The multitudes inside me were completely at odds as I approached Naomi Klien’s, No Logo. As a current student of one of the best business schools in the world that boasts the “father of branding” (David Aaker) as one of its professor emeriti, I read No Logo with a hint of dismissiveness, scoffing at the idea of business without branding.
As a former business owner and a strategic marketing consultant, whose life aim is to work towards ending world hunger, I approached this text with hope. Hope that her take on branding might shed some light on the inequities inherent towards those affected by the system.
As a person deeply interested in the commoditization of products and their impacts on necessities like food, I approached the texts with skepticism, questioning the significance of branding in relation to the basic food staples.
Although, I found myself agreeing with her overarching concepts, reading the two chapters, I often found myself consistently disagreeing with her approach. The broad generalizations and nearly incorrect statements that she makes, issues that she tries to overlook, really made me question her credibility as an author.
I tried to dismiss as many concerns as I could writing them off as issues possibly arising from a lack of lacked the content from the other chapters. I tried to remember that given my pro business bias I most likely am not the ideal audience for this book. Had I been a part of the occupy movement or the anti-globalization movement, she would have found a more receptive audience to her approach.
Her basic proposal revolves around the idea questioning the need for and demonizing the idea of brands and branding. The way she explains the idea of branding, it seems like a relatively new concept that has emerged and become a self-feeding monster, where more and more is needed to maintain the status quo or to ward off competitors.
However, that couldn’t be anything from the truth. The oldest example of a brand that still exists to this day is the beer Stella Artois. Originally branded in 1366, Stella has continued to exist to this day. This is just an example of the need for and the longevity of a brand; there have been many brands that have come before and after that have long disappeared.
In fact the idea of branding your product can be traced back to the times when humans were starting to develop agriculture, raising livestock and developing gastronomy. People would brand their food, animals and cooked foods to differentiate themselves from everyone else.
Although it is true that the concept has been taken to absurd limits, it is that need to differentiate that is the key behind people and companies wanting to brand themselves and their concepts. In fact, one could argue that one of the most significant examples of that in our collective history is of the apostle Paul’s attempt to evangelize the teachings of Christ was his attempt to brand Christianity.
The most egregious problem that I find with her writing is the pigeonholing of a companies work. She claims, “Their real work lay not in manufacturing but in marketing” and in one fell swoop, oversimplifies the magnitude of what a corporation does. She completely disregards the multitudes of other factors such as product development, research, quality management, distribution, etc.
All this is not to say that I disagree with her core points, I don’t disagree with her basic premise that branding as a concept has been applied nearly to near detrimental levels. The concept has been applied to that level and there are many issues with it, a reduction of competition, not enough consumer choice, a vicious cycle of one-upmanship in advertising and marketing.
I agree with all those points, I just do not agree with her cavalier approach of overlooking inconvenient issues to fit her needs.