Sunday, September 8, 2013
No Logo Revisited
Back in 2000, I purchased and read a then hot book entitled NO LOGO written by Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein. I tried to get a few friends and colleagues to read it but no one took me up on it. They all asked why I would read a bestseller that attacked advertising and marketing so vehemently.
Well, I have always found it instructive to read views strongly opposite to my own. Sometimes they manage to soften my position on certain issues and, in other cases, they only reinforce what I felt initially. So, this past week, 13 years later, I decided to re-read NO LOGO and see how I reacted to it. I got 10 times more than I bargained for in the revisit.
The book, even though, called NO LOGO, struck me as a clarion call against globalization. Ms. Klein posited that the way that the new world was emerging was one in which companies, via their strong brands, were more powerful than many countries and the brands were becoming even stronger due to liberalized trade, outsourcing of work (particularly manufacturing in low cost countries with sweatshop labor) and deregulation across the globe.
Ms. Klein stated that businesses were cocooning consumers into a “Brandscape.” She acidly commented that companies were marketing aspirations to consumers and creating a “Barbie world for adults.”
Obviously, advertising came under a lot of heat in her rant. Yet, she made suggestions about marketing brands that were fascinating more than a decade after I first read them.
Number one, she constantly, talks about the need for brands to be authentic. Also, tactics such as guerilla marketing and culture jamming make sense. Well, do the brand gurus talk about today? I was laughing out loud when I reread some of her passages. Everyone talks about how the brand is everything and you must protect the brand at all costs. And, most importantly, you must be AUTHENTIC in all things that you do.
Couple that with a decline but not elimination of offshore plants with underage or underpaid workers, major US firms taking strong green initiatives and one could argue that Ms. Klein has won her battle. Seeing her most recent work and watching interviews on You Tube, she does not strike me as wanting reform as much as an overhaul of the entire financial system.
What had me laughing? It seems that some of the major brands have virtually used NO LOGO as part of their marketing playbook in recent years. They have beat the drum for authenticity and product integrity loudly and often. So despite the blip in 2000, it appears that behemoth brands have pre-empted much of Ms. Klein’s complaints. Even a casual observer of the marketing scene knows that brands, especially in apparel, are stronger than ever.
I saw Ms. Klein being interviewed about the Occupy Wall Street movement and felt sympathy with her and the protesters. She is also a gifted writer who is easy to read. But, while she may have won round one with the publication of NO LOGO the marketers have definitely won the battle as brands are more solidly entrenched in many categories than they were more than a decade ago.
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