Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 139

I’’

—

I

IA

t

I’’ — I IA t ) AuthentjcTM The Politics o f Ambivalence i n a Brand

)

AuthentjcTM

I’’ — I IA t ) AuthentjcTM The Politics o f Ambivalence i n a Brand
I’’ — I IA t ) AuthentjcTM The Politics o f Ambivalence i n a Brand

The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture

Politics o f Ambivalence i n a Brand Culture Sarah Banet- Wei’ser NEWYORK LJNIVERSfY P R

Sarah Banet- Wei’ser

f Ambivalence i n a Brand Culture Sarah Banet- Wei’ser NEWYORK LJNIVERSfY P R E S
f Ambivalence i n a Brand Culture Sarah Banet- Wei’ser NEWYORK LJNIVERSfY P R E S

NEWYORK LJNIVERSfY PRESS

f Ambivalence i n a Brand Culture Sarah Banet- Wei’ser NEWYORK LJNIVERSfY P R E S

New York and London

CRITICAL CULTURAL COMMUNICATION Genera! Editors: Sarah I3anet-Weicer and Kent A. Ono Dangerous Curves: Lalina
CRITICAL CULTURAL
COMMUNICATION
Genera!
Editors:
Sarah I3anet-Weicer and Kent A.
Ono
Dangerous Curves: Lalina
Commodity Activism:
Cultural
Bodies in the Media
Resistance in Neoliberal
Times
Isabel Molt na-Guimán
Edited by Roopali Mukherjee
and Sarah Banet-Weiser
The
Net Effect: Technolog-e
.
Romanli, ‘sos,
Capitabsin
Arabs
and Muslims in the
Media:
.
Thomas Streeter
Race and Representation
after
9/fl
Evelyn Alaultany
Our Biometric Future: The Pursuit
of Automated Facial Perception
Visualizing Atrocity: Arendi.
Evil,
Kelly A.
Gates
and the Optics of
Thoughtlessness
Valerie
Hartouni
Crit’cal Rhetorics of Race
Edited by Michael G. Lacy and Kent
A. Ono
The Makeoi’er:
Reality Television
and Reflexive Audiences
Circuits
of
Visibility:
Gender and
Katherine Sender
Transnatronal Media Cultu’vc
Edited by
Radha S.
Hegde
Authentic:
The Politics
of
Ambivalence in a Brand Culture
Sarah Banet-Weiser
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
PRESS
New York and London
www.nvuprcss.org
srus
by New York University
All
rights reserved
References to Internet Websites (UREa) were sccurate at
the time of
writing.
Neither the author nor New York University
Press is responsible for URLs that
may have expired or changed
since the manuscript
was
prepared.
CONGRESS
DATA
LIBRART OF
CATALOGiNG-IN-PUBLICATION
Banet-Weher, Sarah,
1966-
Authentic TM
in a brand culture
I Sarah Banet-Weiser.
The politics of ambivalence
:
p.
cm.
— (Critical cultural
communication)
ncludes bibliographical references and indeL
— ISBN 978-0-8147-8714-4
— ISBN
ISBN
978-0-8147-8713-7
(ci: alk. paper)
(ph:
alk. paper)
978-0-8147-
8715-1 (ebook)
— ISBN
978-0-8147-3937-1
(ebook)
L Brand name products.
I. Title.
HD69.B76z56
lots
m6.3—dcz3
2011024949
New
York
University
paper,
Press books are printed on acid-free
and their binding materisls
are chosen for strength
and durability
We strive to
use environmentally responsible suppliers
and materials
in
publishing our honks.
to the greatest extent possible
Manufactured in
th
United States of America
10
9 8
76 5
4
i
C
3
i
p so
9 87 6
4
21
5
3
Frontispiece: Shop Ti!
You
Drop
(detail).
Ilanksy.
Photograph
by Patrick
Mayon.
For my daughter, Lily Banet We/sc,; whose irrepressible has never failed to inspire me.
For my daughter,
Lily
Banet We/sc,;
whose irrepressible
has never failed
to inspire
me.

spIt

CONTENTS Acknowledgments Introduction: Branding the Authentic Branding the Postfeminist Self The Labor of Femininity

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments Introduction: Branding the Authentic Branding the Postfeminist Self The Labor of Femininity Branding
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Branding the Authentic
Branding the Postfeminist Self
The Labor of Femininity
Branding Creativity
Creative Cities, Street Art, and “Making Your Name Sing”
Branding Politics
Shopping for Change?
Branding Religion
“I’m Like Totally Saved’
Conclusion: The Politics of Ambivalence
Notes
Index
About the Author

1. Branding Consumer Citizens Gender and the Emergence of Brand Culture

2.

3.

4.

5.

1

ix

i

51

91

125

165

211

223

259

266

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

When you decide to write a book about contemporary branding, it inevitably I argue throughout
When you decide to write
a book about contemporary branding,
it
inevitably
I argue throughout this book,
ends up being a collaborative
effort. As
every
one has
some
relationship
with branding,
and almost everyone has
some
thing to say about
this relationship.
I am grateful for the
opportunity here
to offer my thanks and appreciation to the many friends and
colleagues who
have
directed me toward branding
references,
sent me links
and examples,
I tested
challenged my thinking about branding, and listened patiently while
out ideas.
A few folks
deserve special mention
for their crucial role
in supporting
I am immensely
and encouraging me to take on this admittedly
huge project.
grateful to
my cherished friend and colleague
Josh Kun.
From the moment
I began thinking
of branding and culture, he encouraged
me,
supported me,
heard me out, connected
me with sources,
read drafts, gave me helpful and
honest feedback.
To
quote one of his favorite pop stars:
my life would suck
without you.
I have also had the
singular pleasure of establishing
a profound
friendship with
Inna Arzumanova
over the
course
of the
past
five
years.
She is
truly one of the most intellectually
and emotionally generous people
I know.
She read
every word of this book—many times
over!—and offered
brilliant feedback.
As the kids
say,
4LYFE,
sister.
Daniela Barofflo
is
a won
derful friend, and
I am so grateful she
is in my life.
I simply could not have
completed this project if not for our time together,
solving our problems, and
those of the world.
I deeply appreciate her love and friendship.
Eric Zinner,
my editor at NYU Press,
encouraged me from the beginnings
of this
proj
ect.
He was
instrumental in my thinking
through this book,
from his
ini
tial “Well,
it’s
on
it”
to the editing of the
final
not quite there, keep working
chapters. He
is
not
only an extraordinary
editor but also
a cherished friend.
Of course,
I have
other lives
outside of the
academy and beyond this
proj
ect, and the maintenance of these other lives and roles made completing this
book possible. My mother
was quite
ifi at both the beginning and the end of
energy
this project. I was only able to finish this book because of the tireless
and generosity of my sister Suzannah
Coffins, who stepped in and took care
of literally everything.
I am forever grateful to her.
There
are
some
friends
and
colleagues
who
read
entire
earlier
drafts
of this
book;
their
feedback
has
immeasurably
improved the
final
ver
sion. Larry Gross offered helpful comments
and histories to consider, and
II
Ix
X ACKNOWLEDGMENTS his support and intellectual generosity over the past ten years have been invaluable
X
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
his support and intellectual generosity over the past ten years have been
invaluable to
me;
not for nothing, I
asked Dana
Polan
for his
feedback,
and as always, he provided helpful critiques
and insights
(particularly on
the word “particular”);
Steve
Duncombe has had the unfortunate
luck of
being asked to
read practically everything I have written in the past five
years—I, on the other hand, have had the incredible
good fortune of ben
efiting from his
sharp
insight
and
inspirational politics;
Laurie
Oullette,
who continually offered brilliant feedback and whose own creative
work
on branding has
been
key to
this
project;
and
Nitin
Govil,
with
whom
I became
friends later in the project,
generously gave his
unique
insight
and suggestions.
Others read portions of the book and generously
offered
their expertise and feedback.
Manuel
Castdlls
has been
part of this
proj
ect since
the beginning;
our brainstorming
sessions
about branding and
possibility shaped
the
direction
of this
book.
His
generosity
and
kind
ness toward me,
from inviting me to be a part of the Aftermath
group in
Portugal to
title
suggestions
to
his
gentle
pushing me to
think through
ideas, have been invaluable to me, as a scholar and a friend. I thank Henry
Jenkins for his insightful and tough read of several chapters, which helped
so much in honing my argument.
Diane Winston and Jane Iwamura
were
key readers of chapter 5, offering crucial critique of my take on the brand
friend and
ing of religion. Marita Sturken has been, as always, a wonderful
confidante, and her work on consumer culture continues
to be an inspira
tion to me.
Aniko
Imre read an
early draft
of the introduction
and gave
helpful feedback (along with supportive reassurance
about parenting and
academic life!),
and
Macarena Gomez-Barris
gave
insightful
critique
of
chapter 3 as well as the introduction.
Cynthia Chris read a version of the
introduction and gave valuable feedback on many ideas in the book.
She
is my touchstone; I cherish her friendship
and her sharp insight,
as well as
her willingness to entertain me whenever I am in New York.
Another New
York friend,
Roopali Mukherjee,
inspires me with her work on
commod
ity culture
and greatly improved chapter
i with her suggestions;
working
with her on
Commodity Activism
while also
completing this book was
a
true intellectual gift.
I have
shared many important conversations
about
neoliberalism and consumerism with Nick Couldry, and I am
grateful for
his insights. Melissa Brough and Cara Wallis both read
portions of several
chapters and always
offered valuable
advice
and generous
support.
Kent
Ono has
also been incredibly supportive,
and I appreciate his willingness
to offer comments
and include the book in our series at NYU Press.
Ciara
McLaughlin at NYU Press has been patient and encouraging;
it has been
a delight to
work with her on this project,
as well
as
on the book series.
X ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I also Susan Ecklund was a careful and skilled copyeditor for the book.
X
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I also
Susan
Ecklund was
a careful and skilled copyeditor
for
the book.
thank Alexia Traganas
from the
NYU
Press
production
department for
her assistance.
I have benefited greatly from
conversations
and other exchanges with
my
good friends
and colleagues over the past
several years;
these relationships
I am immensely grateful to Alison
continually sustain me.
Trope, Kara Keel
Ruthie Gilmore,
Val Hartouni,
ing.
Karen Tongson,
Taj Frazier, Stacy Smith,
Angela McRobbie, George Sanchez,
Barbie Zelizer, James Hay, Alison Hearn,
Jo
Anne Balsamo, Tom
Streeter,
Herman Gray, Susan Douglas,
Toby Miller,
Littler,
Trope was
an
and Ellen Seiter for their unflagging
support.
Alison
especially
important friend throughout
this
process.
My
dear
friend
Joyce
Campion lent me her ear
whenever
I asked, counseled me, and basically kept
is
a sheer gift in
me
(relatively)
sane in my nonacademic
world.
Julie
Main
five
my life;
laughing,
talking,
and
commiserating with
her over the past
years has been amazingly nourishing.
I
More
than any other project
have worked on,
my
students have been
the
research
and
writing of this
book.
At
instrumental to
the
very
begin
Jade Miller and Deborah Hanan kept me up-to-date
and
ning of this project,
organized on all
sorts
of branding companies and practices.
My first effort
I coauthored with Char
into the world of branding culminated
in an article
D.
lotte Lapsansky,
“RED Is
the New
Black”; it was
a joy to
work with
her.
copyediting
and was
a willing
Travers
Scott provided professional
partici
pant in lots of brainstorming
sessions, as were Cara Wallis, Melissa Brough,
Anjali
Nath,
Russ
Newman, Joyee
Chatterjee,
Lana
Schwartz,
and
John
with chapter
2,
Cheney.
Laura Portwood-Stacer helped me immensely
and
lent a willing ear when
I needed
it.
Garret Broad offered sharp insight
and
feedback for chapter
4;
Lori Lopez,
Jess
Butler,
and
Brittany Farr provided
crucial help with references and copyediting.
Dayna Chatman helped out at
the very end of this project,
with research assistance
Evan Brody helped out tremendously with last-minute
and thoughtful ideas.
copyediting and the
index. Finally, Kevin Driscoll was
a model research assistant,
pushing me to
think in more expansive
ways
about this project and
always coming up with
in
new and important examples.
Other students, including undergraduates,
classes I have taught over the past
five years have been a willing and support
I assigned
ive audience for my work and have generously
indulged me when
them drafts of chapters.
At the
University of Southern
California, my colleagues
at the
Annen
berg
My thanks
go
School have been incredibly encouraging.
in particular
to Dean Ernie Wilson, Larry Gross, Sandra
Ball-Rokeach, François
Bar,
Peter
Monge, Sheila Murphy, Peggy McLaughlin,
Manuel Castells, Henry Jenkins,
XII ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Abby Kaun, Jonathan Aronson, Taj Frazier, and Michael Cody. The Annen berg staff
XII ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Abby Kaun,
Jonathan Aronson, Taj Frazier,
and Michael Cody. The Annen
berg
staff especially
Carol
Kretzer,
Christine
Lioreda,
and Billie
Shotlow,
were patient and accomodating.
I am grateful to the Norman Lear Center for
the
Study of Entertainment for generously
supporting my faculty research
group, BrandSpace, especially Johanna Blakely and Marty Kaplan.
The mem
bers of that group, Josh Kun, Karen Tongson,
Tara McPherson, Chris
Smith,
Alison Trope,
Steve Ross,
Jay Wang,
Diane Winston,
Andrea Holli.ngshead,
and
Henry Jenkins,
provided provocative conversations
and insights
about
the world of. branding
and were
important to my thinking through
differ
ent stages
of this material. I am also grateful to the University
of California
Vision
and Voices program, which gave me funding to hold an event with
Shepard Fairey in
2009. The
University of Southern
California Advancing
Scholarship
in
the
Humanities
and Social
Sciences
initiative
provided
a
generous
grant for me at the early stages
of this project and made possible
numerous trips to interview brand managers and marketers.
The Advertising
Educational Foundation awarded me a visiting
professor fellowship,
which
allowed me
to
conduct a mini-ethnography of a major advertising firm in
Los
Angeles. I
sin grateful to all employees at that firm, from new hires to
leadership, for generously giving me their time and guidance
about the world
of marketing and social media. Indeed, I am grateful to all the
marketers and
brand consultants whom I interviewed
for this
book.
Those
conversations
were more often than not a welcome
surprise, and my interviews confirmed
my feeling that one should always talk to the producers
of media and culture
before coming to conclusions about their motivations.
During the time I was writing this book, I had the great pleasure
of work
ing with a wonderful group of people on American
Quarterly. I have learned
so
much through my conversations
with
Claire Kim,
Rosa-Linda Fregoso,
George Lipsitz,
Kara Keeling, Josh Kun, Macarena Gomez-Barris,
Jack
Hal
berstam,
Shelley
Streeby,
Danny Widener,
Natalia Molina,
Julie
Sze,
Kelly
Lytle
Hernandez,
and
our beloved
Clyde Woods.
My time
at AQ was,
and
continues to be, made possible by
the tireless energy and impressive work of
Jih-Fei Cheng.
The Aftermath group,
organized by Manuel Castells, met for
the past three years
of this project in beautiful Lisbon,
Portugal,
and I was
able
to try out many of these ideas
with the wonderful participants
of that
group.
I am especially grateful to Tehri Rentanen and
Rosalind Williams for
their insight and sisterhood.
Throughout the past six years, I have
given many talks
on this
material
that have provided
me
with
helpful
feedback,
incisive
critiques
that have
made me think,
and stimulated provocative conversations:
the Annenberg
School for Communication and Journalism,
USC; the Annenberg
School at
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 1 XIII the University of Pennsylvania; University of California, Santa Cruz Univer sity of
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
1
XIII
the University of Pennsylvania; University of
California, Santa Cruz
Univer
sity of California,
San Diego;
the
the Society of Cinema and Media Studies;
American
Studies
Association;
the
International Communication Associa
tion; Goldsmiths University,
UK; the Institute for Communication Research,
University of Lisbon, Portugal;
Pennsylvania State University;
the School of
Cinematic Arts, USC; and the Department
of Communication at the Univer
sity of Washington.
I am
also
grateful
to
the
anonymous
readers
of the
manuscript—their
comments
and
critiques
made
this
a better book to be
sure.
And,
David
Lobenstine, who carefully edited and made suggestions
on the final version
of this manuscript, was immeasurably
helpful.
He was a true gift at the end
of a long journey.
Parts of chapter
Street:
3 are derived from my essay “Convergence on the
Rethinking the Authentic/Commercial
Divide”
published in Cultural
Stud
ies,
September/October
ion;
as
well as
an
essay
coauthored with
Marita
Sturken,
“The Politics
of Commerce:
Shepard Fairey and the New Cultural
Entrepreneur,”
in Blowing
Up
the
Brand,
edited by Melissa
Aroncyzk
and
Devon Powers (Peter Lang,
2011).
Part of chapter
2 was published as an essay,
Seifi
Girls’ Video Production
and
YouTube,”
“Branding the Post-feminist
in
Mediated Girihoods,
edited by Mary Celeste Kearney (Peter
Lang,
2010).
Finally,
but
most
important,
I am
grateful
to
my
family
for
all
their
patience,
love,
and support.
My mother,
Anne Banet,
is
unfaltering in her
support and pride in me;
I hope
she
knows
how much
I appreciate
it.
My
siblings,
Angela,
Matt,
Suzannah,
Genevieve,
and
Joey,
have
always
been
to my
life.
there for me; they are so important
Kathy and Les Weiser encour
aged me and supported me throughout this entire
endeavor. During the past
five years, I have watched—often with anxiety!—my son
Sam develop into a
thoughtful and interesting
adult. His forceful personality and self-confidence
have been an inspiration.
My son Lucas
makes parenting look easy (which
it is not)—his
sense of personal responsibiity
sharp inteffigence,
and sheer
generosity are a steadfast joy in my
life.
My husband,
Bill Weiser,
has been
tallcs,
patient and loving throughout, listening
to
my
giving feedback to my
ideas,
on
all
the
daily life things
I have
ignored;
I am
and picking up
for
ever grateful to him. And I remember
my promise. Finally, my daughter,
Lily
Banet Weiser,
is
a light in
my life,
a sheer delight to be
around, a beautiful
spirit.
She personifies the most excellent kind of girl power,
is
and this book
dedicated to her.

INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION BRANDING c;iiC If there is, among all words, one that is inauthentic, then surely it

BRANDING

c;iiC
c;iiC
If there is, among all words, one that is inauthentic, then surely it is the
If there is, among all words, one that is inauthentic, then surely it is
the word “authentic:’
Maurice Blanchot’
Welcome to the future of Los Angeles. It is a city made up entirely of
Welcome to the future of Los Angeles. It is a city made up entirely of brands,
logos, and trademarked characters. Every visual landmark in the city has
been stamped with a brand. Every resident is a branded or licensed charac
ter: Ronald MacDonald wreaks havoc on the city; the cops are the rounded,
treaded lumps of the Michelin tire logo, crowds of people are depicted as
the America On-Line instant message logo, Bob’s Big Boy is taken hostage
and finds a love match in the Esso girl. Anonymous individuals walk around
the city with the trademark symbol”’ hovering about their heads. Scanning
the skyline, we see the U-Haul building, the Eveready skyscraper, the MTV
apartment building.
Corporate logos—Microsoft, BP, Enron, Visa, and countless others—
blanket the city’s infrastructure, induding the roads, cars, and even the city
zoo. The animals in the zoo are also brands: the lion of Metro-Goldwyn
Mayer film corporation, the alligator from Lacoste clothing company, and
Microsoft Window’s butterflies, with the zoo tour bus driven by the iconic
Mr. Clean.
U
1
2 II BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC
2 II
BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC
Logorama’s brand landscape.
Logorama’s brand landscape.
2 II BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC Logorama’s brand landscape. Ronald McDonald holding Boy hostage. Bob’s Big This
Ronald McDonald holding Boy hostage. Bob’s Big
Ronald McDonald holding
Boy hostage.
Bob’s Big
This is the world of Logorama, a sixteen-minute animated short film writ ten and directed
This is the world
of Logorama, a
sixteen-minute animated short film writ
ten and directed in
2009
by the Frenth creative collective
H5,
composed of
François Alaux,
Hervé
de
Crécy;
and Ludovic Houplain.2
The film’s
simple
and
famffiar
narrative—which
replicates
an
age-old
trope
of good versus
evil—takes
place
in
a futuristic,
stylized,
war-zone
Los
Angeles,
where
a
homicidal psychopath armed with a gun takes people hostage, wreaks havoc
on the city; and leads the
police in a prolonged, violent chase. After the hos
tages
escape,
a natural
apocalypse
ensues:
an
earthquake destroys LA,
and
BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC 3 what is left is immediately drowned with a tidal wave of
BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC
3
what is left is immediately drowned with
a tidal wave
of oil.
Logorama,
in its
own quirky; campy way,
is
a warning about the future.
What are we warned about?
Brands.
The
motivation behind
Logorama,
according to
the filmmakers, is to
demonstrate the extent to which brands
are ubiquitous,
The
embedded in every aspect of our lives and relationships.
violent film,
crafted entirely out of brands
(more than
2,500
are used in the
film), is
an
intend the film
as
indictment of their ubiquity; The filmmakers
a critique
of how a rabid consumerism
is
now taken for granted in Western
culture.
In
their “alarming universe:’
they collapse the
distinction between
(and thus reinforce the connection between) brands
and individuals, brands
and violence, and brands and natural disasters.3
In some ways, the subject matter of
Logorama
is also the subject matter of
culture that
is
the heart of
Logorarna
is
this book. The critique of consumer
also a critique of something
else,
equally important but perhaps even harder
to define:
the loss of a kind of authenticity.
In the
US,
the zist century
is an
age
that hungers
for
anything
that feels
authentic, just as
we
lament more
and more that
it
is
a world of inauthenticity,
that we are governed by super
flciality People pay exorbitant rents to
live
in the part of town that
is
edgy
and “real:’
that has
we
go
to
not yet sold out to bland suburbia;
extraordi
nary lengths to prove
we
are not “sellouts”; we defensively
define ourselves
as
“authentic’
Throughout,
there is the looming sense that
we
are not real
enough, that our world is becoming more and more
inauthentic, despite our
endless
efforts
to
the contrary.
Logorama
fulfills
our dark fears,
epitomizes
our great laments:
it
is
a world where brands
are
everywhere,
where
even
culture has been branded, where even authenticity
has been trademarked.
I became interested in brand
cultures because
I was
thinking about what
consumer citizenship means within contemporary
capitalism.
In my
previ
ous work, I examined consumer citizenship from
a variety
of vantage points,
such
as
postfeminist
culture
and
the
television
industry,
but
the
current
moment felt different to me. Business models were now being used
as
struc
such as the university,
as well as
turing frameworks for cultural institutions
for social change movements. My own students, eager for career advice, were
now asking me about how to build
a “self-brancU’
I was
struck by the use of
market language
in US
politics, from the
“Obama brand”
to
endless
press
accounts
of how Democrats and Republicans
have succeeded in trademark
ing their message,
or protecting their brand.
Perhaps
most urgently,
I was
interested in,
and dismayed
by,
the
endless ways that people
use
the logic,
strategies, and language of brands as a dominant way to express our politics,
our creativity, our religious practices—indeed, our
very selves.
4 ft BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC This book is my attempt to define the processes that
4 ft
BRANDING
THE
AUTHENTIC
This
book
is my
attempt to define the processes
that create the world of
contemporary branding.
Branding in
our era has extended beyond
a busi
ness
model;
branding
is
now
both reliant on,
and reflective
our most
of,
basic
social
and cultural relations.
First,
then,
definitions.
use the
a few
I
relationship between marketing, a
term “brand” to refer to the intersecting
product,
and consumers.
“Brand cultures” refers
to the way in which these
types
of brand relationships have increasingly become cultural
contexts for
everyday living,
individual identity,
and affective
relationships.
There
are
different brand cultures that at times overlap
and compete with each other:
the brand culture of street art
in urban spaces,
religious brand cultures such
as
“New Age
spirituality”
and “Prosperity Christianity;”
the culture of green
branding with its focus on the environment.
The practice of branding
is typi
cally understood
as
a complex economic tool,
a method of attaching
social or
cultural meaning to
a commodity
as
a means
to make the commodity more
consumer. But
it
my argument that
personally resonant with an individual
is
in the contemporary era, brands
are about culture
much as they
are about
as
relayed to me,
brands are meant
economics. As marketers have continually
to
invoke
the experience
associated with a
company or product;
far from
a
the cynical view of academics,
or beleaguered parents, brands are actually
story told to the consumer.4
When that story
successful,
it
surpasses simple
is
identification with just a tangible product;
it
becomes a story that
is faniiliar,
intimate, personal,
history. Brands become the setting
a story with a unique
around which individuals
weave
their own stories,
where individuals
posi
tion themselves
as
the central character
in the narrative of the brand:
a
“I’m
Mac user:’ many of us say
smugly,
Pepsi.” While brands
or, “I
drink Coke, not
are visible and often audible,
through symbols and
logos, through jingles and
mottoes,
through all means
of visual
and
auditory design—and
occasion
ally, even through
a smell!—the definition
of a brand exceeds
its
material
ity. More than
just the object itself
a brand
is
the perception—the series of
images,
themes, morals, values,
feelings,
and sense of authenticity conjured
by the product itself.
The brand
is
the essence of what will be experienced;
the brand is a promise as much as a practicality
Because a brand’s value extends
beyond
a tangible product, the process of
branding—if successful—is
different from commodification:
it
is
a cultural
phenomenon
more
than an
economic
strategy.
Commodification
implies
the literal
transformation
of things
into
commodities; branding
a much
is
more deeply interrelated and
diffused set of dynamics.
coinmodify some
To
thing means to turn
it
into,
or treat it
it means
as,
to make
a commodity;
thought of
product, such
commercial something that was not previously
as a
as
a melody or
racial
identity.
Commodification
a marketing strategy,
a
is
ft 5 BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC different spheres of life, social and monetization of cul a
ft
5
BRANDING
THE
AUTHENTIC
different spheres of
life,
social and
monetization of
cul
a transformation of
life into
something that can
be bought and
sold.
In contrast, the process
tural
we
we are,
how
we
organize
of branding
impacts the way
understand who
what stories
we tell ourselves
ourselves.
While
ourselves in the world,
about
a cru
commodities
commodities
are
are certainly part of branding—indeed,
cial part of these
stories about ourselves—the
process of branding
broader,
is
situated within
culture.
It
this cultural process
of branding—that
marks
is
everyday,
which
the transformation of
lived culture to
brand culture—with
this book
concerned.
is
Even if we discard
false a simple opposition between
the authentic and
as
the
the inauthentic,
we still must reckon with the
power of authenticity—of
even in
self,
of experience,
of relationships.
It
a symbolic
construct that,
is
age,
continues to have
cultural
value
in how
we
understand our
a cynical
and ourselves,
and more
generally how we
make deci
moral frameworks
sions
about how to
live
our
lives. We
want
to
believe—indeed,
I argue that
lives
affect
we need to believe—that there are
spaces in our
driven by genuine
culture,
and
emotions,
something
outside
of
mere
consumer
something
exchange.
above the reductiveness of
profit margins, the
crassness of capital
spaces that
we like to
In the following
chapters, then,
I examine cultural
“authentic”—self-identity,
creativity,
politics,
and religion—and
think of
as
as
the ways these
branded
spaces,
spaces are increasingly formed
structured
expressed
by brand logic
and strategies,
and understood and
through the
language of branding.
This transformation of culture of
everyday living into
culture to the
brand culture
signals a broader
shift, from “authentic”
brand
so
ing of authenticity.
Contemporary brand
cultures are
thoroughly
imbri
at large that they become
indistinguishable from
cated with culture
it.
pages:
to
a brand
ask, in the ensuing
What happens
authenticity in
So
I
culture? What are the
stakes for living
in a world that resembles
Logorama?
While
the
causal
relationship
implied by the
film—brand
culture
I resist
global disaster—I
do have grave concerns
about the
unequivocally leads to
as
for crafting
increasing presence in the
West of brands
symbolic structures
At the same time,
I try
to avoid the
selves, creativity, politics,
and spirituality.
culture
as
simple assumption that
situates branding and consumer
opposi
“real” politics
all brand cultures
are the same, nor
tional to
and culture. Not
generalize
all
do they contain
the
same pitfalls
(or promises).
Rather than
as egregious effects of today’s market,
and think
wistfully
branding strategies
was truly authentic,
it
is
more productive
to
situate
of a bygone world that
in terms of their
ambivalence, where both economic impera
brand cultures
tives
and “authenticity”
are
expressed
and
experienced
simultaneously.
individual
Thus, this book looks
at key cultural contexts
where we craft our
6 BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC identities—the realms of creativity; religion, politics, history—to see how brand
6 BRANDING
THE
AUTHENTIC
identities—the
realms
of creativity;
religion,
politics,
history—to
see
how
brand cultures
operate
within them,
and analyzes
these
contexts
for
their
productive contradictions.
The Culture of the Brand
Everyone
who lives
in the US
in the
21st
century
has a relationship with
brands: the products that
we recognize from an image or even just a font; the
numerous items that we buy (or try to avoid buying) because they are made
by
Apple,
Starbucks,
Visa,
MTV,
a particular company. Coca-Cola,
Levi’s,
economic, and political land
and thousands of others inundate the cultural,
scape of everyday
life.
The legitimacy
of the brand
is
now established, regularized,
and surveyed
in a way that
is
unique to contemporary
culture. But precisely
because of the
it
can be understood by looking at
its
uniqueness of our branded landscape,
connections to earlier histories of the market and culture. In the
of the i8th
US
century;
branding was the very literal process
a
of creating and distributing
brand name that was protected
by a trademark. This was signified,
for instance,
could differentiate their herds. The
by the branding of cattle so that ranchers
emergence of mass production
as
part of the industrialization
of the
i9th cen
tury; alongside changes in technologies
(induding printing and design),
trans
As branding
portation, and labor practices,
ushered in a new era of branding.5
became more of a normative
practice, commodities began to take on cultural
packaged, and
distrib
“value” because of the way in which they were imaged,
uted in an
increasingly
The aftention (and
competitive commercial landscape.6
money) paid to the way a product
was branded and distributed
only increased
in the
20th
century;
By
the mid-2oth century;
as
I develop in chapter
i,
compa
nies recognized what Liz Moor signals
as
the heightened “necessity of
cultural
branding
value for economic value” and leveraged
a way to market to a mass
as
culture, a strategy that took shape in an America
marked
by immigration,
per
sistent social and
cultural
conflict,
and two world
wars. Moor notes that
after
World War II,
“People were
encouraged to buy these brand-name
products
as a sign of their own loyalty
to this new version of America,
but the success
of such
injunctions
appears to have depended
in large part upon the fact that
brand-name commodities
would have fulfilled
a pressing social need for
com
mon bonds, and for a common
vernacular language, among socially disparate
groups during a time of
immense
upheaval.”7
My focus here
is
on the later aoth and early
centuries, when branding
21st
seems to be fulfilling an
even more
“pressing social need” in the
argu
US:
ably
all
areas
of social relations
and
cultural life
are
commercialized,
and
7 BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC language are articulated and experienced, common bonds and common as Given
7
BRANDING THE
AUTHENTIC
language are
articulated and
experienced,
common bonds and common
as
Given
the
corporations have longed
dreamed, through consumption.8
reli
ance
capitalism
on
marketing
and
advertising,
of Fordist and post-Fordist
strategy and
the eventual emergence of branding
primary marketing
cul
as a
tural form makes
sense. The connection between marketing,
commercializa
tion,
and cultural
values,
however, is
The
neither direct nor deterministic.
is
relationship between commerce
and culture
formed
obliquely,
through
a
As
argues,
multilayered set of
dynamic
historical discourses.
Viviana Zelizer
historically there has been
a general aversion
to monetizing the relationships
between individuals and
culture; in
social arrangements,
and individual
law,
relations
there has been
a “resistance to
evaluating human beings in
mon
etary
terms’9
But changes in Western
political economies, from
industrial
ization to liberal
capitalism to post-Fordist
capitalism to neoliberalism, mark
shifts
not only
in
how
culture
itself
valued but
also
in how
individuals
is
value.
themselves are given particular
As Zelizer reminds us,
by
economic exchange
organized in and
cultural
is
But
contemporary brand
culture
also
comes
at
this
meanings)°
dynamic
economic
from
direction:
cultural
meanings
are
organized by
the
opposite
exchange.
The
process
of branding
created and validated
in these
inter
is
As
a number of entangled
related dynamics.
I discuss throughout this book,
discourses
and practices
are involved in the
complex process
of branding:
affects,
it
entails
the making
and
selling of immaterial
things—feelings
and
goods.
It engages
the labor
of
personalities and values—rather
than actual
a clear
consumers so
that there
demarcation between marketer and
is not
consumer, between seller and
buyer.
The
as
engagement of consumers
part
of building brands,
through such
practices
consumer-generated content
as
online and the coproduction
of brands by
consumers through customization,
between the buyer
and
the bought,
potentially engenders new relationships
catalog of
branding
logic and language.
the latest in an ever-expanding
“social
Celia Lury points
out that the
invention
of
marketing” and the
approaches
increasing reliance of contemporary
marketers on nonbusiness
a shift in perception
(such
anthropology
and
sociology) have encouraged
as
as to
and marketers
what
it
means to “brand”
on the part of both consumers
a product.11
Indeed, Lury notes that
one of the key
stages in late
20th-century
is
relationship:
branding practices
“a changed view of the producer-consumer
in terms
the relation
was
no longer viewed
of stimulus-response,
increas
ingly conceived of
an exchange.”2
This changed relationship requires labor
as
This
on the part of both consumers
and marketers.
is perhaps most starkly
use
as
when
demonstrated in the increasing corporate
of
social media, such
a
uses
corporation has
of YouTube to promote
a “personal” Facebook page; or
8 BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC commercial endeavors, where consumers and marketers engage in “authen tic” exchanges
8 BRANDING
THE
AUTHENTIC
commercial endeavors, where consumers and marketers engage in
“authen
tic” exchanges
that help to build corporate brands.
Through the use of such
social media,
marketers
increasingly assume
(and exploit)
the
existence
of
consumers’
dialogic
relationship
with
cultural
products
and
emphasize an
affective
exchange between
corporations
and consumers.
As
a relationship
based on exchange
(even
if this is an unequal exchange), branding cannot
be
explained as
commodffication
or as
the mere
incorporation
of cultural
spheres of life by advanced capitalism. As Tiziana Terranova has pointed out,
explaining the labor of consumers as
commodification
or corporate
appro
priation
usually presumes
the
co-optation
of an
“authentic”
element
of a
consumer’s life by a marketer:
the creation
of street art, for instance, when
sponsored by a corporation
is
understood as “selling out”; a similar “crime”
against
authenticity is
the
manufacturing
of T-shirts
featuring
the
words
“Jesus is my homeboy,” which are then sold at chain retail stores.’ Explaining
brand culture as a sophisticated form of corporate appropriation,
then, keeps
intact the idea that corporate culture exists
outside—indeed, in
opposition
to—”authentic”
culture.
Rather
than
thinking
of incorporation
by
capital
from some “authentic” place outside of consumerism,
brand culture requires
a more
complex frame of analysis, where incorporation,
as Terranova points
out,
is
not about
capital
encroaching
on
authentic
culture
but rather is
a
process
of transforming and
shifting
cultural labor into
capitalist business
practices.’4
This channeling of labor into business practices is
precisely what
mobilizes the building of brand cultures by
individual consumers and what
distinguishes brand culture in the contemporary
moment.
It is
also
a hall
mark of contemporary social media and consumer participation,
which in
turn distinguishes branding from more conventional
marketing.
In a broad sense, one of the initial motivating
factors for me in writing this
book involved thinking through these kinds of politics
within advanced capi
talism. While I recognize how commodification
works as a powQrful corporate
tool in advanced capitalism,
it
also
seemed that the ubiquity of brand culture
signaled something else.
Brand cultures
are not the same across
all contexts.
Commodities and money do not circulate in the same
way in different spheres
of life.
I discuss
these
different modes
of circulation in the
chapters
in this
book and think about the ways brand cultures
also authorize consumption as
praxis—the act of buying goods
that have a politics attached to them or cri
tiquing consumer
culture
through corporate-sponsored street art.’5
In the contemporary
US,
building a brand is about building an affective,
authentic relationship with a consumer,
one based—just like
a relationship
between two people—on the accumulation of memories, emotions, personal
narratives, and expectations. Brands create what Raymond Wffliams called a
9 BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC structure of feeling, an ethos of intangible qualities that resonate in
9
BRANDING THE
AUTHENTIC
structure of feeling, an ethos of intangible
qualities that resonate in different
ways
with varied communities.16
We cannot productively think about brand
culture,
or what brands mean for culture,
without accounting for the affec
tive
relational quality—the experience—of brands.
These
affective
relation
ships with brands
are slippery,
mobile,
and often ambivalent, which makes
them as powerful and profitable
as
they are difficult to predict and discuss.
It is
through these
affective
relationships
that
our very selves
are
created,
expressed,
and validated. Far more than an economic strategy of capitalism,
brands are the cultural spaces in which individuals
feel safe,
secure, relevant,
and authentic.
Culture, in this sense, indicates the values and
affect, the hopes
and anxiet
ies,
the material artifacts and the power dynamics upon which we construct
our individual lives,
our communities,
our histories. Williams,
when writing
about the “ordinariness” of culture in
1958,
perhaps could not have predicted
the ways in which capitalism would come to
define
global networks
of
pro
duction, consumption, and distribution.’7
He situated culture and capitalism
as
related but not determined by each other; he opposed the idea that relations of
production could somehow direct culture because culture is something made
“by living’
And yet in
a moment of global advanced
capitalism, the making—
and selling, and using—of things
is often impossible to
separate from the ways
that we make our own
lives.
Brand strategies and logics are not only the
back
drop but also become the tools for
“living”
in culture.
Culture
is
some thing,
some place, that is made and remade,
and therefore depends on individuals
in
relation to
a system of production.
In the contemporary moment, branding is
is
part of this making and remaking,
and
part of culture that
is
produced and
given meaning by consumers. There
is
of course much that
is left out
of culture
if we rely on a static definition of capitalism
as its central
frame.’8
Yet as
brand
logic and strategies become normative contexts for the forming of individuai
and social relations
of affect and emotion,
the
relationship between
culture
and economic logic grows deeper and more entangled.
Connecting brand to
culture thus
challenges
a historical
aversion
to
defining culture in economic
simply “seeks to bring
all
terms, but not because brand culture
human action
into the
domain
of the market:”9
Rather than positioning
the market as my
entry point in this analysis,
following Williams
I center culture,
focusing on
the ways in which
it
is continually reimagined and reshaped,
a process
inher
ently ambivalent and contradictory.
US
culture is predicated not on the sepa
rate domains of individual experience,
everyday life, and the market but rather
on their deep interrelation.
The
interpenetration
of brands
and
culture
is
not
simply
another logi
cal
stop
on
a capitalist continuum.
Rather,
a great deal is
at
stake
in
a life
10 BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC lived through the culture of brands. When individuals invest in brands
10 BRANDING
THE
AUTHENTIC
lived
through the
culture
of brands.
When individuals invest in brands as
“authentic” culture,
it
privileges individual relationships over collective ones
and helps to locate the individual, rather than the social, as a site for political
action (or inaction) and cultural change (or merely exchange).
Clamoring
for
Authenticity
The
authentic is tricky to define.
Its
definition has been the
pas
subject of
sionate
debates
involving
far-ranging
thinkers,
from
Plato
to
Marx,
from
Andy Warhol to Lady Gaga. I am not offering
a new definition of authentic
ity
Nor am I arguing for a return to a “pure,”
unbranded authenticity.
I am,
however,
thinking about how,
and in what ways,
the
concept of authentic
ity remains
central to how individuals organize their everyday activities and
craft their very selves. Moreover, in a culture that is increasingly
understood
and experienced through the logic and strategies
of commercial branding,
and in a culture characterized by the postmodern styles of irony, parody, and
the superficial, the concept of authenticity
seems to carry even
more
weight,
not less. In the following pages, I explore the ways in which the “authentic”
is
brought to bear in brand culture.
More specifically, I discuss
the mainte
nance of authenticity in two, interrelated
ways: as a cultural space defined by
branding, and as a relationship between consumers and branders.
Many scholars of consumer culture, both
historical and contemporary: have
argued that in the face of brands
and commodities we risk a loss of “authentic”
self; creativity:
pol
humanity: The branded spaces I examine in
Authentic”’—the
itics, religion—are precisely those spaces that have been historically
understood
as
“authentic:’
positioned
and
understood
as
outside the
crass
realm
of the
market. What is understood (and experienced)
as authentic is considered such
precisely because
it
is
perceived as
not
commercial.
Even when history bears
out the fallacy of this binary:
as
it
inevitably does, individuals continue to invest
in the notion that authentic spaces exist—the space of the self, of creativity, of
spirituality. Social theorists arid commentators from Rousseau to Marx to
Tho
reau have contemplated the space of the authentic as a space that is not mate
rial.2°
This arrangement is mirrored within individuals:
the authentic resides in
the
inner self (or,
for Marx,
the
unalienated self); the
outer self is
merely an
expression, a performance, and is often corrupted by material things (and more
specifically, as Marx points out so eloquently, by capitalism). Thoreau and
Rous
seau
saw
a clear distinction between the
authentic
inner self and the perfor
mative outer self and saw social and cultural
relations as a potential threat to
individual authenticity
For these thinkers, as well as Marx, this threat was not
empty but had serious consequences, leading individuals to invert values
and
II 11 BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC commercial fetishize commodities as if they were living things. The
II
11
BRANDING THE
AUTHENTIC
commercial
fetishize commodities as if they were living things. The inauthentic,
world alienates us from social interaction
spurious and dehumanizing.2’
and constructs
such interactions as
The binary link between
commercial and inauthentic,
and noncommer
cial and authentic, is no doubt too simple.
But at the same time,
it
seems that
even
the
theorizing
of Marx and others
is
no
longer
adequate
to
describe
the
penetration
of the
material world into
our
inner lives.
It is
becoming
more
and more
clear
that brand culture
shapes
not only consumer habits
but also political, cultural,
and civic practices,
so that,
in the contemporary
era,
brands have become what Lury
calls
a “logos”
that structures,
rational
life.2’
izes,
and cultivates everyday
The
concept of brands as logos,
and the
idea that branding
is a
primary context for identity construction and
creative
production, indicates a shift in focus from our persistent frame
of reference:
instead of debating whether or not we fetishize
the commodities we buy, and
whether or not those commodities oppress the people who make them,
I am
now thinking through what
it
means
that authenticity itself is a brand,
and
that “authentic” spaces are branded.
Some
contemporary scholars
use this
perilous
state
of authenticity as a
pub
central focus
in
their critique of Western consumption.
Naomi
Klein
lished
her manifesto
against
global
consumer
culture,
No
Logo,
in
woo,
which
resonated with
a large
audience,
many
of whom were nervous
and
brand
angry at the sophisticated methods of contemporary advertising and
bill
ing and the seeming unstoppable presence of messages to consume,
on
boards, in music videos, on the streets.
Klein warned citizens to pay attention
con
to
“brands,
not products:’
asking us to
think deeper than the discrete
lives.2’
sumer purchase and to look at how global capitalism
structures
our
And, indeed, within the 21st century, branding and advertising strategies are
increasingly complex, especially in a digital
media environment where viral
ads, guerrilla marketing, online consumer campaigns and competitions,
and
user feedback mechanisms
are
ways
for corporations
to
script advertising
authentic.24
messages that feel distinctly noncommercial, and therefore
In this
thoroughly branded landscape, two opposing
schools
of thought
have
emerged in the last few decades.
I term these the
“anticonsumerism”
and the
“consumer-as-agent”
camps.
The
former
is
composed primarily of
critical scholars,
such as Klein,
Kalle Lasn,
Juliet Schor, Thomas Frank,
and
other
anticonsumerism
scholars
and
activists, who
rightly
point
out
the
ubiquity of advertising, marketing, and branding in everyday life.
However,
their
critiques
often
maintain
the
same
distinct
boundary
between a consumer capitalist space and an authentic one as Thoreau, Rous
seau, and Marx did in earlier periods of capitalism.2’
For these contemporary

13

12 II BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC thinkers, as with their authenticity predecessors, is still possible because
12
II BRANDING
THE
AUTHENTIC
thinkers, as with
their
authenticity
predecessors,
is
still possible because they
of consumer
believe space exists outside
capitalism.
This binary is particularly present in indictments
over “selling cool:’
where
marketers and advertisers have
a long history of appropriating
counterculture
of
market
aesthetics,
reformulating
an
aesthetics
resistance
into
something
might
able, thus dissipating any fear or anxiety about what
be the consequences
of such
resistance.26
Related to this, Michael
Serazio,
in his work on guerrifia
marketing,
makes
a plea to
citizens
“for
consumer restraint and reflection—
culture
advocating
true
discipline and
real
discovery external to commercial
Klein calls advertisers and marketers
who sell cool “cultural traitors:’
implying
if
that the context for everyday
living is one in which “selling out” is a viable,
undesirable, action to take. Lasn’s anticonsumerist
magazine Adbusters features
strategies (in a
kind
of updated Situationist style) to help us expose advertising
turn.
as
an elaborate hoax, which manipulates
and tricks consumers at every
around
of
appro
These
arguments all revolve
an
accepted notion
corporate
of
of whith
mar
priation or a Marxist idea
alienated labor—either
presumes a
determination
net
ket
and a dynamic of power that,
albeit sophisticated and
worked, nonetheless functions
linearly.
(among
Henry
and
Jenkins,
Clay
Shirky,
Yochai
Benkler
others)
are
of
opposing
that the
prominent
representatives
the
camp.
They argue
anti-
much power
advertisers and not enough
consumerism position
gives too
to
to consumers.28
For
these theorists,
not
manipula
“selling cool” is
always a
they recog
tive
corporate hoax
co-optation
authentic.
or a
of the
Instead,
complicated
cultural
and media
nize the
ways in which
dynamics
converge.
these
relationship between
consumers and corporate
In
accounts, the
power
for
of
might
about
but
be
profit motive,
it
also
can pave the way
a range
of
consumers.
Consumers
and
advertisers
coex
other kinds
relations
to
problem
ist
(though
perhaps
in
contradiction)
in
this
landscape.
The
in
these
accounts
is
that
not function
power clearly does
on an equal playing
that
more
field
within advanced
capitalism,
so
a singular
focus
on who has
out
how
power—the
corporate brand or
the
consumer—misses
on
power
contradictory
and
maintains
is created as
a dynamic,
often
force,
similarly
authentic.
Concentrating
individual
and
a pristine
definition
of
the
on
culture
corporate
uses
of
power within brand
obscures
the ways
in which
In
other entangled
culture
interrelated within
discourses
in
are
deeply
it.
other
work
words,
power does
not
always
in a predictable,
logical way,
as
or individuals
and
something either corporations
can possess
wield.
Power
is often exercised in
contradictory
and brand
other cul
ways,
cultures, like
individual
and
holding
tures,
are ambivalent, often
possibility for
resistance
Individual
within consumer
corporate hegemony simultaneously.
resistance
BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC
BRANDING
THE
AUTHENTIC
simultaneously. resistance BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC Brand Baby, featured in Adbusters, no. 91, Revolution
Brand Baby, featured in Adbusters, no. 91, Revolution Issue, 2009. culture defined and within the
Brand Baby, featured in
Adbusters,
no.
91,
Revolution Issue,
2009.
culture
defined and
within the parameters
of that culture;
is
exercised
to
otherwise
outside consumerism that
some
assume
is to believe in a space
is
motive and the political
nostalgia
how unfettered
by profit
economy. This is
for authenticity.
either an anticonsumerism
I position the authentic
differently from
or
a
consumer-as-agent
smooth
position.29
Brand culture
not
is
defined by a
flow
of content
media
media platforms or cooperation
across
between multiple
industries,
nor
consistent corporate
appropriation. What
is
it
a context for
other
found if
look beyond
authentic
explanations can be
we
the
versus the
the empowered consumer
corporate
kind
fake,
versus
dominance?
This
of
explanation
begin
understanding of brand
cul
needs to
with an
cultures as
competing power
and individual production
ture,
complete
with
relations
and
explanation
from
dis
practice.
And,
this
is
largely
missing
scholarly
consumption and branding,
and
cultural
course on
allows us to analyze the
meanings of branding
without resorting
unproduc
to
a binary that
is
often
Within contemporary brand
culture the separation
between
authen
tive.
the
and the commodity
not
more blurred, but
blurring
tic self
self
only is
this
is
more
and
within contemporary consumer
expected
tolerated.
That is,
culture
granted that
anything
branded.
we take
it
for
authenticity, like
else, can be
In
current moment, rather
than representing
authentic
the
the loss of
humanity,
14 fl BHANDNG THE AUTHENTiC authentic and commodity intertwined within brand the self are culture,
14
fl
BHANDNG THE AUTHENTiC
authentic
and
commodity
intertwined
within
brand
the
self are
culture,
brand.
where authenticity
is itself a
But authenticity
is
not
understood
and
only
experienced as
the
pure,
inner
self of the individual,
it
is
relationship
also a
between individuals and
commodity
culture
that
organization
is
constructed
as
“authentic.”3°
of
The
cultural meaning
not
that
by economic exchange does
mean, by default,
the
commodities
inauthentic;
relationship
individuals have with
is
spurious
or
within
rather, that
exchange is a
construction of
a relationship
param
the
eters of
brand
contemporary
culture.
Consider,
for
example,
individuals’
relationship
with
constituted through branded
and
religion
megachurches
burgeoning
industries
of urban
such
as
yoga;
the
revitalization
cities
as
branded,
creative spaces for people to “authentically” express themselves; the
market
amplifying
mandate
to develop a “self-brand” as a way to strategically
Appending
oneself personally
and professionally.
“brand” to “culture,” then,
indicates
not
of culture but
mapping out of
only the revaluation
also
a
the
that
brand
affective and authentic relationships
are formed within
cultures—
shaped
both
relationships
that
moment,
are
unique
to
this historical
by
the
constraints and
of
brand-obsessed
the possibilities
a
world.
brand cam
While there is much to be said
about how and why particular
paigns are successful and others are not, or about how marketers need to engage
audiences
through
brand
book
not
relationships,
this
is
about how we react
or
nor
emotionally to particular brands like, say, Coke
Apple;
is
it
about how to
craft
dever
rela
branding campaigns, or how to build a better or more fulfilling
tionship between brands and consumers.
Rather, I examine how areas
of our
lives
that have historically been considered noncommercial
and “authentic”—
branded
namely,
religion,
creativity
politics,
the
self—have
recently become
spaces.
not
These cultural spaces
cre
of presumed authenticity
only are often
of
that
ated and sustained using the same kinds
marketing
strategies
branding
but
managers use to sell products
also
are increasingly only legible in culture
of
market
through and within the logic and vocabulary
the
This book, then, is
my attempt to
think
through what
it
means to live in advanced capitalism, to
live a life
through brands.
The spaces I explore in the following
pages are spaces
that
have
that
been historically
considered
“authentic:’
are
now increasingly
brand
through
formed as branded spaces, undergirded by
logic and articulated
the language
of branding.
Above
all else,
that branding
my argument here is
is
different from commercialization or marketing:
cul
it
is deeply, profoundly
tural.
As
culture,
understand
it
is
ambivalent.
To
what is
at stake in living in
brand cultures,
possibifi
we need to account for this ambivalence, explore
its
brand
ties, and think about what the emergence
of
culture means for individual
of power
identities, the creation of culture, and the formation
1
1

BRANDING

C ;
C
;
GENDER THE EMERGENCE OF BRAND CULTURE AND Download our free self-esteem tools! —Dove website
GENDER
THE EMERGENCE OF BRAND CULTURE
AND
Download our free self-esteem
tools!
—Dove website
October the promotion company Mather “Evo In 2006, Ogilvy & created lution’ of soap.1 the
October
the promotion company
Mather
“Evo
In
2006,
Ogilvy &
created
lution’
of
soap.1
the first in a series
viral videos for Dove
The
ninety-five-
second
advertisement
ordinary
woman
through
video
depicts
an
going
through
elaborate
technological
processes
to become
a beautiful
model:
the woman
time-lapse photography,
we watch
having makeup
applied and
her hair curled and
then
computer
dried. The video
cuts to a
cheeks
screen,
where
the
airbrushed
her
and brow smooth,
woman’s face is
to make
as well
Photoshopped and manipulated:
her neck
her
as
is elongated,
eyes widened,
her
nose narrowed.
not
blatant critique of
and
unre
The video is
subtle;
it
is a
the artificiality
of
women produced
concluding
ality
the
by the beauty industry. The
tagline
beauty
distorted.
part
the
wonder our perception of
reads,
“No
is
Take
in
Dove Real Beauty Workshops for Girls”
According to its website, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is “a
global
that
intended
effort
is
to
serve
as
a starting point
for
societal
change
and
widening
and
of beauty”2
act as
a catalyst for
the definition
discussion
It is
II
15

17

16 II BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS
16
II BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
The “before” image of the Dove “Evolution” ad. one of a growing number of brand
The “before” image of the Dove “Evolution”
ad.
one of a growing number of brand efforts
that harness the politicized rheto
ric of commodity activism.
In
short,
the “Evolution”
video makes a plea to
consumers to
act politically through
consumer behavior—in this
case,
by
establishing a very particular type of brand loyalty with Dove products. The
company suggested
that by
purchasing Dove
products,
and
by
inserting
personalized
themselves into this ad campaign, consumers could “own” their
message.
Rather than the traditional advertising route of
buying advertising
slots to distribute the video, Dove posted
it on YouTube. It quickly became a
viral hit, with millions of viewers sharing the video through email and other
media-sharing websites? Well received outside of advertising, the video won
the Viral and Film categories Grand Prix awards
at Cannes Lions
2007.
With its self-esteem workshops and bold claim that the campaign can be
is
a “starting point for societal change,” the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty
a current example
of commodity activism,
one of the ways that advertisers
and marketers use brands as lucrative
avenues for social activism,
and social
issues.4
movements in turn use brands as launch points for specific political
Commodity activism reshapes and rehnagines
forms
and practices of social
(and political) activism into marketable
commodities and takes specific form
within brand culture.5
It has a heightened
presence in today’s neoliberal era,
which has
seen an incorporation of politics
and anticonsu.mption practices
phi
into the logics of merchandising, the ubiquity of celebrity activists
and
lanthropists, and yet a new configuration of
the consumer citizen. Like other
forms of social or political activism, commodity activism hinges on a central

activism, commodity activism hinges on a central • BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS The “after” image of the
BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS
BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
hinges on a central • BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS The “after” image of the Dove “Evolution” ad.
The “after” image of the Dove “Evolution” ad. goal of empowerment. However, despite the social-change
The “after” image
of the Dove “Evolution”
ad.
goal of empowerment.
However,
despite the social-change rhetoric framing
per
much commodity activism,
the empowerment aimed for is
most often
sonal and individual,
not one that emerges from collective struggle or civic
participation.
In
this
context
of brand
culture, the
individual
is
a flexible
commodity that
can
be
packaged,
made,
and
remade—a
commodity that
gains value through self-empowerment.
Commodity activism takes shape within the logic and language
of brand-
ing
and is
a compelling
example
of the
ambivalence that
structures
brand
culture. This kind
of activism not only ifiustrates
the contradictions,
contin
gencies,
and paradoxes shaping consumer capital today but also exemplifies
the
connections—sometimes
smooth,
sometimes
contradictory—between
merchandising,
political
ideologies,
and
consumer
citizenship.
The
Dove
campaign represents
a historical moment of transition,
Joseé Johnston notes,
characteristic
of the
kind
of change
unique
to
contemporary
conimod
ity activism:
“‘While
formal opportunities for citizenship
seemed to
retract
under
neoliberalism,
opportunities
for
a lifestyle
politics
of consumption
rose
correspondingly’6
Dove offers a productive lens not only into this rise
but also into the concurrent retraction
of social services and collective orga
nizing
that
are
characteristic
of the
current political
economy—in
other
words,
into
the
contemporary neoliberal world where
anyone,
apparently,
can become
a successful entrepreneur,
can find and express their authentic
self,
or can be
empowered by the
seemingly endless possibilities
in digital
spaces, and yet where the divide between rich and poor continues
to grow. In
18 jj BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS this context, personal empowerment through occupy is ostensibly realized of
18 jj
BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
this context,
personal empowerment
through
occupy
is
ostensibly realized
of
consumer
market
ing the subject position
the
citizen. According to today’s
through consumer
citizens can satisfy
their individual needs
logic, consumer
behavior, thus
rendering unnecessary
that
the collective responsibilities
have
historically been expected from a
citizen.7
of
kind of commodity
Dove is merely one example
an increasingly visible
commod
activism in
the
21st-century
brand
culture
of
the
US.
Certainly,
20th-century
ity activism
did
not appear as a
direct
result of late
and early
those
21st-century neoliberal capitalism. Boycotts,
such as
in US civil rights
and
consumer
movements for equal African American
white
rights,
Ralph
consumer
of
and
and
of
Nader’s
advocacy
the
1960s
1970s,
the
emergence
“ethical
consumption”
in
the
commodity
198os,
could be
accurately called
activism.8
1 am
tracing
In this chapter,
interested in
the relationships these
contemporary
branded
histories have with
definitions of
activism.
of commodity
animated
and
Contemporary
forms
activism are often
by
experienced through brand
Individual consumers
demonstrate
platforms.
their
others
politics
purchasing particular
brands
by
over
in
a competi
attached
political
and goals,
tive marketplace;
specific
brands
are
to
aims
and
trade, or a RED
T-shirt and
fight
such as
Starbucks
coffee
fair
Gap
Contemporary commodity
positions political
ing AIDS in Africa.
activism
action
as
part of a
competitive,
capitalist brand culture,
that
so
activism is
reframed
as realizable
through supporting
particular brands;
activism is as
easy as a swipe of
your credit
competitive context
commodity
card. This
for
the context
brands
means that some
of
activism, like
for
themselves,
forms
activism have
a
heightened
others
rendered
visibility while
are
invisible.
retooled
prospers or
That is, if activism is
as
a kind of product that either
through
then
some kinds
of activ
fails
capitalism’s
circuits
of
exchange,
more
vocabulary of brand culture
ism are
“brandable”
than
others.
The
is
mapped onto
that the
that propel
social and political
activism,
so
forces
and legitimate
competition among and between
brands
also
do
the
same
kind of cultural work for
activism.
Within
brand
matter
these
dynamics,
the
is
the legitimating
factor,
no
flex
That is, the
what the specific political ideology or practice in question.
brand
but that
ibility of branding enables a given
to absorb politics,
flexibility
embraced
the
is
subject to the market.
In the
case
of
Dove,
the politics
by
company involves
gender and
self-esteem.
To
be blunt,
girls’
self-esteem is
and
about
hot:
there are best-selling books
Hollywood movies
“mean girls:’
continue
problem
that
not
eating disorders
to be a
for young girls (and one
is
constantly
confined to
middle
the white
class),
popular
culture is
regaling
conform
the
latest efforts
by female celebrities
to
to
an idealized feminine
BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS 19 other remark body. Girls’ self-esteem in the early 21st century, in
BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
19
other
remark
body.
Girls’
self-esteem in the early
21st
century, in
words, is
ably brandable.
book
broad definition of brand
experi
While I argue in this
for a
cultures,
through
brand
chapter
enced
expansive
I exam
logics and strategies, in this
broad
through
brand.
ine
ramifications
a focus
on one specific
Dove,
owned
the
personal
company
currently
by
global
care
Unilever, is
the world’s top-
bar.9
the
expand
product
selling
cleansing
In
199oS,
Dove began to
its
line
beyond
and
shampoos, conditioners, deodorant,
soap,
the line now includes
other
products
attract
atten
and
cleansing
for women. Dove began to
global
marketing
and branding;
hired
tion in
2004 for its
the
company
Ogilvy &
that
of
portraying
of
Mather in
year to develop a series
ads
the “real beauty”
ordinary
started
women.
In
2006,
Dove
the Dove Self-Esteem Fund,
which
purports
of
through educating
and
to “be an agent
change”
girls
women on
of
brand
much
a “wider definition
beauty.”° These
campaigns have received
attention
their
intervene
standard
rep
public
for
efforts
to
in advertising’s
resentations of
primarily
thin,
femininity;
in
which models
are
white,
and
and
the majority of
blond,
thus exclude
the world’s citizens.
As
a challenge
distributed
that featured
to
this
idealized image,
Dove
initially
ads
“real”
of
and
women
different sizes
ethnicities, with slogans such as “tested on real
curves’
reimagined brand identity
updated
experi
It is
this
of Dove,
and
enced
multimedia,
including
in
2010 as a
interactive campaign
videos, blogs,
and
and international
online resources for girls
women,
workshops on self-
that
the
of
trace
trajec
esteem,
is
specific focus
this chapter, where
I will
the
tory
products
culture through
from seffing
to selling identities to
selling
an
of
from
analysis
“real beauty” as well as Dove campaigns
two earlier eras.
Commodity Activism
Three Moments
in
of Economic Transition
Commodity
self-empowerment
and
feminism, where feminist
ideals
such as
attached
products
point,
agency are
to
as
a selling
is
one
specific
element
turn
part of the
story of
of commodity
activism, which in
is
one
larger
the
historical
of brand
of commodity femi
emergence
culture.
As
an
example
femininity:”
cam
nism,
or what some have called “power
the Real Beauty
paign brings
the relationship
and
into relief a debate
over
between
gender
consumer
that
been taking
both national
arguments and
culture
has
place, in
interactions,
the
i9th
everyday
since at least
century.
The question,
in some
women
empowered
ways, is simple: Have
“been
by access to the goods, sites,
consumption”?’2
spectacles,
and services associated with mass
Writing about
“power femininity”
in
ads,
Michele Lazar characterizes this
“knowledge
as
20 BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS power” trope within contemporary marketing of consumer- as an element brands
20 BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
power”
trope
within
contemporary marketing
of consumer-
as
an
element
brands
educational
based empowerment,
where
like Dove offer
services
to
consumers
that they
become their
so
can
develop skills
to
own
experts on
self-esteem. The development of these skifis is
positioned,
turn,
con
in
as a
duit to
self-empowerment.13
through
The
Dove
Real
Beauty
campaign,
its
workshops
and media
resources,
claims to enable girls to become confident
and
self-reliant
through
healthy self-esteem.
As Victoria de
Grazia,
and many
Susan Bordo,
Lynn Spigel,
others have
pointed
points
entry
about
out,
there
are a variety
of
of
con
into
debates
sumer empowerment
ranging from
of con
for women,
historical analyses
sumer
culture’s
and
empowering expansion
of
middle-class women’s
social
institutional boundaries
to
representa
examinations
of consumer
culture
tions
and
examination of the
of
women
the
“female”
audience.’4
My
Dove
many contemporary
Real Beauty campaign approaches it as one of
examples
of
an
advanced
capitalist
that
corporate
and managerial
strategy
restages
practices (such as those
of
Unilever)
into political,
and in this case feminist,
and
retooled
social contexts. In the relentless search for profit, this
capitalism
is built upon a
restructuring
of
of
traditional
identities (in this case,
gender)
and social relations
(in this
case,
between
consumer and producer).
Need
less to say,
identity and
brand than
some shifts in
relationships are easier to
not
others;
wanting to improve girls’
self-esteem is
a controversial political
platform
(unlike, say,
immigration
In addition,
rights or same-sex marriage).
the issue has a vast
market—from self-help books to reality television shows
to pedagogical
initiatives—in
that supports
particular
the US
Dove’s
com
modity
activism.
Nevertheless,
worth reconsidering
of
it is
the
logic
such
brand
campaigns.
about
Why does
a company driven by profit care
social
issues? How did we get here? ‘What is the
historical
context for this neoliberal
recontextualization?
As
much
as
marketers
otherwise,
only
will tell you
the market itself
is
part
of the
story
So
when
considering habits
of consumption
within
advanced capitalism,
and what that
tells
us
about our identities
and our
relationships,
we
equally
also must
consider the
important,
but
more
the
racial
abstract, notion of what constitutes
a commodity
in
first place. Is
or gender
identity
a commodity? Can the pursuit of social justice
be corn-
modified? If the answer to
these
and
similar questions
is
what does
yes,
that mean for individuals,
institutions, and
politics?
What does it mean
in
terms
of how cultural values
are changing?
Exploring the ramifications of
commodiflcation means considering what
means
social activist
it
to be a
in an
environment that
self-empowerment and entre
above all else values
preneurial individualism.

fl BRANDING 21 CONSUMER CITIZENS order commodity In to address such questions, I examine activism
fl
BRANDING
21
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
order
commodity
In
to
address
such
questions,
I examine
activism
at
historical
moments
moments
repre
three
in US
culture.
These
historical
industry-defined transitions in
production,
of
sent
relations of
the
creation
and consumer
that
markets,
culture.
Crucial to each are technological shifts
supported, and
understandings of consumer
are created,
enabled by specific
notions of
and cultural
capital as well as shifting
political
subjectivity.
First, I examine mass consumption within Fordist capitalism of the mid-2oth
century
television,
In this era both broadcast media (such as film, broadcast
and radio) and political subjectivity
were often formulated collectively (from
membership
in one’s
social class
or
the
imagined
homogeneous,
relatively
undifferentiated audience).
Second,
I explore niche marketing and post-Fordist (or
late) capitalism in the
late
20th
century. Here, new information technologies and narrowcast media
(such as cable television and the Internet) fragment the formerly broad, mass
dif
audience into groups of more diverse communities.
These audiences are
ferentiated by specific racialized or gendered
groups (as well as other identity
groups), and their “identities” are imagined (and marketed to) accordingly.
• Third,
I examine
individuated marketing
and
neoliberal labor practices
of
century
the late
20th
century and early
21st
These include immaterial labor,
which
is animated by the digital economy,
and the blurring of consumer and
producer identities
(as
with
“viral”
ads,
user-generated online
content,
and
is
brand culture), so that the individual cultural entrepreneur
celebrated as
one who populates a radically
“free” market.
be
not
indication that
cul
To
clear, charting three economies
is
an
one
tural
and
another
economic context
ends
as
begins;
rather,
there
remains
and they both detract
and inherit
overlap between all three economies,
from
of their
historical moments
legacies
predecessors.
These
map
transitions—
retrenchments—in
some
advancements,
some
a longer history
of culture,
and the
construction of
within the
economy,
subjectivity
capitalist episteme.
reminds
moments
of transition—such
It is
often,
as
de
Grazia
us,
in the
as
those
outlined—that tensions around meanings of
become
I have
identities
especially visible.’5
Getting “Creamed”:
Mid-2Oth-Century Mass
Audiences and the Unified
Subject
Interpreting
advertisements
targeted
women
insight
vari
to
offers
to
the
national identity intersect
ous
ways
in which gender
and
in different ways
22 II BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS products been at different historical stages. Beauty arid hygiene have
22
II BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
products
been
at
different historical
stages.
Beauty arid hygiene
have
long
and
broader
connected,
by
marketers
consumers
alike,
to
relationships
and the
between
dominant
personal identity;
racial
and gender
formations,
notion
nation.
been
Soap,
for instance, has historically
a rich vehicle for the
i9th
Anne
of consumption
as
a kind of
civic
duty;
Even
in the
century
as
stood
McClintock has
shown,
soap
(and
other commodities)
in for values
that
traversed the
cleanliness
of
body into
of
the physical
the “cleanliness”
social body.
Commodities
represent cultural
and
the
were
seen
to
social
value,
and through
visual representations
in advertising, they affirmed racial
and
gender
hierarchies.’6
demonstrates,
In particular,
as
McClintock
in the
colonial building
of
empire
of
flourished not
the 19th
century,
“Soap
only
spectacular
market but
because
it
created
and
filled a
gap in the domestic
also
because, as a cheap
and portable
domestic commodity,
it
could persuasively
imperial progress”7
mediate the Victorian poetics of racial hygiene and
beauty products
continued
associ
Into the
2oth century,
feminine
to be
national identity and
of
“progress:’18
ated with
rhetorics
American
Yet at the
same time,
the
consumer
authorized new
cultivation
of
a female
base
social
that disrupted traditional gender
soci
positions for women
hierarchies in US
reductionist account of
ety. Historian
Kathy Peiss, for example,
challenges a
apparent
shortcomings—whether
cosmetics as merely “masks” for
feminine
imposed
patriarchal
needing
these masks are
by
society
(women
artifice to
other
compete)
or by racist culture
(“whiteners”
and
means to affirm racist
hierarchies
among
that
consumption
women).
Rather, Peiss argues
women’s
of
of cosmetics
needs to
be understood within
a broader
context
struggles
and
empowerment.
between
consumer
conformity
female
While
surely
the
marketing
of
cosmetics
contributed
of gen
to
the commodffication
branded
products),
dered identity
(where types
of
women
are
as
it
also,
as
notions
Peiss
argues,
destabilized
traditional gendered
hierarchies based on
and
kind of cultural
of public and private
helped establish a
legitimacy for
women.’9
Cosmetics
marketing
and mid-zoth century
in the early
was thus
but
about
not only about capitalizing on
individual insecurities for profit
also
creating and
perpetuating
of womanhood;
a changing definition
creating a
and
participate
market exclusively for women,
thus inviting women to
in the
notions
and
market,
shifted
and
challenged previously held
pri
of public
vate
position of the
spheres.
Because
of
woman
the
changing
middle-class
in
postwar American
culture
(brought
including
on by various social forces,
suburban
migration,
an
emergent
of the
nuclear
ideology
ideal
family,
and
marketing
to
the housewife),
feminine beauty products
the
dynam
reflect
ics
production
consumption of
of an era defined by the mass
and then
mass
consumer goods.2°
II BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS 23 postwar housing that The context, federal policies privileged white suburban
II
BRANDING
CONSUMER CITIZENS
23
postwar
housing
that
The
context,
federal
policies
privileged
white
suburban development
and
subsequent
margin
middle-class
famifies,
the
of
and ethnic communities
urban
alization
racial
to
spaces,
the
ideological
of
nuclear
that
solidification
the
family,
the role
white middle-class women
wartime
the
and
normative
pres
played in the
workforce,
new
increasingly
of
privatized
ence
the television in the
American home—all were factors in
and
terrain
consumer culture
histori
the
shifting public
private
of
in
this
moment.21
and marketing
cultural tropes that
nor
cal
Advertising
relied on
naturalized
positioning them
of
malized
and
these
dynamics,
as
conduits
to national gendered
and
access
identity; Marketers
artists alike increasingly
and
both
art
turned
buildings
to
public space,
such as
bifiboards, to
create
industry
born.
and advertise wares. The public relations
is
Highway systems
and
are built,
automobiles are increasingly affordable,
with the two
come a
concomitant mobility and
migration. Market-driven
networks of
communi
broadcast
cation,
such as
mass
magazines,
television,
Hollywood film,
and
and
advertising,
facilitated
relationships
between
political
social
identities
and consumption
that
increased
behavior, a practice
only
as
new markets—
created and then
capi
for women, for African Americans, for families—were
upon.22
talized
During
this
postwar period, then,
of both
citizenship and
the
values
consumption began
merge
new
Consumption habits
of
to
in
ways.
white,
middle-class Americans not only
framed
of what material
were
as
choices
purchase but
understood
larger
of
individu
goods to
also were
as
symbols
freedom, and equality.23
the context
what Lizabeth Cohen
alism,
This is
for
where political and
previously
calls
a
“consumer’s
republic:’
social values
abstract political
such
freedom,
tied
to
more
ideologies,
as
democracy,
and
understood
through the
equality,
were newly
as
accessible specifically
Cartwright
promises of consumer capitalism.24
Marita Sturken and
As
Lisa
rather than
social
individual consumerism,
write,
“Thus
policy, was offered
beginning
the
United
the
means
the
in
19505 in the
States
as
to
achieve
prosperity’n It was
promise of
and
not
that purchas
social change
simply
signaled
mobility of
postwar
storied upward economic
ing
goods
the
the
consumption
now
construct
identity within
years;
was
a means
to
a specific
this
the
of
that
con
“consumer’s
republic”
the US.26
This
shift,
awareness
sumer
be political
crucial
the later
choices
could
choices, is
to
emergence
of commodity
activism.
I
For instance,
consider a Dove
soap
television ad from
1957. We watch
a
actor
bathtub,
herself beneath
white, blond,
female
in the
clearly enjoying
a
hyperbolic,
male voice-over:
“From Lever House,
in New York
City,
comes
our
the greatest skin care discovery of
time!
Its name is Dove!
This amazing

-‘I

F

24 II BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS bar cream. new bath and toilet is actually one-quarter cleansing
24
II
BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
bar
cream.
new bath and toilet
is
actually one-quarter cleansing
Ordinary
.
wash:’
soap dries your skin.
But Dove creams your skin while you
From the
opening
shot
of a towering New
York
City
skyscraper to
the
flying doves to
dramatic appearance of
a
bar of Dove soap
amid a flock of
the pseudoscientific demonstration of
the amount of cleansing
cream in the
soap,
the ad
is
typical for its late-fifties
genre. The touted powers
of Dove are
then
demonstrated by the female
actor,
who
depicted
is
not only washing
her face but
also
taking a luxurious bubble
bath with
Dove,
promising its
users
that
“velvety,
it
will leave
a
The
them with
just-creamed feeling:’
ad
then turns to an
“experiment” with the female actor,
described by a female,
vaguely British voice-over
that contrasts
powers against those of ordi
Dove’s
nary soap.
The
ad
though
it
clear
is
directed to a mass
audience
of consumers;
is
a
“beauty” bar,
use,
an
that Dove
the
ad has
is
and therefore for feminine
otherwise
general
message to
consumers. The
ad
not explicitly directed
is
types
of women—there
or race, or
class
toward any specific
no ideal age,
is
Rather, in connection with current
ideologies of
for this potential consumer.
as
mass consumption, it addresses the
mass consumer
unified subject.
a
Yet,
class status:
the visible
there are codes throughout
the ad that signal race and
A Dove ad, highlighting the soap’s cleansing power.
A Dove ad, highlighting the soap’s cleansing power.

BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS 25 1 the luxury of taken in a pri whiteness of the
BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
25
1
the luxury of
taken in
a pri
whiteness of the woman,
a bubble bath obviously
despite the
vate home,
the cultural capital of the
vague British
accent. Thus,
as now,
appeal to the mass consumer
(who happens, then
to be young, white,
and middle-class), the ad
nonetheless interpellates
the individual consumer
wash”),
through
its rhetoric (Dove “creams your skin while you
constructing
as
the
consumer and the product
one
the relationship between
that
is deep
and highly personal,
even
it
simultaneously overgeneralized.
In
other
as
is
words,
the ad
in fact directed toward
a unified subject,
one recognized
is
as
ideal in the mass-consumption/mass-production
era.
As
with
all
cultural meanings,
commodities and the structure
of
market
in
way in
ing
and advertising that supports them
do not circulate
the same
different spheres of
while this historical moment
often defined
by
life.
So,
is
its
homogeneity, the
cultural meanings
of gender,
race,
and socioeconomic
class
shape
well as
limit the
economization of social
spheres.
While the
as
of femininity broadcast in
homes
during
the
dominant image
American
and
resembled the young, white woman
in the Dove ad,
she was
1940S
1950S
Spigel,
certainly not the
only representation.
George Lipsitz,
and
As Lynn
television programs
such
Lucy
I Love
and
Hone
others have shown,
as
The
eymooners
often challenged
dominant conceptions of
gender and ethnicity
through
contradictory
and
alternative
representations
of female
author
a challenge
forms,
they
ity While these
representations posed
to
dominant
were often subsumed
by the new American advertising
industry. Alternative
media representations thus
sat uneasily side by side with the newly built
free
ways that facilitated “white
ffight” to
the suburbs.
The nascent campaigns for
equality occupied the same streets but
were
sexual freedoms and racial
con
tradicted by the hegemony of what
Lipsitz has called the “possessive invest
form in
ment
in
whiteness.”
As
burgeoning feminist movements
began to
the late
and early
196os,
during that same time the Nixon-Khrushchev
1950S
Kitchen Debate
celebrated abundance
and convenience through
consumer
evidence of
items (from lipstick
to high-heeled shoes to dishwashers)
free
as
dom and
equality within American capitalism.27
Clearly,
within the “consumer
republic”
there were variances
of postwar
US
culture,
in
and different communities
used the context of consumerism
diverse ways to express
empowerment.2B
Those excluded from the hegemonic
consumer
category, by race, class,
or geography, for instance,
were “invited”
and encouraged through the
mass media
to aspire to be part of the consumer
ideal.
Communication
technologies,
such as
the
broadcast
television
on
which the
Dove
commercial
appeared,
as
well as
mass-market magazines,
in addition to new transportation
systems and new patterns of suburban
life,
to
providing venues
for advertising
were critical
support mass consumption,
26 BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS not only to transmit information to mass audiences about products but
26
BRANDING
CONSUMER
CITIZENS
not only to transmit information to mass audiences about products but
also
to sell ideologies about the ideal citizen consumer? As advertisers used these
new infrastructures to elaborate an image of this
citizen
consumer, the
prin
as achievable via
ciples of choice, equality; and freedom were articulated
con
sumption.
Within US
society;
these principles as political ideals have
indi
cated exclusion as
often as
inclusion,
so
that choice,
equality,
and freedom
are
enough
always contingent options, available primarily to those privileged
to define what choice, equality,
and freedom mean. Thus, the political
ideals
that were connected to consumerism during this
era—democracy,
freedom,
choice,
equality,
empowerment—were based on a (relatively) homogeneous
construction of the consumer.
If not always literally white and middle-dass,
the ideological basis of the ideal consumer was supported by the mass-media
technologies of the time and understood
within
a hegemonic construction of
the American citizen, which was, by default,
white and middle-class.
Mass
production,
and its
attendant advertising industry; required a
cer
tain kind
of management of difference
so
that the purported “free”
choice
and equality of the
consumer citizen could remain intact.
These ideologies