “when will we have an infrastructure like X and Y?”, “when will we have safe hospitals?”, “when we’ll we have performance obsessed government workers, that are actually nice to you?”, “when will the corruption disappear?” etc. — which only denotes a lack of resilience or perseverance, because of the “definitive” way of asking a sort of “one shot” type of question
  4. whenever possible, we made virtual citadels as a refuge from what’s happening, which is especially true if the market you’re serving is international — so some sectors are booming — such as the IT sector — but also if you’re working with corporations — and this made us reputable as good professionals, a little self-entitled between each other and dreamy about the future. But at the same time, we need to move from outsourcing to product creation, lean approaches, design thinking and value adding at a global scale.

Weird thing is some of us are trying to build stuff, but we’re still the sons of our parents and that makes us feel we’re in competition or worse — that what we’re doing is better or that it’s the only thing.

Mythology is deeply rooted in our culture. But you know what else rhymes with mythology? Pathology!

And unless we choose “the right eternal archetypes” and find a way to make them worthwhile incarnating during this lifetime, we’ll be still a shadow of doubt, that will fade away in history’s memories.