Posted by: nickgerlich | October 6, 2007

Brand X

There’s nothing like the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

Anti-capitalist sentiments are on the rise these days in some quarters. Naomi Klein’s No Brand: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs (2002) has become sacred writ for the neo-socialists of the day; her recent release, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, echoes her earlier claims against corporations.

BlackSpotWorse yet, the folks at Adbusters have virtually declared her a saint and canonized her writings. So opposed to large corporations are Adbusters that they have pushed their social agenda through to the masses in the form of their Black Spot sneakers. The shoes are a social parody of Nike, and in the words of Adbusters, a vote against large soulless corporations who outsource labor to third-world countries.

But the interesting part is that if you look closely, Adbusters is no less a marketer than the large firms they bemoan.

I have been a vocal critic of Adbusters for years. And I have visited their headquarters in Vancouver B.C. before, and caught them in their own trap (I will replay that blog around Thanksgiving for your reading pleasure). They produce a slick bi-monthly magazine, and boast a neato website that is chock full of what I call basic marketing.

It makes no difference whether you are selling a ideology or sneakers with a conscience. Marketing is marketing. And the fact that they use a union shop in Portugal to make this overpriced footwear does nothing to make me want to run for my credit card (can anyone say “e-commerce?”).

And let’s not forget all the priceless PR they are getting. CNN did a feature on these shoes last week, apparently forgeting that ad time on their network is expensive. But that’s OK…these are different shoes. It’s cause-oriented marketing.

This all smacks of Fair Trade Coffee, otherwise known as mediocre coffee at inflated prices. Ostensibly the purpose of Fair Trade Coffee is to ensure what someone deems a “livable” wage to coffee growers in a developing country. But the only thing I see developing is the bottom line of those who sell it.

Idealists like Klein and Adbusters are living a fairy tale, thinking that they can “right” the alleged “wrongs” of corporate capitalism. And what does it say of a person’s brand-consciousness when they opt instead to buy the “un-brand?” I see no difference. A brand is a brand…whether it is a spot, a swoosh,or a polo player.

Cut the smokescreen, guys. It’s beginning to stink.

Dr “And What Was Their Point Again?” Gerlich


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