Naomi Klein writes in the Guardian:
In May 2009, Absolut Vodka launched a limited edition line called “Absolut No Label”. The company’s global public relations manager, Kristina Hagbard, explained that “For the first time we dare to face the world completely naked. We launch a bottle with no label and no logo, to manifest the idea that no matter what’s on the outside, it’s the inside that really matters.”
A few months later, Starbucks opened its first unbranded coffee shop in Seattle, called 15th Avenue E Coffee and Tea. This “stealth Starbucks” (as the anomalous outlet immediately became known) was decorated with “one-of-a-kind” fixtures and customers were invited to bring in their own music for the stereo system as well as their own pet social causes – all to help develop what the company called “a community personality.” Customers had to look hard to find the small print on the menus: “inspired by Starbucks”. Tim Pfeiffer, a Starbucks senior vice-president, explained that unlike the ordinary Starbucks outlet that used to occupy the same piece of retail space, “This one is definitely a little neighbourhood coffee shop.” After spending two decades blasting its logo on to 16,000 stores worldwide, Starbucks was now trying to escape its own brand.
Clearly the techniques of branding have both thrived and adapted since I published No Logo. But in the past 10 years I have written very little about developments like these. I realised why while reading William Gibson’s 2003 novel Pattern Recognition. The book’s protagonist, Cayce Pollard, is allergic to brands, particularly Tommy Hilfiger and the Michelin man. So strong is this “morbid and sometimes violent reactivity to the semiotics of the marketplace” that she has the buttons on her Levi’s jeans ground smooth so that there are no corporate markings. When I read those words, I immediately realised that I had a similar affliction. As a child and teenager I was almost obsessively drawn to brands. But writing No Logo required four years of total immersion in ad culture – four years of watching and rewatching Super Bowl ads, scouring Advertising Age for the latest innovations in corporate synergy, reading soul-destroying business books on how to get in touch with your personal brand values, making excursions to Niketowns, to monster malls, to branded towns.
Read More of Naomi Klein’s article in the Guardian
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