Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Branding Battleground



Originally OWS was an anti-consumerist movement (see "The Branding of the Occupy Movement" in today's New York Times, 11/28/11; hat tip to whoever posted it on LinkedIn.) It was "launched" on July 13, 2011 when the staff at Adbuster magazine, headed by editor Kalle Lasn, launched a dual branding and social media "attack" as represented by:

* Twitter hashtag: #OCCUPYWALLSTREET

* Icon: Ballerina dancing on a bull


Unions and liberal groups have been visible promoters of the movement; a recent headline in The Hill (11/12/11), "Labor unions, Occupy Wall Street plan ‘day of action’" exemplifies its initial ideological tilt.


The New York Times exemplified the “capitalists are evil” spirit yesterday (11/27/11), with a cover story casting billionaire Ronald S. Lauder as someone who can’t actually succeed at working for a living, so he is content to be a semi-productive philanthropist, art lover and sometime ambassador who is an expert in milking legitimate tax shelters for all they're worth (insert anti-Semitic stereotype here of the unproductive, secretive sponger-off-society).


The great and the terrible thing about marketers is that we don’t care if you hate us or not – we just want to sell to you. So it was bound to be a very short time before pro-consumerists (capitalists) tried to co-opt the very movement launched against them (us).


Thus an article, "Who's Behind '99 percenters'?" (WorldNetDaily 11/22/11), arguing that we brand people have indeed infiltrated the ranks. It asserts that "a company hired to lead marketing campaigns for such corporate giants as Pepsi, Starbucks, IBM and Toyota now is promoting Occupy Wall Street while [paradoxically] complaining about the top "1 percent" ultra-wealthy allegedly hoarding the country's wealth."


And an op-ed in today's USA Today (11/28/11), "How Businesses Can Pacify 'Occupiers," purports to explain how companies can use the power of their brands precisely to keep the figurative mob on their side. From the article:


"Businesses can be beloved, even when they generate huge profits and create great wealth for their executives. Just look at Apple, Google, Disney, or Johnson & Johnson. Nobody is occupying these companies' headquarters, even though these firms make a lot of money.


“What's different about these companies is that they create value for consumers that resonates with both the head and the heart. They infuse their business with purpose and meaning that transcends profit. They focus on feelings, not just fees."


OWS is a social movement; social movements redefine norms; normal is what we make it.


We are only seeing the beginning of its impact, but in the end it will be the 99% who decide what it means.


In the end, will OWS become just another moneymaking enterprise, or will it be a vehicle through which we fundamentally simplify our lives, and stop letting consumerism define us?


Given all the writing being done about holiday sales, in a time when many can't afford to buy much at all, I hope it is the latter.


Have a good day everyone, and good luck!


Image source here