11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
It's not necessarily untrue that No Logo is The Female Eunuch for the 21st century - both books do an admirable job of pointing up political and social problems, but both are similarly cursed in that they have no real workable ideas for social and political change.
There was a certain element of redundancy in the book, but some of the observations made were astonishing. One is left with a feeling of horror at the human rights abuses which seem to underpin the entire clothing industry, amongst others. But sometimes her sniping at some chains seemed to be based solely on the fact that they had a brand. For instance, the Body Shop is lumped in with Nike but other than darkly citing that they'd been subject to "investigations" no real evidence was produced against them. Funnily enough, the same is also true of McDonald's supposed environmental abuses. In the case of Shell's complicity in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, no discussion of the actual events surrounding his arrest or trial takes place - he was tried for murder - so one is forced to take the notion that he was unjustly accused on faith. I'm sure he was unjustly accused, but nevertheless, this could have done with clarifying.
That said, even if you don't agree with its tenets, it's still an interesting book and has an ambitious theme. Worth four stars, in any case.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2001
Naomi Klein is on the bleeding edge of the anti-brand backlash. No Logo provides a fascinating profile of contemporary, left-wing thought on the role of brands in society. Her story-telling, backed by mountains of anecdote, is stronger than her grasp of economic theory, but she never fails to challenge and question. Brand marketing professionals should read this book, if they have the guts. Along with Brands in the Balance -- the new survey of branding from Kevin Drawbaugh that takes a more business-oriented perspective -- No Logo will bring you up to speed on the serious issues confronting brands that no one wants to mention around the conference room table.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Seminal in its impact in 1999, No Logo has not weathered well, and there is something a little wistful about Klein's new 10th anniversary edition introduction. This is an important book for the history of modern ideas, but most of the claims it makes now appear out dated.
In No Logo, Klein makes three claims about brands. First, she claims that brands are coming to dominate our culture, pushing out the local, the individual, the artisitic and the authentic. Second, she claims that the corporations behind brands achieve their success by a combination of brand censorship, appalling human resources behaviour, and intimidating their opponents. Finally, she celebrates the rise of an anti-logo movement which was (back in 1999) poised to turn culture around so that brands would no longer be the dominant forces they were.
Klein's style of arguing is to pound the reader with enormous quantities of anecdote, generally drawn from popularly reported press stories, supported with the occasional statistic. As a journalist she knows her craft well, and never fights shy of making the maximum use of pejorative language to weave a subtle air of disreputability around her targets, even when the anecdote does not really support the attack. Ultimately, I suspect most readers will lose patience with the book long before they reach the confident final third which outlines and predicts the rage against brands -- and which more or less fizzled out as a social force in the early 2000s.
I have three problems with this book.
First, it comes across as rather poorly researched. In the new introduction Klein repeats the common Thatcher misattribution 'there's no such thing as society'. We all know the phrase, but in fact Thatcher never said it (though she may well have thought it). As a journalist, Klein should have checked her sources.* A willingness to take the stories she likes at face value and ignore the rest flows through this book. Klein amasses evidence, she never weighs it. This is a book which is fundamentally uncritical of its own ideas. It's also interesting to note that Klein's research into the business of branding was conducted -- she now admits -- through reading Advertising Age, rather than the Journal of Brand Research or any of the more serious studies. This may be the reason that she never offers a particularly plausible definition of what a brand is and does, beyond quoting a dictionary.
Second, while bemoaning all the creative tools that brand managers and advertisers use, Klein makes maximum use of the journalist's tool-box of using the power of words to override shortfalls in the argument. Of course, this was written in the 1990s, when journalists were the guardians of our collective conscience. In these post-Leveson enquiry days, readers may be altogether less willing to believe in the holy cause of journalism and its right to point the finger at corporations and politicians. I felt much of the writing in this book was quite manipulative, and this links to the unquestioning, rather self-righteous, acceptance of its own presuppositions which are part of the poor research background.
Finally, with ten years retrospect, the changes in society that Klein confidently predicts simply never happened. Yes, there was a millennial rise in anti-brand anarchy. It was subsequently overtaken by anti-capitalist anarchy, and then anti-globalisation anarchy. There will always be protest -- which is a good thing, because society needs it -- but the particular target of protest has moved on. What is strange is that Klein -- given the opportunity to reflect with a ten-years-on introduction -- does not really acknowledge this. She references William Gibson's Pattern Recognition as an example of the strength of the meme, without perhaps realising that Pattern Recognition was a novelisation of the No Logo concept.
I'm afraid that one more thing put me off this book before I read very far. In the new introduction, Klein explains at great length why she deliberately never registered NoLogo as a trademark. And yet, there on the cover, being the first thing you see next to the logo, is the ubiquitous ® sign. This is not deliberate irony: I checked, and it is now, indeed, a registered trademark. Not deliberate, but it is very much ironic.
*And so should I. Dr Julie Smith has since pointed out to me that Margaret Thatcher did indeed write this, though Klein's use of it is out of context and, as such, a misattribution. Thatcher's actual quote, in Woman's Own Magazine, 1987 Sep 23 was: "But it went too far. If children have a problem, it is society that is at fault. There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate."
on 2 July 2000
"What haunts me," confesses 29 year-old Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, " is a deep craving for release, escape, some kind of open-ended freedom." It is this sense of claustrophobia and impulse for liberation , in a culture where physical and mental space has been overrun by the voracious marketing frenzies of brand-name corporations that, No Logo, perhaps the first serious statement of the Seattle generation, expresses.
Klein's calm journalistic irony is a touchstone of sanity through the grotesque absurdities of the "new branded world" - the American schoolchildren who design Burger King adverts in lessons and eat lunch sponsored by Disney, the "street snitches" employed to inform on their friend's new clothing tastes for desperate corporate 'cool hunters' in some horribly comic hybrid of Stasi-style capitalism, through to the pinnacle of corporate transcendence; human branding, in the form of the ubiquitous Nike swoosh has now become the most sought after symbol in American tatto parlours. "I wake up in the morning and look down at the symbol. It reminds me what I have to do, which is 'Just Do It'" says one 24 year old internet entrepreneur with a swooshed navel.
Yet, according to Klein, it is the emotionally intense relationships with consumers generated by lifestyle brands like Nike and Tommy Hilfiger that has sparked visceral anti-capitalism of the Seattle generation. Suffocated as consumers, many members of the cherished youth demographic have been discarded as workers, needed only as service sector temp fodder. Opinion polls in the US show that younger people have adopted 'survivalist' attitudes anathema to older generations. Yet just as this can ingrain a desire to be the next Bill Gates, it can also instil a militant dissonance with the values of corporate capitalism. As Klein points out, far from selling out, a significant proportion of the younger generation has simply not bought in. Disdained by the economy, this generation has been quite prepared to look along the webs spun by the global brands to the sweatshops of Indonesia and China, to the institutions which facilitate corporate dominance, and to target corporations directly as never before.
"You might not see things on the surface yet but underground, it's already on fire," says Indonesian writer, YB Mangunwijaya, at the beginning of No Logo. No Logo is a classic statement of the existential undercurrents of our age, the inchoate strands of a new resistance. Whether they can be forged into a coherent alternative remains to be seen.
on 8 July 2000
Its easy to dismiss The Truman Show as fiction - A world crammed with corporate endorsements and a world where free will is subserviant to corporate dogma. Not everyone has realised it yet, but this Orwellian knightmare ir real and we are living it. It is The Millennium Dome in Greenwich, it has become our daily lives.
Naomi Klein has written a history, our history, of a time where politics has become overshadowed by consumerism. I am a member of Generation Why, brought up with adverts. Ever noticed how hard it is NOT to buy anything? I have never been 'Sold Out' because I had never 'Sold In.' Isn't it just a little bit worrying that democracy has become reduced to one big shopping spree? Everything is not okay.
And Yes, we have a problem. No Logo created a deep sence of fear within me. Its messages are haunting and neccesary: Multinationals are more powerful than governments. Brands want us to buy their products, but not employ us. We can choose between brand X and brand X. There is no Choice...
But there is an alternative. No Logo expresses a culture but thru a different viewpoint. The need for Space. The need to be our own billboards and a need to be more than just a target audience. My greatest fear is the need for escape, to vanish in to the world of pop art. A world so assuring, that you will regret the world of reality.
We have all been living in a dream, and No Logo is the Wake Up call.
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2004
I am a cog in the system Ms Klein deconstructs in “No Logo”. As a consultant, I have worked for some of the companies named in book. As a consumer, I have purchased their wares. My introductory economics training provides me with tools to understand, and justify, the flight of manufacturing jobs to low-cost locations. I view anti-globalization protesters as hodgepodge group with no common ideology except a streak of angry anarchism.
Does this book change everything?
No, but it will give you the opportunity to pause and think. To think about the ubiquity of branded goods and their underlying significance (or lack thereof). To think about the omnipresence of advertising and how passively we absorb it on a daily basis (Huxley’s soma?). To think about the growing role of multinationals and our increasing reliance on their “self-regulation” to respect basic human rights.
While “No Logo” is rich in anecdotes and criticism, it rarely discusses some of the benefits of the system (e.g. accountability of brands, technology transfer to low-cost locations) and it is short on potential solutions to the issues raised.
Will I join the next anti-WTO march after reading this book? No, but I will think twice before walking around like a living billboard with a brand emblazoned across my chest. I will be more curious about multinationals' real motives. I will also be more demanding and critical of our political representatives' role in balancing the power of corporations.
In that sense, “No Logo” is useful.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2008
I am usually suspicious of the sharp left-right divide that beclouds any political or economic discussion, as there must be truth on both sides. Therefore, I bought this book, No Logo, in order to understand the rage felt by the anti-globalisation movement. I finished the book with the feeling that the book spectacularly failed to deliver.
Naomi Klein argues that multinational corporations have: (1) become more powerful than national governments; (2) usurped the functions of the government without the accompanying accountability to the electorate; (3) "stolen" our public spaces and branded them beyond recognition; and (4) exploited the Third World in order to deliver ever cheaper goods to the First World.
Ms. Klein brilliantly captures the sense of listlessness many people--especially young people in the rich world--feel in an increasingly interconnected world and how these feelings have coalesced into various anti-corporate movements since 1989. The cozy world in which a person worked for the same corporation for 35 years, vacationed at the company resort, and retired at a grand old age of 65 is appears to be gone. This feeling has been compounded by the fact that the posterchildren for this New Economy, multinational corporations, do not want to manufacture "stuff" anymore. Instead, corporations have moved into the "image" game. Ms Klein argues that in making this shift that the corporations have demanded ever lower production costs, pushing them to the emerging economies of the Third World. So far, so good.
I was pleased that Ms. Klein scrutinised Shell's operations in my native country (Nigeria) in the wake of Ken Saro-Wiwa's death. Ms Klein, however, paints a perversely unbalanced picture of Shell's role in the killing. She instinctively blames Shell for dealing with despotic regimes, but provides little evidence that Shell actively colluded with the Abacha government to kill Mr Saro-Wiwa. Shell seemed to be a target because it has a highly valuable brand name. Ms Klein skipped the fact that the real culprit in the pillaging of Nigeria's wealth is not Shell, but the amorphous Nigerian government. Hey, but since we cannot target the Nigerian government, why not crucify Shell instead?
When discussing economics Ms. Klein is clearly out of her depth: the concept of comparative advantage--that firms (or countries) focus on doing what they do best--was completely lost on her. It stands to reason that Western multinationals should focus on what they do best: high-skill work such as marketing. They, in turn, should leave the labour-intensive, low-skilled task of actually making shoes to countries with abundant low-skilled workers. Ms Klein describes the Nike factories in Indonesia as some Oriental Inferno, where no one would want to work. True, no Westerner would want to work under those conditions. Yet, despite the horrible conditions people still flock to these EPZs. Why? I suspect that one of the reasons why a 19-year old Indonesian woman would rather work in a Nike factory than on the land is that factory work pays better. Was this not the case during the Industrial Revolution in Europe? Why did the mills of the English Midlands continue attracting peasants from the country side?
The fact that poor Indonesian women would rather work in a sweatshop is testament to the paucity of alternative employment. Ms. Klein conveniently ignores the successes of trade liberalisation in the Third World. There is no mention of people who have been lifted from back-breaking poverty because they have the choice of working in shoe-making factories in Indonesia, Vietnam and China. Instead, Ms. Klein asks us to feel sorry for narcissistic, middle-class, Western suburbanites who have lost their "space" to branding. Since Ms. Klein does not have the foggiest idea what pre-industrial poverty really feels like, I will excuse her navel-gazing.
"No Logo" romanticises some time in recent Western history when corporations were employers of choice, the Third World was some distant place where you went on an exotic vacation or perhaps sent some aid dollars to, and when we in the West could live cocooned lives. Unfortunately, such an idyllic past (if it ever existed) is unlikely to return soon. The Third World wants in on the action; they want jobs, cars, air-conditioning and nice clothes. Afterall, material wealth is not the natural preserve of the North.
Ms. Klein's thesis is emotionally comforting. She presents her arguments with clarity and some wit. Upon closer examination, however, her arguments are without merit. She paints the Third World as victims and seeths with self-righteous leftie-anger at the invasion of sub-urban spaces. Yet, she provides precious few ideas on how to help the individual losers in globalisation. If you want a balanced account of the impact of globalisation, then I recommend you read--in addition to No Logo--Legrain's Open World and Nayan Chanda's Bound Together. Trashing G8 and WTO Summits make for catchy headlines but it does nothing to lift people out of poverty.
on 27 February 2000
A book which would have been timely at any point in the last decade, NO LOGO charts the growth of the mega-brands and their expansion into every corner of our lives. Klein argues that many of them are attempting to rise above the grubby business of actually making anything (the brand as lifestyle, not as product) and shows the human rights and ecological violations predicated upon this approach. Finally, after giving us an apocalyptic vision of the current situation, she identifies worldwide strands of resistance - there is hope for the future.
Her streetwise writing style lends itself particularly well to the analysis of brand as lifestyle. The karmic, too-cool-to-be true, approach of advertising executives of many multinationals is contrasted with sadly familiar but still shocking desperate exploitation in sweatshops around the world. The only disappointment in the book is the threadbare feeling of the chapter on resistance to brands. She identifies hopeful green shoots of resistance (Reclaim the Streets, the McLibel trial etc) but, although she attempts to show that they add up to a coherent movement (mostly by invoking the magical communications power that e-mail allows them) the organisations seemed to this reader too small for multinationals to regard them as other than laughable.
on 25 October 2006
At first glance, "No Logo" looks to be a real chore with some 430 or so pages, but actually turns out to be an informative, well-written and engaging insight into corporate culture and practice, into how multinational corporations are gradually taking over and how the society is beginning to fight back. Due to the concepts and ideas introduced and discussed, I also found it to be a genuinely useful book, having come in handy for uni studies, employment and even social gatherings in general, occasions when marketing or globalisation-related issues have cropped up in conversation.
One reviewer quite rightly mentioned "The Rebel Sell", a book in which, if my memory serves me correctly, the authors point out that Klein was once a resident of a rich, suburban area she herself criticises in "No Logo". Reading "The Rebel Sell" has put "No Logo" in a different light and calls Klein's motives for writing it into question - is it the rallying cry to fight against globalisation it claims to be, or has she just spotted an opportunity to make a killing? This is where the book comes across as flawed.
In spite of it, I'd consider "No Logo" essential reading, and I felt a lot more informed for having read it.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2004
I recently came across a couple of books, 'Brandchild', and 'Kidfluence', that deal with how the minds of children work, how best to target a product and brand at them and their parents, and how to win this lucrative market. To the marketing gurus and the corporate CEOs, everyone is a source of potential profit. If you find this sort of thing discomforting, if you have sympathy with American comedian Bill Hicks that people who work in marketing and advertising are "Satan's spawn" intent on "putting a dollar sign on everything on the planet", then you should read No Logo.
No Logo catalogues in some depth the cynical methods of corporations to brand schools and educational programmes, public spaces, charity events, music concerts, sport, recreation - indeed, pretty much everything. It demonstrates how global corporations have put pressure on artistic freedom, and stifled choice for consumers. And it paints a clear picture, aided by Klein's first-hand experience, of the way multinational corporations have, in the interests of profit, ensured low wages and poor conditions for their workforce, how they have exploited developing world labour, colluded with oppressive regimes, turned a blind eye to (indeed, often agreed to) working practices that are a violation of human rights, assisted in the repression of trades unions - indeed, done everything possible to ensure that the workers don't make even the merest of dents into their vast profits.
Although Klein offers some suggestions of paths of resistance to globalization, No Logo is more a piece of excellent journalism than a treatise of deep political or cultural philosophy. Klein avoids allying herself to any political movement, whether anarchist, Marxist, or the more general organized anti-globalization movement; as a result, this book should appeal to the huge numbers of people who are justifiably appalled at the impact of global corporations, but who don’t regard themselves as part of leftist politics. And for those who ARE interested in anti-globalization, it is essential reading.
No Logo is extensively researched and organized, and Klein fully sources her research. She demonstrates a vast reading, from mainstream newspapers and journals to obscure political pamphlets. She has also personally spoken to numerous people, from ordinary workers and citizens to the powerful men-in-suits. And it contains a fine index, which ensures that No Logo is not only a book to be read from cover to cover but also an extremely useful work of reference.
I thoroughly recommend No Logo. Convincingly but calmly argued, it never descends into outbursts of anger, crude accusations or agitprop – but then it doesn’t really need to, so damning is the huge body of evidence it presents.