Klein’s Anti-Branding View Remains Baseless

Guest AuthorJanuary 29, 20103 min

When Naomi Klein wrote her book No Logo ten years ago, I refused to waste my time making a comment because it was so void of value for the reader that it would die a natural death. I believed the minor sensation it created was mostly on college campuses and in the offices of a few business executives.

Ten years later, however, Naomi Klein seems poised for a victory lap. For the life of me, I do not see the appeal of her philosophy as she looks at the world through smog covered glasses. She has a distinctly old Soviet dreary point of view since she lives in a world where everything is painted gray. Still, she makes a living dishing out her glum perceptions to willing recipients.

This time I say, “Enough!”

I’ve worked with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, but I’ve never seen one that plots hatred like Klein portrays in her books. Do companies make mistakes? Absolutely. Are there greedy executives? Without a doubt. There always have been and always will be villains in business and politics. It is human nature. Does the system need to be destroyed to create the grim, undifferentiated, life in the Klein gulag? No.

Klein’s writings are in many ways offensive and without any constructive value. She talks about her research for No Logo, which included, “reading soul-destroying books on how to get in touch with your personal brand values….” Soul-destroying is a pretty damning accusation without a word of definition. I’ve written four books on brand building, and I wonder how many souls I destroyed vs. how many souls I helped. She makes ridiculous accusations that an “…increasingly voracious marketing culture was encroaching on previously protected non-corporate spaces – schools, museums, parks….” I guess the bad corporations just forced themselves upon these parks, breaking into them and plastering their billboards on every tree. Get real.

Klein discusses outsourcing and calls companies that do it “‘hollow corporations’ because their goal seemed to be to transcend the corporeal world of things so they could be an utterly unencumbered brand.” She talks about being unencumbered like it was evil. Her utter lack of understanding of how business creates value is the only thing that rings hollow. She continues to criticize the outsourcing of services by government to private industry and calls it the “hollowing  out of essential functions of government,” but there is no discussion of the benefits of privatizing these functions to companies like Lockheed Martin. For example, if mail delivery declines as the use of email grows, the government can eliminate the postal system as being outsourced; if Lockheed Martin does a poor job, it can be fired; the bidding process itself creates efficiencies and helps to keep costs in line.

Calling “Barack Obama the first US president who is also a superbrand” speaks volumes of Klein’s true agenda. But here, too, she is off the mark. I agree that Obama ran a brilliant communications campaign to get elected; he was the “No Logo” candidate because he endeavored not to stand for anything but “change.” The brilliance of providing everyone with a blank slate allows the voter to project onto the candidate what they wish him to be. The reason Obama’s popularity is flagging faster than any recent president, however, is because his brand was not truly formed before it was launched. Once the new president began to govern, his true brand emerged, and it didn’t take long for both sides to become unhappy with his positions. No Logo is Bad Logo.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Jim Gregory, CEO of Corebrand

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  • Daniel Karpantschof

    January 29, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Excellent!! Thank you so much for writing what I’ve been thinking. I too was sure that the Klein-infatuation would die out, but alas.

    Anyway. Let’s go destroy some souls.

  • Sam

    January 30, 2010 at 2:19 am

    Is personal brand identification really a soulful experience for an individual to go through? You might not like her harsh depiction, but I wouldn’t pick a fight on that. If a soul is a unique, personal, spiritual possession, trying to target ways to collectively appeal to and imprint a material product towards that end hardly seems admirable from any creative or enlightening point.

  • Tim

    March 2, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Your points about No Logo are right on the mark however, when I read her book I was inclined to agree with her (I was 22 and doing a Bachelor of Arts). Now at 27 (with two Masters degrees), I want to work for a major strategy consultancy and I wouldn’t pay the book the time of day.

    The difference? I think you may have missed the forest for the trees….Naomi offers a brand of her own in the book that many identify with….’the no-brand brand’.

    Those who subscribe to it, deplore corporations (with little info about them or the benefits they bring…while taking advantage of their products by listening to their ipod and emailing upon their Dell laptop) and believe in public ownership and access.

    The irony is of course that No Logo is much a book about personal branding as any book written by a marketing professional or corporation.

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