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Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  216 ratings  ·  58 reviews
A writer and activist investigates corporate America's inroads into—and alliances with—the cultural underground.

"There's an industry around you that works, whether you agree with it or not."—Alec Bourgeois, Dischord Records label manager

For years the do-it-yourself (DIY)/punk underground has worked against the logic of mass production and creative uniformity, disseminating
Paperback, 262 pages
Published November 12th 2007 by New Press, The
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This is a strange book. It's mainly an expose of new advances that corporate marketing has used to exploit DIY and underground markets, which is kind of a silly idea since these markets are traditionally not exactly filled with excess money to spend on products. It shows examples from a wide variety of corporations who have used 'anti-marketing', to help strength their own brands. Basically a lot of this book can be summed up in the cliche that there is no bad press, if you can get mentioned, or ...more
Jan 06, 2012 Oriana marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
Just read an amazing review from bitch magazine which ended like this:

"Parts of Unmarketable may be impenetrable to those unfamiliar with the ways of DIY art and activism, but that's precisely why the book works. Instead of a "don't-always-trust-what-you-see" tome targeted at the masses, Moore talks straight to the artists producing the work, passionately prodding them to think about integrity, ownership, and meaning. In doing so, she's created an authentic work about the collisions of corporate
Put simply, art is created for the love of the creative act and advertising is created to sell you things you don't need. The two are distinctly different and confusing them is dangerous. I'm paraphrasing, but that's a key message of Unmarketable.

The book goes on to explore the various ways that corporations (Nike, Sony, Lucasfilms, etc.) take a genuine grassroots DIY culture movement and turn it into a marketing vehicle in an attempt to not necessarily to reach the unreachable audience and con
Oct 03, 2008 Peter rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in the counter culture or marketing or both
I liked this book, but... OK, I think Moore's heart is in the right place, and there is a lot of stuff in the book that is interesting and thought-provoking (some of the material on "stealth marketing" by companies was fascinating and disturbing, and her ideas about how "word of mouth" advertising campaigns erode the value of conversation is going to keep me chewing for a while), but...

Some background. I ran an independent bookstore for a few years in the 90s, and I carried a lot of independent
heavy on jargon but never fully and clearly explained. self-congratulatory and offering few alternatives between corporations (bad) and a diy punk underground (utopia). lots of anecdotes and annoying footnotes with useless asides about how the author has donated all of her zines and how she felt about barbie growing up. her "shopdropping" episode at american girls store was written up like it was revolutionary and daring but i would argue that it was inappropriate and lame. i wanted to learn som ...more
I'm giving this book three stars largely because I think the wealth of information, research and experience contained in it is extraordinary, and largely eye-opening for me. I recommended it several times while reading it largely for this reason, but always with caveats. In fact, as much as I feel like there's a lot to gain from this book, I don't feel I can put a recommendation of it out into the world without heavy caveats that it is, essentially, one-sided. In an environment like this, I can ...more
The author gave me a few new things to think about but for the most part I think you'll gain more academically from reading the books she cites ( Conquest of Cool for example). What I found the most compelling were her personal accounts of interactions with corporate money/power as an activist and as an artist. These above anything else show how complicated our culture has become in both production and consumption.
In the messy late capitalist world of advertising, branding, lifestyle politics and the everyday demands of ‘culture’ as a site of political struggles, there is little that is more contentious than the charge of selling out the cause, given the struggle over to ‘the man’. Moore, a leading figure in North American DIY cultural politics and former editor of the deeply missed Punk Planet sets out to explore just what ‘selling out’ might mean to cultural workers in contemporary capitalism. Her appro ...more
Advertising is everywhere. It's gone beyond the usual TV ad, billboards, the sides of buses. Now on entire vehicles, digitally inserted into sportscasts, cleverly placed in TV shows and movies. Ads' very ubiquity threatens to make them irrelevant. The old standard, the 30-second TV spot, gets attention only during the Superbowl, if those wringing their hands and wailing about the advent of the DVR are to be believed. In response, ads get put everywhere else, integrated into the modern landscape. ...more
Floated in and out of this book. It seemed to be circling an answer to a question I have been curious about for years: how much of the anti-corporate movement culture is authentic, and how much of it is an identity of resistance? Can corporate culture and DiY culture co-exist? This book seems to suggest that as marketing firms co-opt DiY tactics for advertising (zines, crafting, indie music, turning graffiti into "graff-AD-i") - they dilute the DiY culture. This book details some of the tactics ...more
Mar 23, 2008 R.John rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mercenaries and cultural marxists
Shelves: nonfiction
The conceit of a capitalist with "integrity" is one of those straw men, like a "noble savage" or "benevolent monarchy" -- it burns so brightly, and quickly, and it illuminates all sorts of ill-begotten treasures of criticism and intellectual bravado. Ultimately, though, the spoils of such a bonfire provides little more than an easily dispelled mound of ash. In short, the critique, while possibly entertaining, rings contextually hollow and structurally unsound.

Such is the case with UNMARKETABLE.
Steev Hise
Apr 01, 2008 Steev Hise rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: newbies who havent thought much about marketing already.
Shelves: politics
some of it is old hat to me, the copyright stuff, etc, but it documents some very recent developments in marketing that are extremely disturbing.

If you've already read books like Conquest of Cool, No Logo, Captains of Conciousness, or been reading zines like Stay Free!, this is not going to be a really useful or revelatory book.

Overall, i was a little disappointed because the book doesn't really provide many solutions. there's a chapter at the end called "taking dissent off the market", but it o
A *very* interesting book. After reading "Not Buying It, My Year Without Shopping," I was compelled to look into marketing as an important part of our consumer culture. Moore focuses on a particular kind of marketing (that which is viral and often co-opts underground and DIY culture), and I have to admit that by the end, I had become pretty suspicious of everyone and everything around me. She makes a strong case for the idea that at this point, isn't everyone selling something? Most of the book ...more
Anna Bond
Dec 05, 2008 Anna Bond added it
Shelves: nonfic, music
I can't really rate this book because I have worked with half the corporate shills she discusses. My heart sinks to think upon what deaf ears Moore's argument must be falling - the ideal of integrity seems almost entirely lost in the music industry, and her examples imply that it's the same in the worlds of design, alternative sports, etc. Depressing, but because of what I do, not at all surprising.

A new marketing firm pops up every day. Any suggestion that selling one's creative output to the
I thought I would like this book, but it was just too much of a "cooler-than-thou" feel to the first two chapters. The author seems to have an issue with modern business and relishes her life in the DIY culture that has attracted the attention of new marketing. It's perfect for those who thought No Logo and Adbusters are too centrist. I couldn't get past her moral dilemma at getting a grant for teaching zine workshops and them worrying that it was supported by Starbucks. That this grant support ...more
Jun 02, 2008 Veronica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Veronica by: The author
Shelves: reviewed
My review is up at my blog.

A snippet thou:

If you eschew Target to make your own clothes, buy from your local grocery & prefer Bust to Cosmo, would you take $2,000 from Ford to help spread the word about their new electric car? That's the main premise to Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing and the Erosion of Integrity by Anne Elizabeth Moore, but this is not just a book for the DIY/punk crowds. By giving us case studies on how easily some fairly indy people sell out, including
A great idea for a book, but overall, I found this investigation of hip marketing techniques and their destructive effect on the underground quite awkwardly executed and often just plain banal. It has little in the way of valuable insight on the intersection between art, politics, commerce and advertising. It's also full of wild inaccuracies, assumptions and generalizations about the value of the counter-culture in general. Do independent labels have more "integrity" than major corporations? Wha ...more
mis fit
Though getting pretty dated now, this is a fun read. It's basically a series of essays about corporations co-opting diy / punk culture around 2005. This is a cute premise, and the Chicago stuff evokes some major nostalgia for me... Overall, it isn't the most ground-breaking book. But it does help pull back the curtain a little to reveal the way corporations throwing around huge amounts of money and influence intrude into culture, neighborhoods, and psyches.
Ray Charbonneau
The stories about how marketers make use of "guerrilla" tactics are interesting, but they're not signs of an impending apocalypse. If you agree with the author's assumption that all corporate activity is evil and all independent art and DIY media are pillars of integrity, then this book gets easier to swallow. Unfortunately, that's immature BS.

Successful countercultures grow to become part of the larger culture. The author needs to get over that.

Also, the author manages to totally ignore how th
Well let's see, add this one to the likes of Thomas Frank and Naomi Klein's journalism. Moore was co-editor of erstwhile publication, Punk Planet, and she's concerned with how consumer culture messes with artistic expression, and integrity in general. Nothing terribly new here and much of the ideas seem oversimplified, but there are some good stories and interesting case studies. And hey, the chapters are short and it's a quick read -- good for keeping in the bathroom for toilet visits. You migh ...more
I started this book over 7 years ago and only recently decided to finish it. At the time it seemed like an interesting read but it hasn't aged well as the topics are no longer relevant.
Changed the way I live my life
A great look into the 90's 'alternative' boom and marketing's calculated break-in into the underground. I promise this book will make even the more seasoned anti-capitalist rethink how our modern consumer culture is fed to us in the subtle contexts of Gen-X marketing. It is also a great read because it's not simply another mud-dragging, down in the dumps expose of how the whole world is going to shit.. It does discuss a few different angles of 'alternative' culture, as well as a few victories in ...more
I am only halfway through this book, but at this point I feel inclined to comment that whoever is copyediting over at the New Press needs to step it up a bit. This one and Heather Rogers' Gone Tomorrow are surprisingly full of spelling and grammatical errors. What, do they just use spell check now? Maybe it's just the librarian speaking, but it seems like these kinds of errors are more common and more commonly overlooked lately. It's not a crime against humanity or anything, but damn, it's annoy ...more
Shira and Ari Evergreen
Apr 20, 2009 Shira and Ari Evergreen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: punks, artists, culture workers, musicians, designers, freelancers
This book made me reevaluate my relationship with money and has challenged me to figure out how to make a living while really retaining my integrity as a culture worker. I mean, I've been working on that for years, but the author of this book and the many interesting people she interviewed are helping me see that I could go even farther. Good stuff - and an excellent primer on the punk movement, as well as on street art's evolving relationship with commerce.
Feb 24, 2008 Kate added it
Shelves: 2008
Based on its packaging and concept, I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, I didn't find it useful, well-researched, or convincingly argued. A few intriguing ideas are introduced, investigated superficially, and then more or less dismissed--for example, I would've liked to have read more about the idea of satire/parody vs. political activity. Maybe I'll read Naomi Klein's No Logo, which this book references repeatedly.
Are you a sell out? According to Moore, there's a good chance you are. Unmarketable is a philosophical look at how companies are turning to new and underground forms of advertising and what those ramifications are. Someone is quoted in the book as saying "this world is controlled by corporations and creatively fueled by the independents; it's only a mater of time before both entities walk hand in hand in harmony." So, have you sold out?
A number of great point are brought up in this book - but ultimately, no solutions are given. It's as if things are so bleak that a "public" sector of the forms of expression she addresses is forever lost. Corporate co-opting will never be gone - it's their job to catch on to "cool." But a primer guide to actually fighting back would make the book a more cohesive whole, rather than a sort of rehash of "No Logo."
Unmarketable is full of facts and anecdotes about various guerilla style marketing campaigns, which would be interesting enough on their own, but it's real strength lies in addressing questions of when and how an artist can sell out in various ways, and doesn't so much judge/preach/decide the what the limits are or should be as much as it provides a framework to get you thinking more deeply about the issues at hand.
Aug 12, 2008 Zoe rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: activists, fans of Punk Planet
Moore has some interesting points, but I found the writing style awkward and disconnected. Her thoughts wander from buzz marketing to Neopets back to buzz marketing, with some Starbucks-sponsored zine workshops and American Girl dolls in between. I felt like I couldn't get a grasp of the overall thesis - it just went all over the place.
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Anne Elizabeth Moore is an award-winning cultural critic. The Fulbright scholar and Truthout columnist behind Ladydrawers: Gender and Media in the US is also the author of Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007), Hey Kidz, Buy This Book (Soft Skull, 2004), Cambodian Grrrl (Cantankerous Titles, 2011), Hip Hop Apsara (Green Lantern Press, ...more
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“the fact is, our relationships to these corporations are not unambiguous. some memebers of negativland genuinely liked pepsi products. mca grew up loving star wars and didn't mind having his work sent all over the united states to all the "cool, underground magazines" they were marketing to--why would he? sam gould had a spiritual moment in the shower listening to a cd created, according to sophie wong, so that he would talk about tylenol with his independent artist friends--and he did. many of my friends' daughters will be getting american girl dolls and books as gifts well into the foreseeable future. some skateboarders in washington, dc, were asked to create an ad campaign for the east coast summer tour, and they all love minor threat--why not use its famous album cover? how about shilling for converse? i would have been happy to ten years ago. so what's really changed?
the answer is that two important things have changed: who is ultimately accountable for veiled corporate campaigns that occasionally strive to obsfucate their sponsorship and who is requesting our participation in such campaigns. behind converse and nike sb is nike, a company that uses shit-poor labor policies and predatory marketing that effectively glosses over their shit-poor labor policies, even to an audience that used to know better. behind team ouch! was an underground-savvy brainreservist on the payroll of big pharma; behind the recent wave of street art in hip urban areas near you was omd worldwide on behalf of sony; behind your cool hand-stenciled vader shirt was lucasfilm; and behind a recent cool crafting event was toyota. no matter how you participated in these events, whether as a contributor, cultural producer, viewer, or even critic, these are the companies that profited from your attention.”
“I'm on a weird quest to be sort of famous, like an indie movie star that only the hip people like to chat about.....I want to be underground famous," she wrote on, before working on her Sith promotions - she's genuinely on "our side.” 1 likes
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