By Naomi Klein
Review by Dan Geddes
No Logo is the book of the new anti-corporate movement. Although No Logo is not the original catalyst for the movement, Klein draws together the threads of 1990s anti-corporate activism into a compelling story. The story is the rise of the mega-brand in the 1990s. Business consultants agreed that corporations should focus on brand building and so companies such as Nike outsourced production to contractors in the developing world. Then they lavished money on advertising their brands rather than their products.
The power of multinationals is now so pervasive that this change of focus affects people worldwide. In the West, brand saturation has invaded many public spaces, including the city streets, schools and universities. Malls now serve the role of public forums, but unlike town squares, malls are privately owned, so any anti-corporate protesters can be removed from the point of purchase.
Klein groups her narrative into four parts—No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, No Logo. No Spaces describes the rise of the mega brand in the 1990s. Surprisingly, as recently as 1993 fears of the death of the brand gripped Wall Street in the wake of “Marlboro Friday.” Philip Morris had announced price cuts in their flagship Marlboro brand cigarettes. Brand makers and advertisers panicked that an era of value purchasing had descended, a time when consumers would buy non-brand name products in order to save money. But these fears were unfounded as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nike and The Gap led an unparalleled advertising expansion. Brands had long before dominated the public spaces of sports events and rock concerts, but now brands sponsored formerly publicly sponsored cultural events, especially in cash-strapped universities. Klein notes how Reagan-era corporate tax cuts and de-regulation starved the tax base, creating greater need for corporate sponsorship.
Brands positioned themselves as selling indispensable accessories to life in the new global village. Brand builders draw on countercultural and multicultural imagery to position their products as the latest in cool.
Ironically, even as the mega brands blared their message of global free markets, they lobbied governments for tax breaks, deregulation, and even sued state and local governments to overturn “selective purchasing agreements,” whereby local governments refuse to buy products made by companies operating in repressive foreign regimes.
Part II, No Choice, describes how branding practices actually restrict consumer choice. Starbuck’s brand bombing—their saturation of neighborhoods with coffeeshops—attempts to drive out local competition. Wal-mart has used scale to crush local competition, pricing goods less than what smaller shopkeepers have to pay wholesale.
To preempt charges of horizontal or vertical monopoly, business mavens now speak of “synergy,” where production and distribution are controlled by mega-firms. Disney, perhaps the inventor of synergy as long ago as the merchandizing blitz of Snow White, now controls ABC. Bertelsmann AG bought into barnesandnoble.com. Viacom bought Blockbuster Video and Paramount Pictures. Disney and Discovery have opened their own retail chains.
The media giants have unprecedented power to affect the expression of ideas. Wal-Mart can refuse to stock certain CDs, prompting recording artists to change their CD covers, or to produce alternate versions for sale at Wal-Mart. The synergy of corporate takeovers means that often the content producer and retailer are owned by the same company, so that the content producer has no incentive to stand up for free expression and deny profits to deny profits to their sister corporation.
The sheer size and purchasing power of these mega-corporations gives them the leverage to move production out of North America. Indeed, the garment industry, as described in Part III, No Jobs, is a scandal from top to bottom. For Klein, companies such as Nike have completely outsourced production in order to minimize costs and distance themselves from any responsibility to the people who actually make the products. This approach to the problem of production creates intense competition among developing economies to keep labor costs low and regulation loose so as to provide attractive zones for product assembly to take place.
The campaign against sweatshops in the garment industry has proved to be a rallying point for anti-corporate forces, much as in the 19th century. Now the industry is sustained by sweatshops first in South Korea and Singapore in the 1980s, jobs which relocated over time to ever cheaper labor markets, as in Indonesia and the Philippines, and now with China leading the pack toward lowest of the slave wages, as low as $0.12 cents per hour.
Klein visited a “free trade zone” in the Philippines and discovered mandatory unpaid overtime. There were also negligent fire safety measures (leading to a deadly fire, where many people died, some encountering bricked-in fire exits, others leaping to their deaths to escape the flames). Labor organizers are fired, or locked out of the sweatshops. Pregnancy is discouraged and pregnancy tests are given monthly in some sweatshops.
These abuses served as a rallying point for activists, who launched widely publicized campaigns against Nike and Kathie Lee Gifford. Klein admits that the success of the anti-sweatshop movement was carried off by the mainstream corporate media itself, which played up the scandalous “gotcha” quality linking world famous logos or celebrities with sweatshops.
Klein also credits the internet for good communication between the workers in developing countries and activists and consumers in North America and Europe. Workers paid $2 per day were taken to shops in America where the shoes they made were for sale for $120. Activists informed inner-city teenagers about the conditions of the workers who made their shoes. This communication warned American consumers about their link to slave labor of The Gap clothes, but consumers found it difficult to find brands that utilize harsh labor practices within the garment industry.
In the fourth part, No Logo, Klein describes different groups within the anti-corporate movement. One lesson is that the universal language of branding allows activists to focus their attack on a recognizable target. Brand-slamming has become a favorite tactic of the counterculture, whether in billboard defacement, parody (as in Ad Busters), or alternate music. Nike, McDonalds, and Shell have felt acute pressure from anti-corporate forces. Anti-corporate protesters have learned that corporations are more responsive to the power of boycott and protest than governments are to similar activist pressure.
Klein clearly endorses the forces of anti-globalization and anti-corporate power, but always finds it to be a measured response to corporate abuse. She describes both its strengths and weaknesses. No Logo suggests that a viable anti-corporate movement is finally in being, one that effectively changes corporate behavior. These anti-globalization groups are a more vocal opponent to corporations than the Democratic Party.
No Logo is an eloquent history of branding and its opponents, a conflict that is certainly deserving of a good historian. Klein brings the conflict to life. She revels in the victories of the movement, while also noting its limitations.
As of February 2003, the world economy remains in a funk. This is a good moment for forces that protect workers and consumers’ rights to assert themselves. No Logo shows the oppressed that they are not alone. Klein’s triumph is to chronicle the impact of the anti-globalization movement of the 1990s.
Published April 2012
Get the book! The Satirist - America's Most Critical Book (Volume 1)
No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies is a book by the Canadian author Naomi Klein. First published by Knopf Canada and Picador in December 1999, shortly after the 1999 WTOMinisterial Conference protests in Seattle had generated media attention around such issues, it became one of the most influential books about the alter-globalization movement and an international bestseller.
The book focuses on branding and often makes connections with the alter-globalization movement. Throughout the four parts ("No Space", "No Choice", "No Jobs", and "No Logo"), Klein writes about issues such as sweatshops in the Americas and Asia, culture jamming, corporate censorship, and Reclaim the Streets. She pays special attention to the deeds and misdeeds of Nike, The Gap, McDonald's, Shell, and Microsoft – and of their lawyers, contractors, and advertising agencies. Many of the ideas in Klein's book derive from the influence of the Situationists, an art/political group founded in the late 1950s.
However, while globalization appears frequently as a recurring theme, Klein rarely addresses the topic of globalization itself, and when she does, it is usually indirectly. She goes on to discuss globalization in much greater detail in her book, Fences and Windows (2002).
The book comprises four sections: "No Space", "No Choice", "No Jobs", and "No Logo". The first three deal with the negative effects of brand-oriented corporate activity, while the fourth discusses various methods people have taken in order to fight back.
The book begins by tracing the history of brands. Klein argues that there has been a shift in the usage of branding and gives examples of this shift to "anti-brand" branding. Early examples of brands were often used to put a recognizable face on factory-produced products. These slowly gave way to the idea of selling lifestyles. According to Klein, in response to an economic crash in the 1980s (due to the Latin American debt crisis, Black Monday (1987), the savings and loan crisis, and the Japanese asset price bubble), corporations began to seriously rethink their approach to marketing and to target the youth demographic, as opposed to the baby boomers, who had previously been considered a much more valuable segment.
The book discusses how brand names such as Nike or Pepsi expanded beyond the mere products which bore their names, and how these names and logos began to appear everywhere. As this happened, the brands' obsession with the youth market drove them to further associate themselves with whatever the youth considered "cool". Along the way, the brands attempted to associate their names with everything from movie stars and athletes to grassroots social movements.
Klein argues that large multinational corporations consider the marketing of a brand name to be more important than the actual manufacture of products; this theme recurs in the book, and Klein suggests that it helps explain the shift to production in Third World countries in such industries as clothing, footwear, and computer hardware.
This section also looks at ways in which brands have "muscled" their presence into the school system, and how in doing so, they have pipelined advertisements into the schools and used their position to gather information about the students. Klein argues that this is part of a trend toward targeting younger and younger consumers.
In the second section, Klein discusses how brands use their size and clout to limit the number of choices available to the public – whether through market dominance (e.g., Wal-Mart) or through aggressive invasion of a region (e.g., Starbucks). Klein argues that each company's goal is to become the dominant force in its respective field. Meanwhile, other corporations, such as Sony or Disney, simply open their own chains of stores, preventing the competition from even putting their products on the shelves.
This section also discusses the way that corporations merge with one another in order to add to their ubiquity and provide greater control over their image. ABC News, for instance, is allegedly under pressure not to air any stories that are overly critical of Disney, its parent company. Other chains, such as Wal-Mart, often threaten to pull various products off their shelves, forcing manufacturers and publishers to comply with their demands. This might mean driving down manufacturing costs or changing the artwork or content of products like magazines or albums so they better fit with Wal-Mart's image of family friendliness.
Also discussed is the way that corporations abuse copyright laws in order to silence anyone who might attempt to criticize their brand.
In this section, the book takes a darker tone and looks at the way in which manufacturing jobs move from local factories to foreign countries, and particularly to places known as export processing zones. Such zones often have no labor laws, leading to dire working conditions.
The book then shifts back to North America, where the lack of manufacturing jobs has led to an influx of work in the service sector, where most of the jobs are for minimum wage and offer no benefits. The term "McJob" is introduced, defined as a job with poor compensation that does not keep pace with inflation, inflexible or undesirable hours, little chance of advancement, and high levels of stress. Meanwhile, the public is being sold the perception that these jobs are temporary employment for students and recent graduates, and therefore need not offer living wages or benefits.
All of this is set against a backdrop of massive profits and wealth being produced within the corporate sector. The result is a new generation of employees who have come to resent the success of the companies they work for. This resentment, along with rising unemployment, labour abuses abroad, disregard for the environment, and the ever-increasing presence of advertising breeds a new disdain for corporations.
The final section of the book discusses various movements that have sprung up during the 1990s. These include Adbusters magazine and the culture-jamming movement, as well as Reclaim the Streets and the McLibel trial. Less radical protests are also discussed, such as the various movements aimed at putting an end to sweatshop labour.
Klein concludes by contrasting consumerism and citizenship, opting for the latter. "When I started this book," she writes, "I honestly didn't know whether I was covering marginal atomized scenes of resistance or the birth of a potentially broad-based movement. But as time went on, what I clearly saw was a movement forming before my eyes."
After the book's release, Klein was heavily criticized by the news magazine The Economist, leading to a broadcast debate with Klein and the magazine's writers, dubbed "No Logo vs. Pro Logo".
The 2004 book The Rebel Sell (published as Nation of Rebels in the United States) specifically criticized No Logo, stating that turning the improving quality of life in the working class into a fundamentally anti-market ideology is shallow.
In this book, Klein criticized Nike so severely that Nike published a point-by-point response.
In 2000, No Logo was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award in 2000.
In 2001, the book won the following awards:
Several imprints of No Logo exist, including a hardcover first edition a subsequent hardcover edition, and a paperback. A 10th anniversary edition was published by Fourth Estate that includes a new introduction by the author. Translations from the original English into several other languages have also been published. The subtitle, "Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies", was dropped in some later editions.
Naomi Klein explains her ideas in the 40-minute video No Logo – Brands, Globalization & Resistance (2003), directed by Sut Jhally.
Members of the English rock group Radiohead have stated that the book influenced them particularly during the making of their fourth and fifth albums, Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001), respectively. (The albums were recorded over the same sessions.) The band recommended the book to fans on their website and considered calling the album Kid A "No Logo" for a time.Dhani Harrison, son of George Harrison and front-man of English electronic/alternative rock group Thenewno2, has stated that No Logo had a large influence on their release, You Are Here (2008). Argentine-American rock singer Kevin Johansen wrote a song, "Logo", inspired by Klein's book. A copy of No Logo is even used in the official video for the song. Rapper MC Lars's album This Gigantic Robot Kills contains a track entitled "No Logo", a satirical analysis of anti-government youth, partially inspired by the book.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: No Logo|
- CBC Archives – CBC Television HotType N. Klein talking about her book.
- ^"No Logo by Naomi Klein". RandomHouse.ca. Archived from the original on 2 October 2007. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- ^"No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies". Amazon. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- ^"Klein teams up with Cuaron for anti-globalization short". CBC News. 2007-09-06. Archived from the original on January 16, 2009. Retrieved 2008-09-29.
- ^"Brand Names". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2017-10-20.
- ^Klein, Naomi (2009). No space, no choice, no jobs, no logo : taking aim at the brand bullies (10th anniversary ed.). Toronto: Vintage Canada. p. 443. ISBN 9780307399090.
- ^WNHC News Debate: Pro Logo vs. No Logo
- ^Heath, Joseph; Potter, Andrew (2004). The Rebel Sell. Ontario: Harper Perennial. ISBN 1841126551.
- ^"NikeBiz | Labor | No Logo Letter". 2001-06-18. Archived from the original on 2001-06-18. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
- ^"Guardian First Book Award 2000". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- ^"Winner". National Business Book Awar. 2001. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14.
- ^"French Prix Médiations". senat.fr. 2001.
- ^Klein, Naomi. No Logo (first ed.). ISBN 0-676-97130-X.
- ^Klein, Naomi. No Logo (hardcover ed.). ISBN 0-312-20343-8.
- ^Klein, Naomi. No Logo (paperback ed.). ISBN 0-312-27192-1.
- ^Klein, Naomi. No Logo (10th anniversary ed.). Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4.
- ^"Publication Information for No Logo | Naomi Klein". www.naomiklein.org. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
- ^Jhally, Sut (Director) & Klein, Naomi (2003). No Logo – Brands, Globalization & Resistance. ISBN 1-893521-85-0.
- ^Eccleston, Danny (October 2000). "(Radiohead article)". Q Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- ^Johansen, Kevin. "'Logo' music video". Youtube. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
- ^"No Logo with Jesse Dangerously". McLarsBlog. Retrieved February 24, 2009.