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No Logo by Naomi Klein
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May 29, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012
Read from March 24 to April 29, 2012

Reading this book more than ten years after it came out is hard. It's difficult to realize how momentous it was at the time. It's hard to understand that this book is one of the cultural underpinnings of the anti-sweatshop movement, the WTO protests, Occupy Wall Street. The cynicism about brands that Klein documents is so pervasive now it's hard to remember how much people just loved brands blindly and completely at one point. THis book completely changed things.

Having read several Klein articles in recent years - as well as the revised forward to the ten year edition - you can see that Klein has moved away from using the concept of brands as a fulcrum for her intellectual arguments against certain aspects of globalization, corporatism, etc. But not completely - Brands are still the most visible component of a company, and, thus, serve as a mechanism to attack them. That is still useful.

In some ways, though, the brand approach to anti-globalism seems a bit dated. Many of the sinister examples Klein listed didn't pan out, and some of the companies are hardly massive brand juggernauts these days, just a little over ten years later. I almost laughed out loud about the panic Klein bestows on Celebration, Florida. I had just visited last summer and it was nothing like she described. This, of course, is because of the fall of one of the villains of the brand portion of the book - Michael Eisner.

However, in reading many economists' work on brand and advertising, Klein has come up more than once, and indeed, her concept of Brand disconnects the concept of Brand from its original economic form. This can have some profound ramifications, and many modern academic economists have explored it further. Concretely, a brand no longer symbolizes a specific origin or quality, in fact it could signal just the opposite. It's a weird thought.

Finally, having worked in advertising for 15 years, I can say that Klein definitely intentionally or not distorts the motivations of many of the creatives she lists. I know because there are a few places in the book where she references campaigns I worked on, and we were thinking nothing of the sort of plots and schemes she attributed to us. Whether in the end that matters may be immaterial - the effect is the same - but the book does read substantially more like it's all a big single plot than, in my experience, any of it really is.
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