No Logo by Naomi Klein: A Summary, Review, and Reaction
When I picked up No Logo for the first time little did I know I was in possession of the bible of anti globalization. This book is ruthlessly researched with similarly unforgiving analyse. No Logo is about the impact super brands has on broader society.
The separation of brand and product
Klein explores the ideal that a brand is not created in the factory anymore; it’s created in the office. The brand is not a reflection of quality but a reflection of what the marketing department wants it to stand for. We’re not producing things, but images of things. The inconvenience of production is contracted out. Klein uses Nike as an example of this. Nike uses third world labour to produce its products. They have used abusive sweatshops in Vietnam perhaps more interested in how much they can spend on branding than they need to on production. John Ermatinger, from Livi Struass, referred to this as greater flexibility to allocate resources and capital to its brands.
It does seem odd that so many have favoured a specific brand but for reasons that couldn’t be further removed from manufacturer quality. More alarmingly though is the conditions that a significant number of these contractors maintain in their factories.
To illustrate this point Klein provides an example of a factory in China called the Liang Shi Handbag Factory which produces Kathie Lee handbags for Wal-Mart. Wages per hour are $0.13-$0.23, 60-70 hours a week, 6 days a week with 10 hour shifts. Workers have no legal contract and the dorms are dirty and 10 per room.
The marketing of cool to the young
The source of marketing to youth, Klein reports is the identity crises brands suffered when the baby boomers fell off the consumer spectrum. As the baby boomers moved into old age and many passed away, brands had to find new markets. Brill Cream took years to recover from this.
In the 1990’s brands that thrived included “beers, soft drinks, fast food, chewing gum and sneakers”. “Kids would still pay up to fit in”. “Peer pressure became a powerful marketing tool”. Clothing retailing Elsie Decoteau said of teenagers: “they shop in packs… if you sell to one you sell to everyone in their school” Klein likens this to extreme keeping-up-with-the-Joneses. Klein astutely points out that cool is “riddled with self doubt” therefore the brand has a stake in self doubt of teenagers.
The purpose of Marketing Cool, or Marketing cool to young adults is to perpetuate this ideal that through the right purchasing one can reach that just out of reach untapped well of cool. Klein discusses the morality of this type of marketing to insecure teenagers. Marketing is articulating what the ideal of beauty is with the motivation of profit; and this to a demographic which needs no encouragement to be insecure.
Perhaps related to this is the “peculiar cachet of working class kids acquiring status by adopting the gear of prohibitively costly leisure activities such as skiing, golf or sailing”.
Klein also addresses the reaction to the global brands’ questionable morals. Local communities have campaigned against Wal-Mart’s presence and accused them of monopolistic practises. Also Klein discusses citizen art. Rodriguez de Gerada is a culture jammer who is skilled at the practise of parodying advertisements in order to drastically alter their message. De Gerada is particularly upset at billboards in poor areas promoting cigarettes and strong alcohol clearly targeting those who crave escapism.
If you study, or have any interest in, marketing, economics or even business ethics this book is a must. It is very well researched and written informal enough to be a good read. Klein’s obvious intelligence is present from the first word to the last.
Some other thoughts:
“An intelligently written and superbly reported account of a culture that has moved from selling products to hawking brands . . . A couple of chapters in, your mind is already reeling. Klein can write: favouring informality and crispness over jargon . . .convincing and necessary, clear and fresh, calm but unsparing.”—The Guardian
“A riveting conscientious piece of journalism and a call to arms. Packed with enlightening statistics and extraordinary anecdotal evidence, No Logo is fluent, undogmatically alive to the contradictions and omissions, and positively seethes with intelligent anger.”—The Observer
“A movement bible”—The New York Times