ISBN is

9780691070612 / 069107061X

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About the book:

Now that all the world's a mall, virtual or otherwise, consumption as disease takes on a new meaning. Branding used to happen only to cattle and convicts. Now it dictates values of personal identity, reliability, quality, and service, as well as inspiring sinister conspiracy theories of brainwashing by the multinationals. So thank goodness for the superb catalog of the Victoria and Albert Museum's "brand.new" exhibition. It examines in considerable--even consuming--depth the role of the brand in retail history and its continuing relevance. Amid scattered, glossy selections of the best of photographic advertisement, as well as emblematic historical and sociological images, are several longer essays on background, brand philosophy, and labeling; a consideration of the impact of e-commerce through the "death of distance"; and a broader history of the shopping center. In fact, the book justifies the cover value alone for pointing out that the world's first supermarket opened its doors in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1916, under the peerless (brand) name Piggly Wiggly. Ironically, its regressive, kitsch ring would most likely see it succeed today. There is also a clutch of two-page meditations on matters such as counterfeiting, the dubious notion of multinationals like McDonald's helping to reinforce local culture, second-hand goods, and Japanese school-girl wares.

Perhaps the most interesting section, though, is the final one, on "subvertising," the political backlash against global marketing, and the movement to champion environmental concerns. Anti-capitalist demonstrations in Seattle, global market concerns, Death cigarettes, and the Adbusters campaigns have seen people fighting back and expressing themselves through the courts or the media. At the same time, the growing demand for organic goods and farmers' markets shows how shopping trends are becoming at least "light green," and more ethically informed. Whether one "does the shopping," "goes shopping," or just "shops around," this attractively expressed forum of ideas generally steers clear of pseudo-scientific semiotic jargon (excepting the occasional "brandscape" or "brand DNA"), and is lavishly produced to the V&A's customary high standards--something that bears out the credo of its subject matter and helps it metamorphose from product to "brand." --David Vincent, Amazon.co.uk

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