I'm reading an article from Social Semiotics, 2017: G. Rossolatos on brand image and the whole debate in Piercean line of brand semiotics from index to icon. I don't have a particular relationship with him, but Rossolatos presents a valuable systematic thought for years. (If you're really interested in scientific debate about branding, not just Linked In heckling, you must have get in touch. Here: https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2017.1329973.) And meanwhile - a bit at random - I'm thinking how brands were a integral part of society before '89.
I don't mean retail brands nostalgizing around "honest socialist" beer brewing and/or familiar mechanisms of behaviour like "when you love it ...". I neither mean wannabe-funny references to ost block and red stars in logos. Let's jump over the memories of wild privatization and all circumstances of "transformation" in the 90s and later, and let's get back to the decades of post-war cities construction.
I mean Doprastavians, Metrostavians, Hydrostavians, Váhostavians. Plenties and plenties of people, whose social identity and sometimes even togetherness had to do with the brand of their employer somehow, e.i. with national / state corporation. Neighborhood communities in corporate-built housing. Playgrounds and movie-projections in cellars and abandoned laundry rooms, urban gardening, playgrounds just nearby houses and other "self-help" infrastructure.
I don't defend "socialist brigade" (neither I defend urban hipsters who fashion-colonized it). I talk about the tradition of community self-help and self-organizing. Because I keep meeting former "pozemavians" (Pozemné stavby, "Ground constructions"), who proudly talk "this was build by pozemavians, we all knew each other and we did it the best we could, because we've built it for ourselves." (Sometimes it, unfortunately, sounds different and looks like a disgusting hate that covers feelings of lost meaning and visibility. And sometimes it's pierced with batches of popular political narratives.)
In these words particularly, there's nostalgia and memory optimism, sure. But it's not build up. I cannot present some honest debate on a short blog, but I aim elsewhere. I want to say the nutritive leftist critique of capitalism (very interesting in many regards), should not apriori target the brand. I think the brands (signs) were, are and will be due to the nature of representation and collective conscious that expresses community identity - unless we think about community only shallow, as a sum of its members.
Showing hypocrisy of brands in CSR, alibism in CRM, purposeless accumulation of profit, or unwillingness to get hands dirty with real ethnography and cover it all along with new and new headlines and commercials, doesn't exclude the brand itself. Especially the communal, local, participative, grass-root one etc.
I don't know, maybe it's clear to everyone and I just repeat what has been said a thousand times. But the brand grew on the same principles 50 years ago like it grews today. At least in that sense that it's a social construct and therefore expresses something social in the first place.
(Illustration photo: Dresden 1980, Deutsches Bundesarchiv / Wikimedia, Ulrich Haessler)