No Logo: Review of Naomi Klein’s Classic Anti-Corporate Text
No Logo is a now classic book of the anti-corporate movement. Although No Logo was 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…