Andrew Zolli writes an interesting article about the infiltration of corporate brands into our culture. He writes:
For starters, brands aren’t invading the culture, for many they are the culture. The marketplace has trumped other ‘meaning making’ institutions in people’s lives, from political parties to religious institutions. Ask an average citizen to name their elected representatives and you’ll get a disinterested stare, but everybody has a passionately held opinion about Walmart.
I have to chime in here with my $0.02.
Now, most people are going to read these words and think that I am some tight-assed corporate fool. I’m not. I’m just a guy who is completely tired of the complete lack of context in our world today.
What I mean is that the logos that we see aren’t the problem. As most understand, a brand isn’t a logo. It’s the sum total of all the experiences that you get from any entity. This can be a person, or a place, or a company. Most companies engineer these experiences so that they are in line with their competitive positioning. Makes sense. Now, the argument against corporatization is that people are identifying themselves based on the suite of brands that they like.
For instance, people can be classified as “Coke people” or “Pepsi people”. And that pissed alot of people off. But in reality, its not about Coke or Pepsi. It’s about which positioning you see yourself more aligned with. For instance, are you traditional or are you cutting-edge?
I see absolutely nothing wrong with using brands as a shared language of expression. People have aligned themselves for what seems like forever with these sorts of things. In fact, the author says that political parties and religious affiliations are more important than corporate brands.
They’re all the same thing. The Republican party is a brand. The Catholic Church is a brand. C’mon now. When I say “Republican” what do you think about? When I say “Catholic”, tell me that you don’t have a preconceived notion.
People associate themselves with whatever entities that they either feel close to or aspire to be like. It’s that simple. And if corporate brands are one instrument of this expression…then so be it. What’s wrong with secular associations or apolitical ones? I’m a big fan.
I don’t understand why these people think that one symbolic expression of self is better than another. So it’s corporate? So what? In fact, to be honest, I find government and religion more reprehensible than corporations.
Why? Because at least corporations will tell you…”We’re in it to make money.” They have to…they’re legally obligated to look out for their shareholders. They aren’t shady because you know the motivations up front.
That’s more than I can say for Andrew Zolli’s “meaningful-making institutions”.