No Logo

No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies’ is a book by Canadian author Naomi Klein.

First published in December 1999, shortly after the 1999 WTO Ministerial Conference protests in Seattle had generated media attention around such issues, it became one of the most influential books about the alter-globalization movement. The book focuses on branding, and often makes connections with the alter-globalization movement (also known as the the global justice movement).

The book is written in four parts (‘No Space,’ ‘No Choice,’ ‘No Jobs,’ and ‘No Logo’); the first three deal with the negative effects of brand-oriented corporate activity, while the fourth discusses various methods people have taken in order to fight back. Klein writes about issues such as sweatshops in the Americas and Asia, culture jamming (anti-consumerism), corporate censorship, and ‘Reclaim the Streets’ (a movement opposed to the car as the dominant mode of transport). She pays special attention to the deeds and misdeeds of Nike, The Gap, McDonald’s, Shell, and Microsoft – and of their lawyers, contractors, and advertising agencies.

Many of the ideas in Klein’s book derive from the influence of the Situationists, a revolutionary art/political group founded in the late 1950s. However, while globalization appears frequently as a recurring theme, Klein rarely addresses the topic of globalization itself, and usually indirectly (she would go on to discuss globalization in much greater detail in her 2002 book, ‘Fences and Windows’).

The book begins by tracing the history of brands. Klein argues that there has been a shift in the usage of branding. There is an actual clothing brand NOLOGO which has existed since the late 1980s and can be seen at http://www.nologo.com. This is an excellent example of this shift to an ‘anti-brand’ brand. Early examples of brands were often used to put a recognizable face on factory-produced products. These slowly gave way to the idea of selling lifestyles. According to Klein, in response to an economic crash in the 1980s (Latin American debt crisis, Black Monday, Savings and loan crisis, Japanese asset price bubble), corporations began to seriously rethink their approach to marketing, and began to target the youth demographic, as opposed to the baby boomers, who had previously been considered a much more valuable segment. The book discusses how brand names such as Nike or Pepsi expanded beyond the mere products which bore their names, and how these names and logos began to appear everywhere. As this happened, the brands’ obsession with the youth market drove them to further associate themselves with whatever the youth considered ‘cool.’ Along the way, the brands attempted to have their names associated with everything from movie stars and athletes to grassroots social movements.

Klein argues that large multinational corporations consider the marketing of a brand name to be more important than the actual manufacture of products; this theme recurs in the book and Klein suggests that it helps explain the shift to production in Third World countries in such industries as clothing, footwear, and computer hardware. The first section also looks at ways in which brands have ‘muscled’ their presence into the school system, and how in doing so, they have pipelined advertisements into the schools, and have used their position to gather information about the students. Klein argues that this is part of a trend toward targeting younger and younger consumers.

In the second section, Klein discusses how brands use their size and clout to limit the number of choices available to the public – whether through market dominance (Wal-Mart) or through aggressive invasion of a region (Starbucks). Klein argues that the goal of each company is to become the dominant force in its respective field. Meanwhile, other corporations, such as Sony or Disney, simply open their own chains of stores, preventing the competition from even putting their products on the shelves. The second section also discusses corporations that merge with one another in order to add to their ubiquity and provide greater control over their image. ABC News, for instance, is allegedly under pressure not to air any stories that are overly critical of Disney, its parent company. Other chains, such as Wal-Mart, often threaten to pull various products off of their shelves, forcing manufacturers and publishers to comply with their demands. This might mean driving down manufacturing costs, or changing the artwork or content of products like magazines or albums so they better fit with Wal-Mart’s image of family friendliness. Also discussed is the way that corporations abuse copyright laws in order to silence anyone who might attempt to criticize their brand.

The third section, ‘No Jobs,’ takes a darker tone, and looks at the way in which manufacturing jobs move from local factories to foreign countries, and particularly to places known as export processing zones. Such zones have no labor laws, leading to dire working conditions. The book then shifts back to North America, where the lack of manufacturing jobs has led to an influx of work in the service sector, where most of the jobs are for minimum wage and offer no benefits. The term McJob is introduced, defined as a job with poor compensation that does not keep pace with inflation, inflexible or undesirable hours, little chance of advancement, and high levels of stress. Meanwhile, the public is being sold the perception that these jobs are temporary employment for students and recent graduates, and therefore need not offer living wages or benefits. All of this is set against a backdrop of massive profits and wealth being produced within the corporate sector. The result is a new generation of employees who have come to resent the success of the companies they work for. This resentment, along with rising unemployment, labor abuses abroad, disregard for the environment, and the ever-increasing presence of advertising breeds a new disdain for corporations.

The final section of the book discusses various movements that have sprung up during the 1990s. These include ‘Adbusters’ magazine and the culture-jamming movement, as well as Reclaim the Streets and the McLibel trial (the result of a pamphlet critical of the company). Less radical protests are also discussed, such as the various movements aimed at putting an end to sweatshop labor. Klein concludes by contrasting consumerism and citizenship, opting for the latter. ‘When I started this book,’ she writes, ‘I honestly didn’t know whether I was covering marginal atomized scenes of resistance or the birth of a potentially broad-based movement. But as time went on, what I clearly saw was a movement forming before my eyes.’ Critics are quick to point out that Klein has copyrighted ‘No Logo,’ and a multinational corporation published it (a fact that Klein explicitly points out in the book). After the book’s release, Klein was heavily criticized by the news magazine ‘The Economist,’ leading to a broadcast debate with Klein and the magazine’s writers, dubbed ‘No Logo vs. Pro Logo.’

Tags:

One Comment to “No Logo”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s