Authentic

Authentic: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture

Sarah Banet-Weiser
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 279
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfmw0
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  • Book Info
    Authentic
    Book Description:

    Brands are everywhere. Branding is central to political campaigns and political protest movements; the alchemy of social media and self-branding creates overnight celebrities; the self-proclaimed greening of institutions and merchant goods is nearly universal. But while the practice of branding is typically understood as a tool of marketing, a method of attaching social meaning to a commodity as a way to make it more personally resonant with consumers, Sarah Banet-Weiser argues that in the contemporary era, brands are about culture as much as they are about economics. That, in fact, we live in a brand culture.Authentic(TM) maintains that branding has extended beyond a business model to become both reliant on, and reflective of, our most basic social and cultural relations. Further, these types of brand relationships have become cultural contexts for everyday living, individual identity, and personal relationships - what Banet-Weiser refers to as brand cultures. Distinct brand cultures, that at times overlap and compete with each other, are taken up in each chapter: the normalization of a feminized self-brand in social media, the brand culture of street art in urban spaces, religious brand cultures such as New Age Spirituality and Prosperity Christianity,and the culture of green branding and shopping for change.In a culture where graffiti artists loan their visions to both subway walls and department stores, buying a cup of fair-trade coffee is a political statement, and religion is mass-marketed on t-shirts, Banet-Weiser questions the distinction between what we understand as the authentic and branding practices. But brand cultures are also contradictory and potentially rife with unexpected possibilities, leading Authentic(TM) to articulate a politics of ambivalence, creating a lens through which we can see potential political possibilities within the new consumerism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3937-2
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. INTRODUCTION: BRANDING THE AUTHENTIC (pp. 1-14)

    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 character: 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...

  5. 1 BRANDING CONSUMER CITIZENS GENDER AND THE EMERGENCE OF BRAND CULTURE (pp. 15-50)

    In October 2006, the promotion company Ogilvy & Mather created “Evolution,” the first in a series of viral videos for Dove soap.¹ The ninety-five-second video advertisement depicts an ordinary woman going through elaborate technological processes to become a beautiful model: through time-lapse photography, we watch the woman having makeup applied and her hair curled and dried. The video then cuts to a computer screen, where the woman’s face is airbrushed to make her cheeks and brow smooth, as well as Photoshopped and manipulated: her neck is elongated, her eyes widened, her nose narrowed.

    The video is not subtle; it is...

  6. 2 BRANDING THE POSTFEMINIST SELF THE LABOR OF FEMININITY (pp. 51-90)

    More than a decade ago, on April 14, 1996, a young college student named Jennifer Ringley began uploading a constant stream of pictures of herself on the Web. Filmed from her dorm room, a new photograph was taken every three minutes and automatically posted to a website. The result was a catalog of a young woman’s life, detailing her daily activities: Jennifer with friends, Jennifer studying, Jennifer having sex. Named “JenniCam,” this project attracted up to 4 million views a day at its peak. A few months after she started, Ringley realized the economic potential of this kind of involvement;...

  7. 3 BRANDING CREATIVITY CREATIVE CITIES, STREET ART, AND “MAKING YOUR NAME SING” (pp. 91-124)

    In the spring of 2010, a film about street art debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.¹ The film was eagerly anticipated, as it starred and was directed by perhaps the most infamous street artist of the decade, Banksy.Exit through the Gift Shop,purportedly a documentary, tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman living in Los Angeles in 1999, who is obsessed with filming everyday life. He happens on the street art scene while visiting his cousin, the renowned Parisian street artist Space Invader, and begins documenting street artists as they create their art, putting up stencils, posters, stickers in...

  8. 4 BRANDING POLITICS SHOPPING FOR CHANGE? (pp. 125-164)

    In the fall of 2010, the nonprofit company Free2Work. org launched a new iPhone application. The phone app, Free2Work, grades companies based on their commitment to offering a living wage for workers and a democratic work environment. The press release for the new app reads:

    Become a conscious consumer. This holiday season, you can support companies working to end slave labor in supply chains as you shop your favorite brands. See how apparel companies like Gap and Levi’s compare. Check out hot toy companies like Fisher Price, Lego, LeapFrog and Pillow Pets. Use the information on chocolate and other ingredients...

  9. 5 BRANDING RELIGION “I’M LIKE TOTALLY SAVED” (pp. 165-210)

    The Church of Latter-Day Saints launched a new ad campaign in August 2010. The ads, which were aired in nine cities around the US, featured young, energetic people surfing, skateboarding, and engaging in everyday—yet hip and cool—activities. In one ad, a young white woman spends almost the entire minute and a half of the video describing her life as the 2008 national longboard surfing champion. The ad ends with the woman saying, “My name is Joy Monahan, I’m a professional longboard surfer, and I’m a Mormon.” Another ad features a young white skateboarder describing his love of the...

  10. CONCLUSION: THE POLITICS OF AMBIVALENCE (pp. 211-222)

    One of the reasons I became so interested in brand culture is because of a personal investment. A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter and her friend posted a silly video of themselves on YouTube. My initial shock and dismay at having an image of my daughter displayed on a global video site soon transmuted into another sort of shock. Each day for several weeks, my daughter came home from school and immediately checked on “how many hits” she had. After watching my daughter’s newfound compulsion, I began thinking deeper about the connections between visibility, consumer participation (such as...

  11. NOTES (pp. 223-258)
  12. INDEX (pp. 259-265)
  13. ABOUT THE AUTHOR (pp. 266-266)

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