There was plenty that could be said about Rufus Shinra, Sr., president of the most powerful corporation in Gaia's history, and much of it would land the speaker in some hell-forsaken gulag before he or she could even begin to craft an excuse about missing context and misinterpretation of the comments. But there was one thing that everyone could agree on and never be punished for it: the man was a gifted salesman.
Thirty years previous, if anyone else were to approach a room full of tight-fisted, cynical investors to try to tell them that electricity could be generated cheaply and efficiently using a resource that many of them weren't sure even existed, the Lifestream, he or she would have been laughed out of the room. Shinra sold it, though, calling it mako to make it sound less mystical and emphasizing its cost-efficiency and ease of production. Within five years, the Shinra Electric Power Company was operating at full capacity with mako reactors outside multiple cities and had effectively squeezed out the competition due to weak monopoly laws. Before long, the company would literally rule the world, using the population's dependence on cheap energy and its need for a strong guiding force to make the difficult decisions for them.
And then there was the SOLDIER program. Most thinking people would consider the idea of a corporation having its own military force to be ludicrous, but the way Shinra presented it made it seem like another value-added service from their friendly neighborhood utility company. The control over the populace was complete and unbreakable before anyone realized they were being reined in. And the best part was that once they did realize it, they accepted it without a fight because Rufus Shinra, Sr. managed to convince them that he was their advocate. Build a few libraries, fund a few schools and throw some food and medicine at the needy. Done on the cheap, no problem. They were convinced that complacency equaled prosperity, and they loved him for it.
When it came time to put a face on the SOLDIER program, to create a brand, Shinra wasn't surprised that Sephiroth agreed to participate by allowing his photo to be taken and plastered on posters that would end up on the walls of half the planet's teenagers, many of whom would join the military in the hopes of being a hero like him. It wasn't that the young man was stupid, and he certainly didn't welcome the attention, it was just a matter of him being told that he was going to do it and him responding with a tight "yes sir" just as his eyes narrowed with contempt that he couldn't squash fast enough. There's no limit to what you can do with someone who believes you're the sole reason they exist. Still, the salesman in him was left unsatisfied because the deal was such an easy one to close. The mark simply wasn't given the choice.
He managed to convince nations that a peaceful country was a dangerous enemy to their freedom, when in truth he just wanted to get his hands on their abundant mako reserves. He didn't like the word "propaganda," he much preferred "aggressive marketing" and "hard sell." He was a businessman, after all.
The Wutai threat had to be dealt with swiftly and decisively, he said. The people of Gaia couldn't afford to sit idly by as enemies of democracy gathered and planned. Rally 'round the brave boys and girls of the Shinra military as they fight for your way of life. What would Sephiroth do if he knew you weren't a patriot? Freedom isn't free. Catchy phrase, print up a few million bumper stickers and pass them out at anti-Wutai rallies.
Selling that war was his greatest achievement from a marketing standpoint.
As Shinra sat in his opulent top-floor office, pinned to his chair by a seven-foot sword like a butterfly to a corkboard, his main thought was not "who will guide my son now?" Nor was it "what will become of my company?" No, he wondered why that moment, of all times, had to be the one where his skills as a salesman failed.
He told Sephiroth that they could find the Promised Land together and share its riches 50/50. Sephiroth merely smirked at him, those eerie eyes of his flat and empty. He promised power, women, money. That didn't stop the tip of Masamune's blade from rising and pressing against his flabby neck. Emotional appeals, that time-honored tactic that always got the target eating from a good salesman's hand, had no effect. The blade still trailed slowly from his neck to his chest, splitting fabric and skin as Shinra screamed that it was his signature that resulted in Sephiroth being brought into this world and that it would take only a word to have him removed from it. Finally he gave up the upper hand by begging, by letting Sephiroth know that he needed to sell the product far more than Sephiroth wanted to buy it. He was still begging as Sephiroth drew back his arm and plunged the blade through his heart without so much as a raising of his eyebrow.
Rufus Shinra, Sr. died thinking that the most important deal of his life was the only one he had ever failed to close.