September 7, 2005
No Logo: Brands Globalization & Resistance (DVD), A Conversation with Naomi Klein
The capsule review of the Naomi Klein "No Logo" DVD (based on her groundbreaking book of the same name) by the Media Education Foundation, which made the film, says: "Using hundreds of media examples, No Logo shows how the commercial takeover of public space, destruction of consumer choice, and replacement of real jobs with temporary work -- the dynamics of corporate globalization -- impact everyone, everywhere. It also draws attention to the democratic resistance arising globally to challenge the hegemony of brands."
It also notes that "Analyzing how brands like Nike, The Gap, and Tommy Hilfiger became revered symbols worldwide, Klein argues that globalization is a process whereby corporations discovered that profits lay not in making products (outsourced to low-wage workers in developing countries), but in creating branded identities people adopt in their lifestyles."
BuzzFlash cannot emphasize how important Klein's work has been in pinpointing the mass marketing strategy of modern consumerism and -- we might add -- politics. Klein connects the dots as to how we arrived at a point when global brands, identified by resonant logos, sell a life style perception more than the quality of an actual product. The consumer is buying a desirable image of him or herself that the product enhances. The actual product is secondary.
It would be hard not to use this theory to understand how Bush is marketed as a brand by Karl Rove, with certain associations of piousness, humility and determination, which many consumers (voters) "buy," even though the brand resonance of Bush is divorced from the stark, destructive reality of the product delivered by him and his administration.
Coca-Cola was the first American product to master the sale of a rather mundane item -- a carbonated beverage -- by selling associations with the product: friendship, good times, "the pause that refreshes," holiday cheer, patriotism, youthfulness. This is nothing that a Coke will provide you with in and of itself; it is what advertising brings to your mental perception of the product. You become convinced that the product will fill a certain emotional need, even though it is just a carbonated drink. Without the advertising, it would hardly be the worldwide phenomenon that it is.
What's more, Klein points out how the development of brand identities have created international product marketing that supersedes national boundaries -- and makes multi-national corporations so powerful that they are beholden to no one nation. Furthermore, they often create images of products that are associated with positive global goals, while employing sweatshop practices to increase their profit margins.
We live in an ironic world where the image of product has to deliver, but the product doesn't. Although Klein concentrates on corporate branding, the parallel to how Rove crafts Bush is inescapable. What you see is not what you get, but what Rove is selling is a brand, not substance. We are being sold emotional associations and personally appealing images; that's what we are buying.
What the delivery person brings us -- or the politician -- doesn't matter to many consumers and voters if they wholeheartedly believe in the advertising associations created around the brand.
Klein, in this conversational DVD enhanced with product and brand globalization footage is just brilliant. She provides a rosetta stone to how arrived at a time when branding to meet psychological needs and desires has surpassed product development as a sales tool.
One need only look at politics in the United States to understand the impact of this shift in consumerism and voting patterns.