For better or for worse, we live in what has been called a brandscape – a branded world – today. We are at a time in history when brands[i] go beyond being business platforms to becoming symbols of our times. An increasing proportion of our lives is mediated by brands like McDonald’s, Sony and Budweiser, which often reflect the changing values of our society. Brands are more than just advertising, they are part of our culture. Think of Andy Warhol and Campbell’s Soup and Norman Rockwell and Coca-Cola. Products, people, countries – Britain, for example, tried to become a brand with its “Cool Britannia” slogan – and companies are all racing to turn themselves into brands – to make their image more likeable and understandable. Furthermore, brands dominate our working lives, and corporate logos are now in every civic space, from schools, universities and playgrounds to hospitals and art galleries. And this brandscape can be considered to be global: walk down a street in any city in the world and there will be enough brands to make you feel at home.
In the 1990s as corporations started to spent money saved from outsourcing production on their own image, branding[ii] achieved greater importance. Klein has argued in her book No Logo that as production was exported to low-wage economies, so the link between the consumers of a product and its makers was sundered. The brand was elevated in compensation, floating free of mere products, to become an allegorical character, a reliable embodiment of particular combinations of virtues or admirable vices. Sometimes, as with Ronald McDonald (or Uncle McDonald as he is known in Asian countries), it solidified into an animated figure.
Branding, marketing[iii] and advertising have also been named to be important parts of popular culture and of political importance, as McGuigan makes clear:
Branding culture, it seems, is first and foremost about meaning: That’s culture. It is of immense political significance. Therefore, it follows that branding culture represents, among other things, an issue of culture and politics.
(McGuigan, 2001: 215)
The introduction and subsequent success of “Mecca-Cola” in Europe and the Middle East, for example, has galvanised that brands in today’s environment are of great cultural and political relevance, too. They ‘have rightly become a political battleground’, as Bunting (2001) states, as they ‘represent huge power’. Thereby, to discuss the role and future of brands has even become more important.
This dissertation is structured around the notion that adverts and branding are more than a communication tool to sell products. Although there is certainly some truth in Williamson´s hypothesis (1978) of advertising being another way of perpetuating capitalist ideology, this point of view does not fall within the scope of this study. Instead, the assumption here is that advertisements can be regarded as one of the most important cultural factors moulding and reflecting our life.
Also, the critical attention in cultural studies and beyond, which has shifted from production to consumption and the consumer over the last two decades has put emphasis on the study of everyday branded goods by suggesting that consumption is a much more complex and multi-layered process than just manufacturing, advertising and selling a product[iv]. Meaning, it is argued, is ‘not only created by what we buy, but also where and how and what happens to the product once it is in our possession’ (Grunenberg, 2002: 17, his emphasis). Twitchell (1999), for instance, has described consumption as active, creative and cultural. David Harvey (1989: 287) writes: ‘Advertising and media images have come to play a very much more integrative role in cultural practices and assume a much greater importance in the growth dynamics of capitalism’. In the following pages, therefore, emphasis will be on the suggestion that popular culture audiences as well as consumers in general cannot be cast in the role of passive recipients but are actively involved in the construction of meaning (see, for example, Ang, 1996; De Certeau, 1984; Featherstone, 1991; Fiske, 1989a, 1989b; Willis, 1978, 1990).
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism, which was seen by some as ‘the end of history’ (Fukuyama, 1992), marked by the end of the clash of ideologies, capitalism was thought to be the only way of organising a successful economy. But by the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the new millennium, capitalism finds itself surrounded by a host of increasingly voluble new critics, which mainly focus on cases of abuse which result from the actions of global corporations: the abuse of the environment, the treatment and low pay of workers in third world countries, child labour, the exploitation of women, the degradation of cultures and the imposition of lifestyles through brands. Marketers of branded goods increasingly note that a critical mass of media interest (e.g. the BBC Panorama programme about child labour in a factory in Cambodia producing garments for Nike and the GAP; BBC, 2000) has led to an ongoing education of consumers and organisations alike. Moreover, there is the improved availability of information through media such as the Internet ‘which has spawned a plethora of organisations and information sites such as Sweatshop Watch’ (Winstanley et. al, 2002: 222; for a detailed list of activist sites please see Appendix 1). Also, there has been the development of a burgeoning infrastructure of NGOs and civil society organisations at the local, national and international level, which reflects a more general desire by society, consumers and producers to tackle, for example, the bottom line of exploitation of workers in factories in the third world.
Jeffrey Garten, dean of Yale’s School of Management, thinks that advocacy groups will increasingly target multinational companies. As a result, global companies will face more scrutiny of environmental policies, employment practices and investments. Big brand owners are the easiest targets of all – ‘people know their names, buy their products, and feel cheated when they find out truths that might seem unsavoury’ (Brandchannel.com, 2003a). This emerging climate, as Smith and Brecher (2000: 52) think, ‘will affect the global operations and habits of business at every level’.
Another problem for particularly multination corporations is that increasingly people lose faith in corporations[v] and become less loyal to their brands[vi] (please see Table 1), which is severe as brand reputation is everything for a global corporation. It is, as Pinnell notes, the corporation’s ‘largest single intangible asset’ (in Vidal, 2001).
By looking at the cases and recent woes of Coca-Cola, the world’s best known brand, and McDonald’s which has over 31.000 outlets worldwide, we are going to examine possible causes for a backlash against those transnational corporations as well as what can be done to overcome the problems. Since those corporations are of American origin and since most of the world’s best-known brands are American[vii], and are now, outside the US, seen as ‘symbols of America’s corporate power’ (The Economist, 2001a: 9), it could be argued that there is a strong political emphasis to most of the writing. The selection of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s as case examples, however, is not to suggest that the critique and recommendations are solely applicable to American brands, but is to use the cases of truly globalised and marketing-driven companies whose experiences are of some relevance to all multinational brands operating in capitalistic-organised and -driven economies.
This study aims to analyse the critics contentions and tries to unravel some of the paradoxes that make up contemporary developments in attitudes towards marketing, branding and consumption in general, and to assess their implications for the future of marketing and branding in particular.
The critique of the anti-branding movement
The anti-branding argument[viii] has been popularised by a range of books, such as Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, Robert Frank's Luxury Fever, The World is Not for Sale by François Dufour and José Bové – a French farmer who is best known for his protest against McDonald's, Hertz’s The Silent Takeover, Monbiot’s Captive State, Kalle Lasn’s Culture Jam (including the documentary film Culture Jam: Hijacking Commercial Culture [ix] by Jill Sharpe which was, among others, shown during the Leeds International Film Festival 2002), Rifkin’s The Age of Access, and Korten’s When Corporations Rule The World. The argument has, however, been most forcefully articulated in Naomi Klein's book No Logo. Not since Packard's The Hidden Persuaders, one could say, has one book stirred up so much antipathy to marketing. It has been called a manifesto, 'the Das Kapital ’ (Wood, 2000) and ‘the bible’ (The Economist, 2001a: 9) of the growing anti-corporate and anti-globalisation movement, and it set out to document the aims and rationale of the group that demonstrated at Seattle and Prague, before those events had even happened. Its author has become the spokeswoman for a worldwide movement against multinationals and their brands and the Times newspaper rated her one of the world's most influential people under 35. It can be said that No Logo which had sold more than 200,000 copies in 12 languages worldwide by January 2002 (Clifton, 2002: 157) has touched a universal nerve.
Klein introduces the reader to the moguls of marketing, who, she says, decided in the eighties and nineties that companies should be "meaning brokers" rather than product producers. Thereby, the book is an analysis of a growing worldwide opposition to not much less than the global economic system. And like much of that opposition, Klein focuses her attack on the public face – and most prized possessions – of transnational corporations: their brand names. ‘Branding is a specific, predatory corporate ideology’, Klein (quoted in Bethune and Hawaleshka, 2000: 52) explains, characterizing what she sees as an effort to privatise common culture and public space. She quotes American labour rights activist Tim Bissell, who says that ‘there are certain corporations which market themselves so aggressively, which are so intent on stamping their image on everybody and every street, that they build up a reservoir of resentment among thinking people. People resent the destruction of culture and its replacement with these mass-produced corporate logos and slogans. It represents a kind of cultural fascism’ (Klein, 2001: 287).
A rather articulate and sophisticated group has grown out of the anti-corporate movement, which should be taken seriously in any account of the contemporary branding – that of the culture jammers[x]. The critique of the culture jammers as well as the anti-branding movement developed out of the critical work about the mass media published within the social sciences. The concepts and ideas are drawn from a range of works including Marxist criticism of the consolidation of media power (see e.g. Wheelwright and Buckley, 1987 and Bonney and Wilson, 1983), conspiracy-based critiques of the role of the media in influencing ideology in society (see e.g. Chomsky, 1992 and Chomsky and Herman, 1988) and postmodern critiques, which suggest the media generates fictions and images in the form of texts, and that these texts, presented as factual are not ‘real’ or factual- they are, in fact, hyperreal (see e.g. Baudrillard on the first Gulf war, The Guardian, July 1991, quoted in Norris, 1992; Rorty 1989, Fish, 1989)
Furthermore, culture jamming has its origins in the 60s conceptual artists movement called the Situationist International (SI). The Situationists[xi] felt that a fundamental part of their lives had been stolen by an all-consuming Society of the Spectacle [xii] (Debord, 1967) . Similar to the Situationists use of détournement which Debord proposed as a way to take back the spectacle that had ‘kidnapped’ their lives, culture jammers use the practice of parodying ads and hijacking billboards to drastically alter their messages’ (Klein, 2001: 280; please see Images 1- 7 in appendices for examples), thereby using the means of subverted commercial culture and the element of surprise to get their messages through the visual and commercial clutter to the recipient. The idea is that people should have the right to talk back to images they never asked to see. Thus, Joe Camel turns into “Joe Chemo” and Calvin Klein ads are scrawled with "Feed me". Culture jamming, as Klein (ibid. 281) states, ‘baldly rejects the idea that marketing – because it buys its way into our public spaces – must be passively accepted as a one-way information flow’. In 1993, Mark Dery wrote Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs, which highlights the use of ‘billboard banditry’, ‘guerrilla semiotics’, ‘media hoaxing’ and ‘audio agitprop’ as techniques ‘against an ever more intrusive, instrumental technoculture whose operant mode is the manufacture of consent through the manipulation of symbols’ (Dery, 2002: 6). For Dery, culture jamming, which he compares to the ‘semiological guerrilla warfare’ imagined by Eco (1986: 138, 143, 144), is anything, essentially, ‘that mixes art, media, parody and the outsider stance’ (Klein, 2001: 283). The jammers aim[xiii] is to stop the ‘flow of spectacle long enough to adjust your set’ (Lasn, 1999: 107), to ‘demarket’ and ‘unsell’ the product’ (ibid. 124) in order ‘to escape the consumerist script’[xiv] (ibid. 108).
Another goal of the jammers is to de-commodify and de-brand once commercial-free public and private space. Klein (2001: 5), for example, points out that, ‘this corporate obsession with brand identity is waging a war on public and individual space: on public institutions such as schools, on youthful identities, on the concept of nationality and on the possibilities for unmarketed space’[xv]. As she has shown and Williams (1974: 151) put it, the branding or ‘para-national’ corporations are ‘reach[ing] farther into our lives…until individual and collective response in many different kinds of experience and problem became almost limited to choice between their programmed possibilities’.
The visual and audio commercial clutter has even become a problem for the advertising industry itself, which sees the effects of its messages increasingly minimised. The response from marketers to clutter therefore has been to increase the amount of promotional materials:
In recent years the number of commercial minutes per hour of television has increased. So too has the number of print ads carried by most magazines and newspapers. Worse still, advertisers have attempted to beat clutter by extending their promotional messages into ambient media. Now ads reach out to us from all directions: from the floor, from above the urinal, from someone's forehead, from wherever we least expect to encounter commercial messages.
(Ritson, 2003: 16)
This increase in marketing and branding has let to the ‘colonisation of our life world’[xvi] to borrow a term used by Habermas (1987) and has been referred to as ‘overswooshification’ by Goldman and Papson (1998: 175) in Nike Culture.
Increasingly, advertisers today must ‘sneak under the radar’ (Bond and Kirshenbaum, 1998) of consumers who are adept at tuning out conventional sales messages. And the best way to do so, as many advertisers and Berger (2002: 430) believe, is ‘via some form of unconventional guerrilla-style advertising – which lurks all around, hits us where we live, and invariably takes us by surprise’. Ironically, while the media and communication industry spends much of its time talking about the challenges of ‘cutting through the clutter’ of advertising and other commercial messages, it is actually making the situation worse. In its desperation to grab consumers’ attention it is continually coming up with ever more inventive media solutions. It puts advertising messages into new spaces; communicates with people when they least expect it, and often when they least want it. The industry has even invented a term, ‘ambient media’[xvii], to describe this phenomenon. As ambient becomes more popular, ‘so the result is simply more noise, more clutter, and an even less interested and engaged consumer’ (Mediaedge:cia, 2003) (please see Table 1– 3 in appendices). Furthermore, the invasion of private life by advertisers looks to increase even more, ‘because advertising that snoops on us and invades our space will very likely be part of the next wave’ (Berger, 2002: 461). In fact, new technology will enable advertisers ‘to know exactly where you are at any given time…what you’re doing…and maybe even what you’re thinking. So say goodbye to your privacy, and hello to the advertising of the future’ (ibid. 461).
Today, even rebellion and especially youth culture have been commodified[xviii]to the extreme. Ubiquitous and insistent voices urge consumers to express themselves, be creative, be different, break the rules, stand out from the crowd, even rebel, but these are no longer the words of radical agitators but of business. Frank asserts that,
One of the things that defines the 90s is that the commercial culture decided it just had nothing to fear from the counterculture and subculture and just started looking everywhere it could for the new thing and you're at a point now where the advertising people are so current and so ahead of the game that there's very little that escapes them.
(Frank, 2000: 46)
As Packard (1981) first noted, ‘consumer capitalism has an extraordinary capacity to take what first directly threatens it and, after a deep intake of breath, convert it into a marketing opportunity’.
This is exactly what brands like Diesel, Sprite and Nike have done as they have found a way to distil culture jamming into a kind of nonlinear advertising by embracing the techniques of, for example, adbusting as described above. Wood (2000) observes that ‘the advertisers see these adaptations [of their messages] as good jokes in themselves, and in a nightmarishly post-modern move adopt the idiom of the culture jam for their own ends’. The branders, one could say, are fighting back, with prejammed ads like Sprite' s "Image is Nothing" campaign and Nike's "I am not a target market, I am an athlete”. ‘Over time’, Wood maintains, ‘it seems barely noticeable: what was Situationist in the Sixties is Absolut Vodka in the Nineties. Marketing continues to absorb its opposition’. To paraphrase Jameson (quoted in Lee, 2000: ), promotion itself has become ‘the condition of contemporary culture’.
However, Slaughter (2000: 42) claims that ‘for the angriest of the adbusters, attempts at co-optation just fuel their fires’. Also, as Berger (2002: 23) notes, ‘the average couch potato has such an advanced degree when it comes to decoding media images and messages’, that they probably also can grasp that, for example, ‘an advertiser that mocks its own ad is doing so to try to gain [their] trust’.
An important organ within the anti-branding scene is Adbusters, the self-described ‘house organ’ of culture jamming with a ‘circualtion of 35,000 copies’ (Klein, 2001: 286) published by the Vancouver-based Media Foundation. The foundation is also responsible for the production of ‘uncommercials’ and ‘subvertisements’, as Lasn (1999: 131), editor of Adbusters, calls them. Also, it employs the tactics of advertising to encourage people to take part in anti-consumer events such as ‘Buy Nothing Day’ (please see Images 8 – 9 for “curb your consumption” flyers) and ‘TV Turnoff Week’. However, Adbusters has been described as becoming an ‘advertisement for anti-advertising’ (McLaren, 2003) and criticised by other jammers as ‘just a different brand’ (McLaren cited in Klein, 2001: 295).
Moreover, the activities of culture jammers have been linked to ‘hip consumerism’ as described in Frank’s The Conquest of Cool, which examines how ‘hip (or cool) became central to the way capitalism understood itself and explained itself to the public’ (Frank, 1997a: 26) in the sixties. Frank (1997b: 151) observes that it is rebellion – not conformity – that is currently performing the ‘valuable function of justifying the economy’s ever-accelerating cycles of obsolescence’. Thus, Heath (2002: 1) argues, ‘culture jammers are sustaining, even glorifying, precisely the narrative that has been greasing the wheels of commerce since the early 60s’. Others dismiss the claims of the anti-branding movement and call it ‘a marketing exercise’ in itself, where ‘the message has both been made more amusing, more self-consciously clever and has been dumbed down’ (Mosbacher, 2002: 75). Mosbacher (ibid. 75) goes on by arguing that, ‘for many activists, the marketing, the anti-branding, has itself become the message: clever parodies and visual jokes are what it is about for them’.
Although, there are critical voices to be heard about the movement, Klein (2001: 308-309) warns that ‘perhaps the gravest miscalculation on the part of both markets and media is the insistence on seeing culture jamming solely as harmless satire, a game that exists in isolation from a genuine political movement or ideology’. It is also considered to continue ‘to survive and flourish – not only in altered headlines on billboards but also in other formats that include painted outdoor signs and wall murals that reinterpret advertising images’ (Berger, 2002: 458). Also, as Klein (2001: 287) notes, culture jamming ‘is enjoying a resurgence’, which she accounts for as follows: ‘Something not far from the surface of the public psyche is delighted to see icons of corporate power subverted and mocked. There is, in short, a market for it. With commercialism able to overpower the traditional authority of religion, politics and schools, corporations have emerged as the natural targets for all sorts of free-floating rage and rebellion’. Cox (2001: 77) states that ‘lifted from its once-fixed intended socio-cultural place and time, the culture-jammed media particle is made to throw its voice from the past into the present. Secrets can be explicitly revealed, and hidden stories uncovered’. And, Smith and Brecher highlight the importance of the business sector to respond to the emerging critique of globalisation:
We feel it’s essential that the business sector respond seriously […] Seattle should not be written off as simply radicals smashing windows but seen as a lighting rod, marking a fundamental shift in public attitudes. This movement is neither a one-shot nor a local phenomenon.
(Smith and Brecher, 2000: 52)
Furthermore, they maintain, that ‘business people very well may lose their ability to influence these changes or even engage in constructive dialogue if these social forces are ignored or underestimated’ (ibid. 52). This is one of the reasons why the movement has been described in such length here and why its impact should be considered by marketing and brand managers alike.
The cases of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s
Although, it could be argued that ‘consumer boycotts are too numerous, too parochial and too restricted to the fringes of consumption to have a serious effect’ (Gabriel and Lang, 1995:145) ‘neither companies nor the masses of consumers can ignore the critical commentary on commodities by continuing, mutating and merging consumer boycotts (ibid. 146). Interestingly, they are the mighty, ubiquitous (mainly American) brands, which have been rounded on over issues ranging from racism and child labour to advertising in schools and which also have been the dominant targets of culture jammers and the critique in Klein’s book, which now see a turn in their financial fortunes, too.
Indeed many of the established brands that top the league tables ‘are in trouble, losing customer loyalty and value’ (The Economist, 2001a: 27, please see Table 1). Especially, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, complacent from past success, ‘find it difficult to admit that their customers are drifting away to newer offerings’ (ibid. 28). McDonald's, for example, in January 2003 posted its first quarterly loss since going public in 1965 and said double-digit earnings growth was ‘no longer realistic’[xix] (MacArthur, 2003).
[i] A brand is said to be ‘an element or combination of elements that uniquely identify a product as being produced by one particular supplier and thereby distinguish it from competitors’ products. These elements usually include a particular name, logo, symbol, and/or design that the customer then associates with a particular supplier and that the supplier, thanks to trademark laws, has the exclusive rights to use for an unlimited period of time’ (Hill and O’Sullivan, 1999: 189). ‘A brand is an identifiable entity that makes specific promises of value’ (Dolak, 2002)
[ii] Branding is said to be ‘all about creating singular distinction, strategic awareness, and differentiation in the mind of the target market…not just awareness’ (Dolak, 2002).
[iii] Marketing has been described as ‘a business philosophy that regards customer satisfaction as the key to successful trading and advocates the use of management practices that help identify and respond to customer needs (Hill and O’Sullivan, 1999: 1).
[iv] In 1988, McCracken was still able to state that the history of consumption ‘has no history, no community of scholars, not tradition of scholarship’ and is ‘preparadigmatic’. (Source: McCracken, G. (1988) Culture and Consumption: New Approaches to the Symbolic Character of Consumer Goods and Actvities, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, p.28.).
[v] A survey carried out in the US and Europe by the advertising agency Euro RSCG, examining the effects of the September 11 attacks on public opinion, revealed a deep-seated hostility and mistrust towards companies. The public’s trust in companies, the report states, has plummeted to such a low level that there is open hostility towards corporations. In the US almost half of the women surveyed, 49%, said they did not trust any company while 21% of men said the same. And 15% of European respondents said they could not name a single company they trusted. (Source: Day, J. (2002) ‘People lose faith in corporations’, in The Guardian, 15 March 2002, [online]. Available: http://media.guardian.co.uk/0,3858,4374829,00.html [visited 15/03/02].)
[vi] A study of American lifestyles by advertising agency DDB found that the precentage of consumers between the ages of 20 and 29 who said that they stuck to well-known brands fell from 66% in 1975 to 59% in 2000. The bigger surprise, though, was that the percentage in the 60 – 69 age bracket who said that they remained loyal to well-known brands fell over the same period, form 86% to 59%.
(Source: The Economist (2001) ‘Who's wearing the trousers?’ (cover story), 8 September 2001, Vol. 360 No. 8238, pp.26-29.)
[viii] Five things the anti-corporate movement is against, as summarised by Wood (2000), are:
1. The conquest of cool by big business (Richard Branson, Bill Gates and other rock'n'roll billionaires).
2. Branding, advertising and marketing (the triumph of concept over product).
3. Charles Handy, Tom Peters and all other business school gurus who preach downsizing and outsourcing.
4. The exploitation of Third World labour by groovy capitalists who pretend they're 'concerned'.
5. Anita Roddick.
[ix] Culture Jam: Hijacking Commercial Culture
(A film by Jill Sharpe. A Right To Jam Production Inc. Produced by Lynn Booth and Jill Sharpe.)
Screened among others during the Leeds International Film Festival held between the 3rd and 13th of October 2002, Culture Jam: Hijacking Commercial Culture documents the activities of culture jammers in San Francisco, New York's Times Square, and Toronto. The film provides a picture of the jammer scene featuring Jack Napier (a nom de guerre from the Joker in the Batman comics) of the Billboard Liberation Front, Disney arch-enemy Reverend Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping and Media Tigress Carly Stasko.
The film was also shown during the following film festivals: United Nations Film Festival, San Francisco, 1999; Amnesty International Film Festival, Vancouver, 1999; One World Film Festival, Ottawa, 1999; Global Visions Film Festival, Edmonton, 1999; Hot Docs, Best Political Film Nomination, Toronto, 2000;Santa Barbara International Film Festival, California, 2001; One World International Film Festival, Prague, 2001. (Source: www.culturejamthefilm.com)
[x] Culture jamming is a term first used by the collage band Negativland to describe billboard alteration and other forms of media sabotage. The ‘Culture Jammers Network’ describes themselves as follows: ‘We're a loose global network of media activists who see ourselves as the advance shock troops of the most significant social movement of the next twenty years. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge major adjustments to the way we will live in the twenty-first century. We believe culture jamming will become to our era what civil rights was to the 60s, what feminism was to the 70s, what environmental activism was to the 80s. It will alter the way we live and think. It will change the way information flows, the way institutions wield power, the way TV stations are run, the way the food, fashion, automobile, sports, music and culture industries set their agendas. Above all, it will change the way we interact with the mass media and the way in which meaning is produced in our society’ (Lasn, 1999: xi).
[xi] Lasn (1999: 100) observes that ‘it was the Situationists who first applied that spirit of anarchy to the modern media culture. They were the first to understand how the media spectacle slowly corrodes the human psyche. They were, in a sense, the first postmodern revolutionaries’.
[xii] Debord (1967) claims that the ‘omnipresent affirmation of a choice already made in production and corollary consumption’ moved everything that was directly lived ‘into a representation’ (Debord, 2001: 139).
[xiii] The Culture Jammer’s Manifesto is as follows :
We will take on the archetypal mind polluters and beat them at their own game.
We will uncool their billion.dollar brands with uncommercials on TV, subvertisements in magazines and anti-ads right next to theirs in the urban landscape.
We will seize control of the roles and functions that corporations play in our lives and set new agendas in their industries.
We will jam the pop-culture marketers and bring their image factory to a sudden, shuddering halt.
On the rubble of the old culture, we will build a new one with a non-commercial heart and soul (Lasn, 1999: 128).
[xiv] San Francisco's Billboard Liberation Front has been altering ads for 20 years, while Australia's Billboard Utilizing Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions (BUGA-UP) reached its peak in 1983 "causing an unprecedented $1 million worth of damage to tobacco billboards in and around Sydney" (Klein, 2001: 282).
[xv] For Baudrillard the ubiquity of the system and the aesthetics of shopping and consumption represent the end of the complex diversity of human life:
We have reached the point where consumption has grasped the whole life […] work, leisure, nature and culture all previously dispersed, separate, and more or less irreducible entities that produced anxiety and complexity in our real life, and on our anarchic and archaic cities, have finally become mixed, massaged, climate-controlled, and domesticated into the single activity of perpetual shopping.
(Baudrillard, 1988: 29-30)
And Koolhas (2001: frontispiece) states that ‘perhaps the beginning of the twenty-first century will be remembered as the point where the urban could no longer be understood without shopping’.
[xvi] There has, for example, been a great increase in spam e-mails with ten billion being sent every day in March 2003, which is 25 times more spam than was sent last year. In the US, 37% of all e-mails received this year are derived from spam (Ritson, 2003: 16).
[xvii] A kind of street-level, ground-up approach of marketing has been called ‘viral marketing’ because it tends to gradually, insidiously spread the word about a product or service – which can make it seem as if the ‘buzz’ is coming from people on the streets, instead of from advertisers. (Source: Berger, W. (2002) Advertising Today, London : Phaidon.)
[xviii] However, it must also be said that some parts of youth culture strongly resist any attempt of commodification and on the contrary subvert corporate power. An example hereof is the British anarchist band ‘Chumbawamba’, which are using their influence and money to protest against corporations. The band, for example, donated $70,000 which it received from General Motors for using one of their songs in a TV commercial to CorpWatch, a US campaign group aimed at 'holding corporations accountable' (www.corpwatch.org, 2003) and IndyMedia, a radical global independent news network. As a result, the two leading campaign groups are now spending General Motor's money to mount an aggressive information and environmental campaign - against GM. IndyMedia uses some of the money for 'corporate-jamming actions', publicising the flaws of firms such as GM. At CorpWatch, the money is powering an internet campaign against GM, which documents some of the social and environmental impacts of General Motors and corporate globalisation (Rowan, 2002).
[xix] Falling sales in the US and Europe and charges of $656.9 million to cover the cost of closures, restructuring and job losses have pushed McDonald's to a loss of $344 million (Yahoo, 2003). Also, the fast-food chain announced plans to close 719 of its 31,000 restaurants worldwide (Action Press, 2003). ‘The growing concern over fast food and health’ and ‘the anti-capitalist backlash and contentious US foreign policies [which] have made it a target for anti-American sentiment’ (Yahoo, 2003) have been blamed for McDonald's falling sales.
- Quote paper
- Florian Mayer (Author), 2003, The death of the brand? Challenges facing international brands in the 21st century - an analysis with examples and recommendations, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/13593