In Chapter 5, Tim Jordan discusses the idea of branding and its effects on our daily lives. He argues that nothing in our cultural lives has not been “produced by the professionals of desire” (Jordan 117). From Nike to McDonald’s, corporations have become adept at finding ways to “control [the] meaning” (Jordan 111) of various symbols and ideas. And they have been quite successful – golden arches immediately force audiences to think of fast comfort food. Swooshes push audiences to think of prestige and athleticism. By simply participating in our capitalist society, we are trained to connect words to products, slogans to lifestyles, and ideas to money. Activists now must find ways to use those innate connections against these corporations.
What makes Jordan’s connection of branding to activism! so interesting is its accessibility and effectiveness. It is amazing that a couple of San Francisco guys can place a pink bra on a billboard and reduce the masculinity of an entire cigarette brand (Jordan 105). Our current society has become democratized online – I would argue that one does not need to be in a formal activist group to turn a brand against itself.
To illustrate this, let us consider the recent presidential election – indeed, any discussion of contemporary activism should consider the recent presidential election. One can argue that Donald Trump is a true master of branding – with his tweets and incendiary rally rhetoric that enraptured the media, he was able to create “seduction in return for consumption” (Jordan 110) all for free. And of course, the consumption was the voters’ constant attention. Every American knows the power of the slogan “Make America Great Again”, and those blue caps have been engrained into our memory forever.
But with the power of social media, liberals turned the slogan against itself. “Make America Great Again” became “Make America Hate Again” and “Make America Gay Again”. Alas, the work was to no avail. However, the case study stands; branding and activism! are intertwined, and activists and regular citizens alike can create change by knowing how to manipulate symbols, slogans, and seductive signs.