Naomi Klein talks about the power of brands and brand based corporations. The power branding has on persuading consumers to purchase goods. Brands create a lifestyle. The brand isn’t necessarily for the object it is representing, the brand is for the consumer. Labels give people status – they can justify what they purchase by what brand it is. The brands they “trust” and know best are the labels that fill their homes.
Consumerism has become dependent on logos. The brand culture pulls in consumers by advertising their brand as something sexy and desirable. For example, in the 80s and 90s, Tommy Hilfiger became a name everyone knew and desired. His clothing flooded pop culture and target a wide variety of consumers. Hilfiger would dress celebrities and athletes in the spot light to make it the best and most desirable brand. The line took off, everyone was buying Hilfiger because it became a brand people knew. They wanted Hilfiger clothing because it would make the consumer as cool and trendy as the models in the ads.
Andrew Miller’s work escapes the brand identity but in doing so, reminds me of how dependent we are on brands. When talking about his work he says: “Brand Spirit: every day for 100 days, I will paint one branded object white, removing all visual branding, reducing the object to its purest form. I can purchase each object for less than $10, it can be something I own, something another person gives me, or something I find.”
I find this series compelling because even as it erases the actual brand, the shape and function of the object is all we need to associate it with a brand. In our consumerism culture, the brand really is the product. We don’t just buy something for its use – H&M clothes to be warn, Dove soap to wash with, an X-Acto knife to cut with, etc, we buy these brands because the brand defines the object and that is what we know.
When looking through the white washed objects, I still immediately see a Sharpie pen and Kleenex tissues. If I need a marker, I’ll ask for a Sharpie likewise I will not ask for tissues but rather “where is the Kleenex.” I unfortunately admit that I see products as brands. It’s almost impossible not to if you live in a world with TV, internet, magazines, billboards, etc. You go to a sports game, and there are brands everywhere. You turn on TV and there is product placement in all the shows. Brands become engrained in our head whether we want them there or not. I’m very aware that Sharpie is not the only permanent marker and Kleenex is not the only tissue brand, but these are examples of logo identity. My phone is another perfect example, I automatically call it an iPhone but do not call other phones the Nokia.
Brands really do persuade consumers, and I see no easy way to end this cycle and put all products on a level playing field.