Monday, October 13, 2008

Iron Fists

"How did a practice as vile as branding become so valued, indeed, the very mark of value? Officials in the past have branded slaves and criminals — remember Milady’s fleur-de-lis in “The Three Musketeers”? Samuel Maverick didn’t brand his cattle, but dictionaries are vague about whether he was the first maverick or his cows were. Today, cities and colleges have joined toothpastes and soft drinks in the battle for “brand loyalty.”

Steven Heller’s “Iron Fists” makes a sophisticated and visually arresting comparison between modern corporate-branding strategies — slogans, mascots, jingles and the rest — and those adopted by “four of the most destructive 20th-century totalitarian regimes”: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and Mao’s China. As he pursues his four “case studies,” Heller, by means of unsettling images and shrewd analysis, amply restores the vileness to branding."
- Christopher Benfey, The New York Times

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