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No Logo

The increasing power of brands

By Naomi Klein
  • Read in 15 minutes
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  • Contains 10 key ideas
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No Logo by Naomi Klein

No Logo takes a look at how the power of brands has grown since the 1980s, and how companies have emphasized their brand image rather than their actual products. No Logo shows how this strategy has affected employees in both the industrial and the non-developed world. No Logo also introduces the reader to the activists and campaigners who are leading the fight back against multinationals and their brands.

Key idea 1 of 10

Brands are obsessed with appearing cool; therefore, they capture and mine youth subcultures for their ideas.

A brand can succeed or die depending on whether or not it is considered cool. Companies therefore spend vast amounts every year trying to find out what is seen as cool and then incorporating this into their brand.

This fixation with coolness stems from the companies’ overreliance on the youth market to generate sales. In previous decades, baby-boomers drove the consumer economy, but during the recession of the early 1990s they began to seek cheaper alternatives to high-end brands. This forced brands to find new customers, and so they turned towards the growing teenage population.

To properly target teenagers, companies analyzed youth cultures and incorporated the traits that were considered cool into their brand images. Aspects of traditionally alternative subcultures in music and fashion, such as punk and grunge, were appropriated by brands. Even rebellious characteristics like ‘retro’ and ‘irony’ were turned into marketable commodities.

Consider for example hip-hop and Black culture. The break out of hip-hop artists in the 1980s led to the style becoming popular with young people throughout society. Brands such as Nike and Tommy Hilfiger were able to ingratiate themselves into the movement by sponsoring artists and sports stars and engaging in aggressive marketing that pushed their image to center stage. The strategy was so massively successful that brands now help to dictate the development of this subculture and directly influence which products are considered cool. Black culture and identity has been captured by the brands and transformed into a profit-generating phenomenon, and Black communities are forced to follow where the brands lead.

Brands are obsessed with appearing cool; therefore, they capture and mine youth subcultures for their ideas.

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