Essay on Analysis: Brand and Promotional Culture

Submitted By amedrano2
Words: 8607
Pages: 35


Blowing Up the Brand
Melissa Aronczyk & Devon Powers
“New Branded World” Redux

Only about a decade ago, popular understanding of brands and branding

was largely confined to the products and practices of the corporate enterprise. When journalist and cultural critic Naomi Klein wrote the bestseller
No Logo in 2000, a searing critique of the “new branded world” (3) of industrial influence, the focus of her attack was on how corporations’ transnational reach, predatory methods, and tools of exploitation, exclusion, and censorship had impacted a wide range of social and political activities and institutions. The instant recognition and global penetration of “the swoosh, the shell and the arches” (Ch. 16) underlined Klein’s account of the creeping corporate encroachment of personal, public, and mental space. Aiming to chart the anticorporate activism on the rise to resist and transform these practices, No Logo fed a worldwide movement to foster awareness of “the brand bullies” and challenge their dominance of the status quo.
Even while this consciousness was on the rise, however, other forms of
“brand awareness” were taking place. First, and surely disappointing for its author, No Logo came to serve not only as a bible for social justice movements, labor rights activists, and environmentalists, but also as a reference
point for marketing and branding agencies themselves. Second, in a striking reversal of No Logo’s lessons, many anticorporate activists and their causes themselves became “brands,” taking the rationalized logic of brand management to the heart of their organization (du Gay 1996; and, e.g., Bob
2002, 2005).
This process mirrored a more general shift toward entrepreneurial forms of governance by a wide range of institutions starting in the 1970s. Transformations in the perceived requirements of organizations at the urban, regional, and national levels to be faster paced, more systematized, and globally competitive began to demand new forms of authority that were


Aronczyk & Powers

more familiar with the requirements of the market (Harvey 2001: Ch. 16;
Keating 2003). Crises of legitimacy and relevance in the public sector were met with claims of expertise and tried-and-tested solutions from the private realm. In this context adopting a brand was seen as a symbolic shorthand for market savvy, business acumen, and global competitiveness—whether for urban centers, transnational governance institutions, or nation-states. New
York Times columnist Thomas Friedman put it bluntly: “As we move into a world where everyone has the same hardware and everybody is being forced to get the same software to go with it, a country’s brand, and the unique bond it can build with its foreign investors, becomes even more important”
(1999: 244). In an article titled, “No Logo, No Future,” brand strategists
Fiona Gilmore and Rebecca Rumens decried government aid to developing countries, advocating “brand surgery” instead—the transfer of brand-based training and skills to encourage more entrepreneurial approaches. “We must ask not only what our government can do to alleviate poverty in Africa,” they conclude, “but ask what our employers or favorite brands can do”
(Gilmore and Rumens 2005; see also Anholt 2005). Overall, it came to seem as though the structures of private ownership and strategic management developed to capitalize products and services in the corporate world increasingly resonated with the renewed aims of a broad range of public, private, and governance institutions; even those hitherto immune from—or at least inured against—the requirements of global capital.
At present we are no longer surprised to hear the term “brand” applied to multiple forms of political, social, and cultural expression and organization: the professional identities of individuals and families—from Tiger
Woods to Tyra Banks, Stephen King to LonelyGirl18, the Kardashians to