Sick of nonsense remedies with no soothing relief

One of the most compelling reasons the Demos report has become a ‘historical document’ (Comment, DW 19 April) is that, after a decade of overblown marketing hype, many of us have grown heartily sick of spin.

Sick of political spin, sick of corporate spin (aka ‘branding’), sick of culture spin. Sick of its mind-numbing blandness, sick of its insincerity, sick of the way it has colonised the social sphere (so much so that the ‘third place’, once celebrated by social critics, has now been hijacked as a ‘brand attribute’ by Starbucks).

Thank God for Naomi Klein. She speaks for a silent, but increasingly angry, majority. Her book No Logo: Beating the Brand Bullies is the iceberg that has punctured the Titanic of branding all along its hull. Despite the fact that there are still some marketing pundits muttering ‘unsinkable’ in the first-class lounge, it is finally going down. It must do so, it’s built of hot air.

What the author Sue Town-send so aptly described as the Cappuccino Years (‘all froth and bloody little coffee’) have been disastrous for British design, even if they have been fat times for design business. Far from ‘creativity’ now being a real national asset, we have consulted it to death.

All the delight, all the imagination, all the craft in design has been sacrificed for dumbed-down, ‘on message’ rubbish informed by insultingly stupid ‘values’ – anodyne pap that perfectly represents the meaningless propositions of our lost organisations.

Far from being ‘tomorrow’s people’, these brand warriors have become a bunch of sad apologists for a corporate status-quo that is so stultified it can’t even see the challenges facing it.

Perhaps it’s time for the folk at Demos to face facts. Britain in 2001 is not the buzzing hive of entrepreneurial excellence they’d like it to be. Instead, it’s the call centre capital of the world – with job dissatisfaction its major growth industry.

Its arts have become so much part of the banal brandscape that, for instance, Damien Hirst’s dot paintings segue effortlessly into Wolff Olins’ identity for Go without anyone batting an eyelid. Nor are we a ‘hybrid nation’. Indeed, fewer people than ever feel comfortable with the label ‘British’.

Perhaps that’s because we don’t actually want to live someone else’s prescriptive, reductive and unconvincing brand.

James Souttar

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