No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies is a book written in 2000 by Naomi Klein, a Canadian left-wing journalist, which became foundational for the anti-capitalist, anti-globalization movement that developed in response to the World Trade Organization. It describes how Western businesses have shifted from production of goods to production of brands, with the actual goods being produced by outsourcing businesses in developing economies which pay low wages to often exploited workers. Klein also argues that brands are taking over public spaces with advertising now reaching places where it never used to reach: inside classrooms, inside toilet stalls and on the fold-down tables on airliners. Klein also complains about how large financial interests have distorted scientific research being produced by public universities, similarly large corporate media interests exercise a rigid censorship over media and the arts, how large media interests do not cover stories that affect other parts of a corporate empire.
In the second section of the book, Klein argues that the current corporate branding empires have destroyed jobs: by outsourcing well-paying manufacturing jobs to export processing zones lacking the protections of labor law, by the use of temps and internships to garner free labor from idealistic fans of the brand, the use of unpaid 'street teams' to promote brands, by providing only temporary and part-time rather than full-time positions to avoid having to provide the benefits required by law for full-time positions and by dismantling unions.
In the final section of the book, Klein describes how activists are responding to the situation she describes: through 'culture jamming' - surreptitiously replacing adverts with parodies mocking everything from the health effects of cigarettes to the sexist imagery - and a range of autonomous protest movements including Reclaim the Streets.
As has been pointed out by Andrew Potter in an online review of the book, many of the brands criticised in No Logo have responded by producing unbranded alternatives and by using some of the techniques used by the culture jamming movement in order to market their own products:
Kenneth Cole has been jamming its own advertising for years, embroidering its campaigns with slogans and quotations addressing topics such as AIDS, homelessness, gun control, and same-sex marriage. Guerrilla marketing might once have been a cool way of getting attention for your alternative band or performance-art installation, but today, thanks to the viral capabilities of Twitter and YouTube, the technique is used to sell everything from fried chicken to the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Klein has gone on to write a number of further books on the politics of globalization.
- Andrew Potter, The Revenge of the Brands, Reason May 2010.