Step Right Up!
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Exciting developments came from the world of marketing this month with the introduction of an intriguing new product designed to repair the reputation of American business. It's called Corporate Responsibility, and all indications are that it will be hot. Whether it has a long- term shelf life remains to be seen, but as a high-profile launch it's certainly off to a good start.

Corporate Responsibility was given a massive kickoff by the President of the U.S. himself, who rolled out not only the concept but also the simple, elegant, brand-identity treatment.

With his usual focus, passion, and preparation, the President stood in front of a curtain festooned with the words CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY. This method of making sure the public knows what the President is talking about is now state of the art at the White House, and marketing gurus agree that it's a lot more effective than a blank curtain.

There was some grumbling in fussy journalistic circles about the President's suitability as a spokesperson. It was pointed out by the professional party poopers that the President himself has not always been in tune with the product's selling proposition, having engaged in youthful activities that didn't necessarily embody the letter and spirit of Corporate Responsibility. Fortunately, the across-the-board media launch all but overpowered naysayers, most of them Democrats, who haven't stopped whining since the day before yesterday.

There was a lot of excitement on the front and editorial pages about Corporate Responsibility. All the papers were pleased to use the graphic featuring the bold legend behind the Chief Exec.

W., for his part, looked stern and enthusiastic and left little doubt that the product was going to receive continued support. This kind of commitment from the top will be necessary if Corporate Responsibility is going to get the job done and put the stock market back on its feet.

To be effective, a great product must have creative packaging, but there has to be something underneath too. Corporate Responsibility seemed to have it all. First, there was a hard, crunchy shell of outrage, vague enough to at once threaten and entice those who didn't already have the thing and needed some. Inside that crust was a soft, gooey center that tasted pretty much like anything the consumer imagined it would. Best of all was the hint that purchase of the product would essentially be mandatory for all those in the business world, much as greed and a copy of Peters and Waterman were necessary for enjoyment of the '80s.

After the rollout, public demonstration of how Corporate Responsibility works was necessary almost at once, and for that a target was necessary. Several miscreants who were fat and bald were deemed too unattractive for wide-scale use. In short order, however, some handsome celebrities were found who suited the purpose well. They were immediately targeted for flogging, tarring, feathering, and front-page scrutiny by a variety of media outlets, which went to work with great energy to show what happened to people who didn't use Corporate Responsibility. The level of interest in these famous and sexy alleged criminals was equal to that given the abdication of King Edward the VIII of Great Britain in 1936. And the public cheered. Corporate Responsibility was back in town!

Apart from the good work done by the media, the federal government got busy passing laws that made the product even hotter. Work was begun with significant fanfare to strip middle management of the hope that stock options might lift them out of the ranks of the petite bourgeoisie. Other bold legislation was initiated to implement penalties for crimes that were already illegal.

Today, everywhere you look, everybody who is anybody is out there buying as much Corporate Responsibility as the production team can churn out. In small businesses and large, leaders of capitalism are embracing honesty in all their dealings, eschewing bad accountants who lie and shred and don't tell senior managers what's going on, and embracing all those good things that we, as a nation, have forgotten. At the same time, everybody is determined that people who do not have Corporate Responsibility should go to jail or media prison, whichever is more effective. Experts estimate that by the end of the decade, more than a dozen ugly white guys will be in minimum-security prisons.

As noted, research can't yet ascertain whether Corporate Responsibility will be a lasting addition to the grab bag of products that define our culture, like Tide or Pepsi. Whether it attains cultural longevity or not, however, one thing is clear. If this great new product is purchased and applied in a timely manner at this stage of the game, quick, permanent relief may be just around the corner.

And then look out, Wall Street! The bulls will be back!

By day, Stanley Bing is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at