Brand Busting – week 4

The reason why I wanted to cover week 4 more than 3 was that I find authenticity & place branding an interesting topic.

I feel that in today’s society the image of authenticity in branding is essential even for the shopper on a budget. That might be because people are becoming more aware by having quickly accessible knowledge on the so-called world wide web. More people are doing their research and the variety of shops online help them choose their specific needs.

Those needs could be affected on the consumer by all kinds of reasons on why they choose a brand over another, based on experience or because of a more ethical background is not always the case.

Rather, it could be on a more personal and emotional level, Sarah Banet-Weiser covers this subject on ‘Branding the Authentic’:

“Building a brand is about building an effective authentic relationship with a consumer, one based—just like a relationship between two people—on the accumulation of memories, emotions, personal narratives, and expectations.”

My mother returned once from the store with a glass bottle of ketchup and told me how it reminded her of her grandma making authentic ketchup back in the days, the glass bottle connected with her on an emotional level regardless if the taste of the plastic bottle ketchup is superior.

The design of the product can often stand for authenticity in a consumer point of view. If it’s aesthetics communicate trust or part of our childhood, it connects with us in a way that we fancy the specific brand more than others.

People also love to be a part of something bigger, brands can often help them feel safe, secure or relevant. Brands also have the power in helping us feel more special and unique from the rest, some brands associate themselves with cultures or lifestyles in order to find a niche market, they promote events and help aspiring artists but what might be seen as a great gesture could also be justified as a long-term investment in their “authenticity”.

Brands often help us ( the consumers ) express a behavior that is undeveloped or acquire a trait that we don’t have. It makes us who we are, and although we have the freedom to change our lifestyle you’ll find it won’t be easy without the transition of brands too.

A short 2009 animation called “Logorama” elaborates this further, every single thing is a brand within this universe, there is no escape. This animation made me feel like authenticity simply does not exist and that consumer capitalism is, well, everywhere.

However, allow me to disagree with myself for a second here.

Because of this man, yes that’s Brad Pitt but that’s not important. What’s important is that he plays a guy called Tyler Durden in a movie called Fight Club. Tyler is pretty much the opposite of Patrick Bateman, the protagonist in the movie mentioned in my previous post called American Psycho. Patrick follows a strict rule, he tries to fit in with his co-workers yet buys expensive brands and goes out of his way to make a reservation at the top restaurant for purpose none other than to show his status. Without the psychopath urges Patrick is society’s ideal role model, unlike Tyler.

So why does Tyler Durden and Fight Club matter? Because of a genius ideology that I haven’t seen in any recent movie of today.

In a scene at a bar, our main protagonist meets up with Tyler after an incident at his apartment resulting in losing pretty much everything he owns. “I was close to being complete says the protagonist after mentioning years effort of hand-picked brands and selected Scandinavian furniture.

Tyler responds with a refreshing philosophy on life:

“We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.”

And the quote that defines authenticity in my opinion:

“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve. Let the chips fall where they may.”

This right here is the authenticity. You can advertise, design something to the utmost perfection with a witty slogan. But the effortless authenticity of refusing to be complete is a middle finger not only to brands but society’s expectations of what a person’s meaning of life should be, that is whatever you want it to be.

I’ll end this post with yet another quote from Tyler Durden:

“The things you own end up owning you.”


Brand Busting – week 2

A look at different advertisements and brand examples such as Catherine Slade’s Coca Cola design makes you aware of the importance of distinction. In this session we had a look at an interesting word called Habitus. Habitus is an interesting word of explaining certain habits, gestures or accent you develop. That being from a cultural background, environment or group of friends or family.


Habitus refers to physical embodiment of cultural capital to the deeply engraved habits, skills and dispositions that we possess to our life experience.

The video that we watched in class gave great examples like the accent or dialect people develop in an environment, the clothes they wear or the gestures they make. It all seems to form from a cultural or social space.

How people from a lower class are being associated with sports like Rugby and Boxing and with upper class it’s something like badminton, golf and horse racing.

A social space could form a habitus, American psycho, a movie shown as a great example how the co workers all try to top each other with the best business card, the reservation at the impossible to get a hold of restaurant etc. Personally I think this is a great example of a habitus formed from a social space. The people in the movie talk, dress and behave the same way.

I’ve been aware of Habitus without actually knowing there is a word for it. It’s always been interesting for me to see how an environment can make individuals behave identically. For example, Addidas or Nike sweatsuits can be seen rather low class in England because of the individuals known as “Chavs” wear them. However, in my country you can see a lot of people wearing sport gear from youths who go out to middle aged men. It’s not only seen as the upper class attire but also favored due to it being comfortable.

Although Habitus does exist I find myself less interested in something that is part of your every day environment and I try to unconsciously distance myself from the common. For instance I loved going to tourist spots around London upon arriving here, taking pictures and just consuming variety of media with a sense of novelty, curiosity and amusement, but once the novelty feeling had passed my inner hipster decided to be excited over another landmark, culture or society. Another habitus that I have not visited yet thus making it more exciting. It’s funny in a way, it reminds me of that cliché saying, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Gestures Survey

Having researched some of the gestures people make online have given me a basic knowledge in a wider perspective, but I was curious to see what people, especially students, within the area here tend to do.

I’ve made a survey in order to find out about some trends or just the type of gestures students prefer at the campus.  So after reading the book on gestures by Roger E. Axtell, I printed about 15 copies and went around campus asking random students to fill it out. Wasn’t really predicting any gesture to be used more than the other, to be honest. In fact, I was expecting some unique answers, the reality was much simpler than that.

The survey was quite simple, my main goal was to collect as many diverse answers as I could, which is the reason for asking their gender and country of origin. Most importantly, I was able to grasp what exactly is socially trending or what has died out completely.

The answers I have provided were based on the most used gestures that I saw on the internet. Of course, limiting the options only to that would be unfair so an option of other was done in case they can provide some more information as to what gesture they do when taking a photo of themselves.



Photography and critical intro

We’ve touched on some great subjects in this photography and critical intro session, from the camera obscura to the great race to ‘invent’ photography. These topics were something I knew as a result of browsing mildly interesting posts on the internet.

But what I found most intriguing was a talk we had about a French philosopher called Roland Barthes, a greatly written article on him has been written on and it’s more easier to understand than the book he’s written. Barthes states two principles that make your images much better, it’s two Latin words called studium and punctum. A reading handed out to us described it more thoroughly than I ever could, personally I think those two words are quite similar to each other, and upon reading a few articles it’s stated that you can indeed experience both punctum and studium at the same time. It’s defining something you always felt about an image but did not know if there is a word for it.

So let’s start with Studium, according to the reading given to me it has nothing to do with “study”. It’s the taste of someone, it’s rational principle, an element the photographer placed in the image to create an additional visual impact and is therefore part of studium. What draws attention in the image, a feeling caused by a social memory. I’d like to give an example with the burning monk picture I’ve chosen for the first week. The feelings of confusion, sadness, worry is to me what studium is.

Now punctum is the emotional, something beyond our idea to control. It’s something that the photographer did not put in the image intentionally, it’s quite subjective actually. I could try and elaborate a bit more by saying it’s an unexpected detail in certain photographs that affects us on a personal level. A feeling beling to oneself only. Something that just triggers a feeling in someone, very personal and private experience for example in which the photographer did not intend on.

Photographic Philosophies

Резултат с изображение за burning monk

In today’s session we were asked to bring a photography of our choice and discuss it. I’ve decided to choose a picture taken by Malcolm Browne of a burning monk. This image has a very devious and at the same time peaceful vibe to it. The particular monk appears to be meditating and is completely engulfed in flames yet he remains calm and emotionless.

From what I understand it happened during a protest, even for a Buddhist, as peaceful as their ideology may seem, this form of self-immolation is quite shocking to see. I’m not going to go deep into this event as I have to admit that my lack of knowledge can only butcher their motive.

As for the photo I don’t think it could have looked as effective as possible in colour. The flames really do stand out in black and white, you can see his emotionless bad ass face next to the well contrasted waves of flames just flowing in one direction while people stare at him ( mostly monks ).

As always we had to do group work, it was a nice warm up to get into building rapport on photography and get to know some of my peers.

Questions were done in a professional manner, it made us delve deep into the subject. I don’t really have anything negative to say about this honestly. One thing I noticed was that a lot of us had similar answers to most of the questions, it’s hard to actually say how photography makes you feel as that is actually pretty broad, there’s a lot of genres and different styles of photos. Privacy invading photography was also mentioned in a question that I don’t think is as big of an issue in public as people think, within reason of course.

Context & Theories Workshop

In this lecture, we were introduced to the theory of semiotics which I’ll be talking about in this post.

semiotics is a study of signs and symbols and how they are used and interpreted

Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure wrote that the sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified. The signifier being the form an image takes place, and the signified as the concept it represents. The process between those two is called signification.

When someone mentions the word “tree” we think of an image of a tree. The same goes as if we were to look at a word that says tree written on a piece of paper. The word and the image will evoke the concept of a tree.

But the word “tree” is not actually a tree. The meaning of a tree can be constructed by any random letter combination, however, in English, the meaning of a tree is carried by the letters t-r-e-e. But for the foreign speaker, the meaning of a tree would be carried by different letters. Yet both random strings of letters represent the same object.

Yet both random strings of letters represent the same object. Furthermore, if we were to think of let’s say a car. Not everyone would imagine the same type of car. Thus meaning, a signifier has no absolute relation to the signify.

Charles sanders pierce’s ideas about semiotics distinguish between three types of signs. Icon, Index, and Symbol. Where the sign belongs in a particular category is dependent upon the nature of its relationship between the sign itself which you call the “referent” and the actual meaning.

An icon is a sign that stands for an object by resembling it. The index refers to their objects by an actual link between the sign and its object, the sign, and the object does not have to be visually the same but rather have something in common.

The symbol refers to their objects by virtue of law, rule of convention. Words, propositions, and text are obvious examples.

Century of the self

This video does a great job in educating and explaining the history of marketing and propaganda within society. The video starts off by mentioning the theory of human nature by Sigmund Freud, which is what the people of power have tried to apply in order to control the crowds. It goes as far as the European war in 1914.

According to Sigmund Freud’s Theory of human nature, many of our human behavior is controlled without our awareness, and that people have deep aggressive and sexual desires deeply hidden within them, feelings they’ve got from the past animal self-contained. These forces have led individuals and societies into chaos and destruction.

This didn’t always come as good news, as Viennese found Freud’s theory repulsive, embarrassing and a threat to one’s absolute control.

Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays who had been working as a press agent in America he had been employed to promote America’s democracy ideology and not to restore the old empires in the press during its involvement in the European war.

Upon arrival back in the US, Bernays had an idea to use propaganda as a marketing method instead as a tool of war. He set out to experiment with his uncle’s theory in mind.

He was the first individual to show American corporations for the first time, how they can make people want things they did not actually need by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires. There exists a barrier between our consciousness and the unconscious state which the animal forces are stored deep within us.

Thus by making people happy and satisfied with their selfish desires. They would be more easily controlled and influenced. Bernays was able to turn people to constantly moving happiness machines, he soon became one of the most dominant figures and had the reputation as the man who understood the mind of the crowd.