Angry Robot

obey giant, brands

I found an Obey Giant t-shirt for $5 while I was in the States last week and have already happily confused people with it. Basically, the whole Obey Giant thing is a bit of a joke:

Because people are not used to seeing advertisements or propaganda for which the product or motive is not obvious, frequent and novel encounters with the sticker provoke thought and possible frustration, nevertheless revitalizing the viewer’s perception and attention to detail. (from the Obey Giant Manifesto)

Did some thinking about appropriation of ‘brand-speak’ by artists and real people, and I think it might be a good idea. Who knows. Obviously the shining example is “culture jamming” and adbusters, and the main criticism is that a strategy of symbolic protest can only be so effective in the real world. Then again, Naomi Klein and her posse tend to point to brand as the Achilles’ heel of capitalism. I think this is closer to the truth. Symbolic deflation of a brand can cause actual financial pain to a corporation, since brand is the only place they invest nowadays. Partway down in this article, the Obey Giant creator Shepard Fairey describes something similar about OK Soda:

Coke test-marketed OK Soda in Providence and Boston, and they had a whole bunch of stickers and teasers about the soda before any was even made. I took one of their illustrations and changed it so instead of “OK” it said “AG” for Andre the Giant. I started putting up my stickers and posters simultaneously. People got confused as to which one came first.

That sort of thing can work. Another issue is whether people (and artists) should start thinking of themselves as <a href=″>brands. Seems to me that webloggers are already well on their way, with personal designs, catchphrases, and merchandising. Even if it comes across a bit self-absorbed, I think this sort of funky behaviour is really a good thing, if only because it gets you thinking about brands, and how brands “think of themselves.” And Pepsi don’t give a fuck about anyone except Pepsi.