Saturday, March 24, 2007

No Logo

No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, by Naomi Klein
$10.20 at Amazon.com ISBN: 0312421435
This is a book about branding: giving a commercial product an image and packaging that turns a $20 pair of sneakers into a $180 pair of Nikes. Klein travelled all over the world doing research: from the sweatshops of Thailand and Malaysia to the WalMarts of the American Midwest. She interviews corporate executives, factory workers, salespeople, and even ordinary consumers to give us an overall view of American brands. In many cases, the branding costs more than the product. MBAs and advertising execs spend millions trying to figure out how to make their products cool. Now you can stay a step ahead of them.
Brand name products originated at the beginning of the 20th century alongside industrialization. For the first time people began buying food in pre-packaged containers instead of having them doled out by the grocer. Advertising came into play for two reasons: 1. To tell you what the product was for (toilet tissue and disposable razor blades were still widely unknown). 2. To put a recognizable logo on the brand so customers would buy from the same company again. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and the Quaker Oats man were created to replace the town grocery clerk with a new friendly face.
In time, somehow, we got to a situation where the advertising is often considered more important than the product itself. Instead of focusing on making a reliable, quality product, retailers began relying more on selling mass quantities of cheap goods through marketing trickery. The desire to spend less on manufacturing has led to terrible human rights violations in developing countries. The author visits what looked like a brutal, dilapidated prison in Southeast Asia: it was the factory where they make London Fog raincoats.
Who are the victims here? Everyone! More reasonable advertising spending would leave more money for worker salaries and updated factory conditions. Why does Michael Jordan make $21 million for filming a sneaker commercial while the person making the actual sneakers earns 12.5 cents an hour? These expenses are likewise transmitted to you, the consumer, in higher cost products that don't work as well or last as long. Additionally, this causes the out-sourcing of American jobs and a weaker financial future.
What's the solution? Know the facts! Learning about branding can help you make intelligent decisions. Klein really seems to have done her homework and put together a thoroughly researched book. It's also way fascinating to read, elementary enough for anyone to understand, and filled with fun facts to shock people at your next party.

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