No Logo: Summary & Review

no logo book cover

No Logo (1999) is an in-depth review and criticism of the modern effect of marketing on culture and people’s behavior and psychology.
It became the bible of the anti-globalization movement of the early 2000s, and it’s also a wonderful read for those who are interested in persuasion, power dynamics, and marketing manipulation.

Bullet Summary

  • Corporations are only interested in profits
  • Big brands focus on marketing to insecure teenagers
  • There’s a growing anti-brand resentment brewing

No Logo Summary

About The Author: Naomi Klein is a Canadian social activist and filmmaker. She teaches media, culture, and feminist studies at Rutgers University.
Naomi Klein has written several books, but she is most famous for “No Logo”.

Introduction

Naomi Klein says that “No Logo” doesn’t stand for a call to arms. It’s not about telling you what to do. It’s about empowering people to learn how brands and big corporations market and operate.

What you do with that information, is up to you.

Brand in The Office Create A Dream Knowing Nothing About Actual Operations

Naomi Klein explains how brands are created by marketing departments in the office and they have little to do with the actual production of the goods.

Marketing departments are busy thinking about how to position their brand in the mind of the users -images of things instead of things-.

And the actual production, that’s outsourced to places with cheap labor.
Brands would rather spend money on marketing than on actual production.

Klein provides several examples, but a recurring one is, as you might expect, is Nike.
Nike has long been embroiled in several scandals of children exploitation and yet still managed to come out of it unscathed (this is Nike’s answer to No Logo allegations).

Brands Sell to Young People Leveraging Self Doubt

Klein says in No Logo that brands love selling to young people.

They take advantage of their fragile identities and self-doubts. Marketing is about giving the illusion that by possessing some cool products, teenagers can rub off some of that “cool” on themselves.
And be a bit more popular and well-liked.

And that’s why brands try to associate and incorporate anything that teenagers can think of cool. Movie stars, sports stars, grassroots movements and, as well, iconoclastic movements that pose a threat to the brand themselves.

The effort is worth it, says Klein.
Teenagers are a fantastic profit machine. They shop in packs, so if you can sell to a few of the cool guys, then everyone will follow suit.
This is why, says Klein, brands have been trying -and often succeeding- in getting a foothold into schools.

Brand Resentment is Growing

Naomi Klein says there’s a growing resentment against brands.

Corporations’ greed has brought lots of pain to real people.
They removed jobs from high paying countries bringing unemployment and poverty; they gamed and rigged the system to pay employees as little as possible (McJobs); and they pollute and take advantage of any loophole they can while also taking advantage of the environment by polluting and contaminating the environment.

My Note:
I’m afraid to say that this resentment is nowhere strong enough. Brands are still going strong. If not stronger.

Alternative Movements Against Globalization

Finally, Naomi Klein says she can start seeing an alternative movement blossoming. She shares several examples, including  Adbusters magazine, culture-jamming movement, Reclaim the Streets and the McLibel trial.
But the book has aged and the landscape has surely changed.

no logo book cover

Real Life Applications

Watch Out for Copyright Laws
No Logo was prescient in talking about how corporation (ab)use copyright laws to silence critics and maintain market dominance and the image of “cool”.
This has become more and more of an issue in the digital age (if you’re a YouTube you’re probably aware of it). It happened to The Power Moves as well with a book summary. I received a false copyright claim because my review was not very positive.
Watch out if you want to publish critical reviews.

CONS

  • Globalization Has No Positives?

A bit typical of the left-wing, No Logo criticizes without recognizing the positives of modernity and globalization.

Yes, I also don’t necessarily like sprawling multinational brands and marketing, but modernity and globalization also have countless advantages.

There’s no mention of that in No Logo.

  • No Alternatives

No Logo criticizes, and it provides wonderful criticism. However, it does not come up with alternatives.

That’s not necessarily a con though: the author says it first that her work is an analysis.

No Logo Review

I have a special emotional attachment to No Logo.

It reminds me of my teenage years as a self-styled No Global boycotting McDonald, Nike, Coca Cola and many other big brands.

You would call it today “alter-globalization“, but back then I didn’t know that.
Indeed, you might say that I was nothing more than the typical clueless teenager more concerned about protesting than understanding what he’s protesting against -which is what The Economist criticizes No Logo for-.

But The Economist, going overboard with its criticism, shockingly misses out on all the great aspects of Klein’s work. And there is lots of it.

Including, for example, the psychology of brand marketing and its effect on young people. And, on a more pragmatic tone, the journalistic fervor with which Klein laid bare the corporate skeletons in the closet of some of the biggest and most popular brands.

And as well, The Economist and the critics, miss out on the fact that idealism can serve an important part in people’s lives.
I think idealism is a gift to keep within ourselves. A bit of the idealism can serve as a drive for a better world.
No Logo might as well be too simplistic and negative -and it is at times-, but it’s also a great book with much wisdom.

No Logo is not (simply) a protest book. It’s an intelligent and well-researched account on how brands and marketing work, and on the impact they have on a large swath of the population.

I think No Logo should be a must-read for:

  • Marketers
  • Designers
  • Sociologists
  • Idealists striving for a better and freer world

Also read:

Or get the book on Amazon

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