Sometime between 1999 and 2000, somewhere between Littlehampton and New York, I remember reading about a book by Naomi Klein that was proclaimed by many as a manifesto for the anti-globalisation, anti-corporate movement.
I found it to be almost the exact opposite. It is a brilliant read and a take down of the rise of amoral multinational brands, who hollowed themselves out via neoliberal laissez-faire economics. But it's also a reminder that the counter exists, that plenty of small, local companies thrive by producing high quality goods and services, creating jobs in their community and building culture.
No Logo is now twenty years old and bizarrely now more relevant than it probably was in 1999. My new version includes a forward written by Klein in 2009, lamenting on how we started demanding responsibility from global brands so that they didn't produce goods in sweat shops in the third world, paid their taxes and took environmental responsibility. But following 9/11 and the financial crash of 2007, it all seemed to have been swept away and while we knew things weren't right, we pushed pause on caring as our quality of life nose dived.
Klein has also added a long passage about brand how like all 30,000 foot purpose brands Obama was eager to make grand statements, but slow to actually try to change anything painful and unpopular. She warns his legacy may be a lot of youth voters lost to disinterest and the far right emerging to challenge the political status quo of near identical parties who are more interested in their brand reputations and having jobs than delivering change and resolving problems. Which in retrospect is quite prophetic.
I'd recommend No Logo for anyone who works in brand, marketing or business in general, to see the birth of branding, how companies first went global and how through globalisation the first world has resumed exploiting the third in scenes which don't seem that far removed from any our ancestors saw in their lifetimes.
We stand at an uneasy crossroads now, certain that our lifestyles are harming the planet and all its inhabitants, but uncertain how to deliver meaningful change. No Logo doesn't answer those questions, but it helps shape the questions we should be asking. It offers a stark reminder that sustainability isn't a new trend and that lots of the companies promising to make changes now were making those same promises decades ago, but never followed through. We can't afford to let that happen again.