Raise your voices in a corporate chorus
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Thursday 19 July 2012
The humiliation of G4S is complete: the public has discovered the shamed security firm's in-house anthem, cowering in a corner of the internet – and it is predictably ghastly: "The enemy prowls, wanting to attack/ But we're on the wall, we've got your back," growls a Nickelbackalike singer. "G4S! Protecting the world/G4S! So dreams can unfurl."
The corporate song may seem a bizarre medium, but its purpose is no different from a national anthem: it projects values, fosters collective spirit, inspires pride and positivity in the company's employees. Or it would, if it was any good. Sadly, most examples inspire little but derision. Take "Excel and Exceed", a 2008 composition commissioned by pharma giant Pfizer: "Excel and exceed, in our drive to succeed/ Pfizer stands united, we were born to lead!" You really have to hear it.
The so-called "Big Four" accounting firms compete in this field as fiercely as in business, from Ernst & Young's "Oh Happy Day" ("Oh Happy Day/When Ernst & Young showed me a better way") to KPMG's "Global Strategy" ("KPMG, we're strong as can be, a team of power and energy/We go for the gold, Together we hold on to a vision of global strategy"). PricewaterhouseCooper has two anthems: lighter-waving ballad, "Your Worlds, Our People" and old-school hip-hop travesty "Downright Global".
Some companies prefer to keep the lyrical content vague, such as management consultancy firm McKinsey: "We are M C K C, McKinsey knowledge centre/Nanananananananana." Others like to invest their internal singalongs with useful information, such as American Express, whose anthem includes a list of their service offerings: "Credit cards, charge cards, travel and loans/We're one of 30 companies on the Dow Jones."
The trend isn't restricted to US and UK companies. "Ah, Fujitsu, oh tomorrow is our goal," claims the Japanese IT firm's employee song. Russia's gas behemoth Gazprom boasts an anthem by Vladimir Tumayev, director of its subsidiary, Spetsgazavtotrans. "Let's drink to you, let's drink to us," suggests Tumayev's (translated) chorus, "Let's drink to all the Russian gas." Nor is it a contemporary phenomenon. IBM's "Ever Onward" was composed and sung by the firm's workers as early as the 1930s. "Our reputation sparkles like a gem/ We've fought our way through/And new fields we're sure to conquer, too/ For the ever onward IBM!"
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