||Issue No. 132||19 April 2002|
Interview: Generation Next
Legal: We’re All Terrorists Now
Unions: Holding the Baby
International: Taking It To The Streets
History: Off the Wall
Economics: Financing International Development
Satire: Queen Mum's Life Tragically Cut Short
Review: Return of The People’s Parliament
Poetry: Silent Night
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Where's the Silver Tail?
From NAB's plummeting public image to BabyCo's trashing of family values, Rio Tinto's death-defying delays and British American Tobacco's support for workplace puffing, the target of anger has moved from the individual employer to the brand they represent.
Brand anger is a growing phenomenon, well chronicled in Naomi Klein's excellent book 'No Logo'. According to Klein, the focus of modern capitalism has shifted from the production of products to the promotion of brands.
Companies cut staff and outsource production to free up resources for the promotion of the corporate brand - an amorphous image like the Nike swish or the Golden Arches that is meant to have a Pavlovian hold on consumers.
Logos battle each other in the marketplace in a perpetual race for world domination - eating up competitors to become the dominant label in their market.
The strength of the brand promotion strategy is that the quality of the product ceases to be a core component of the business; but its weakness is that the new God, the logo, is a creature of image alone.
This makes the corporates vulnerable to campaigns that scrutinise the values that lie behind the logo - not the feel good images produced by advertising agencies, but the cold, hard reality of the modern production chain.
As Nike activists in the sweatshops of South-East Asia have so effectively shown
- an entity that exists on image alone can fall to it as well.
A baby ware company that markets itself with the catchphrase 'who loves ya, baby', can not just go and sack a Mum who wants flexible rosters to care for kids. And when a tobacco company that has been dragged through the courts in landmark smoking litigation is exposed for allowing smoking in its own workplace, it is playing with fire.
Unionists, along with other activists, are waking up to this new dynamic: logos are vulnerable to consumer scrutiny. One negative headline can undo the work of a multi-million dollar branding campaign.
There is one proviso of course; and that's the willingness of consumers to make decisions based on ethical considerations such as environmental standards, labour relations and shareholder democracy.
But we can help them take the first step, by providing information about the brands and logo, taking their stories of injustice to the media and logging them on websites like Bosswatch.
It's a tantalizing prospect. The revolutions of the 21st Century may not be fought on the streets, but in the supermarkets and malls of the world.
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