Jack Yan
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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006.



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27.11.2011

Occupy, the brand

Serious! "Occupy Wall St"
VBlessNYC, under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

It was in the fourth quarter of the year that Occupy became a brand. Just capitalize it, and everyone knows what you mean. The original geographical indicator of Wall Street disappeared—to be fair, it began disappearing when similar protests began happening across the United States and then, the world—but I’ve only noticed in the last few weeks that the simple utterance of the word Occupy brought with it a multitude of values. That’s what a brand does: it’s shorthand or code for a range of associations.
   But what associations? If one believes some of the media, then Occupy is unfocused, with its protesters simply upset at the status quo. Others see it as an attack on the technocratic agenda and the multiple facets they possess, whether it’s the financial system being broken (something Chris Macrae brought up at my first Medinge meeting back in 2002) or corruption in politics.
   The truth, at least initially, was probably somewhere in between. I never believed Occupy was one where there was some “protester class” (at least one media outlet believed that), and that its members came from a cross-section of society, even if a few of the international protests brought out a few of the usual suspects from antiestablishment groups. It was clear, early on, certainly from the social networks that brought more direct news than the mainstream corporate media, that everyday people were involved. To me, the most poignant images were probably that of retired cop Capt Ray Lewis getting cuffed by the NYPD.
   However, there were so many conflicting emotions at Occupy that it would be hard to sum up just what people opposed. Maybe it was very hard to voice because there are so many parts to the system that they see is broken. I know when we did our post-Enron session at Medinge, we probably had three dozen Post-It notes on a whiteboard summarizing what we thought was wrong with the business system. They were then synthesized into eight points, not without some effort.
   As the protests wore on, the synthesis has taken place. It’s not an unusual phenomenon: gatherings of people can take time to figure out, through dialogue, what their common grounds are. Better doing it this way, codifying through dialogue, than having a set of values imposed on you from above: it’s a way to preserve authenticity in the movement. A good set of values that represents an organization, in a formal, corporate setting, is usually the result of in-depth research into staff, channel members and external audiences. In the branding world, especially with social networks empowering communications, it makes more sense to harness people’s thoughts through the technology we have at our disposal.
   It was interesting reading what Naomi Wolf had to say about Occupy in The Guardian. The crux of her article is not about brand whatsoever—she highlights potentially dangerous patterns as crackdowns take place and their implication for the US—but read on and she finds out there are certain things that Occupy wants through simply asking its supporters online:

  • get the money out of politics (e.g. ‘legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process’);
  • ‘reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act … This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks’;
  • ‘draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.’

       No doubt there will be variations of these with Occupy movements in other parts of the planet.
       I don’t know Ms Wolf’s processes, or how academic this Q&A was, but perhaps that is not the question here. What we should realize is that the movement is taking a more defined shape, and the media’s contention that this is something unfocused is getting weaker by the day.

    Related posts

  • Filed under: branding, business, culture, internet, media, politics, USA—Jack Yan @ 09.28

    2 Responses to ‘Occupy, the brand’

    1. jaklumen says:

      I really appreciated your thoughts on this, Jack. It’s been something I’ve been mulling over for quite a while now.

      What I think is yet discouraging is the idea, at least in the U.S., is still being defined along political party lines, i.e. Democrats still largely support, and Republicans still staunchly oppose. Or so that’s what YouGov.com polls suggest. I know statistics can be spun, but still the idea that spin is happening, I think is worthy of consideration.

      Anyways, I do appreciate your thoughtful commentary– I do think this is something that does need to be taken seriously, and that people should be aware that the “Powers That Be” are still trying to suppress the full context.

    2. Jack Yan says:

      I see the split happen here with greater frequency, and it’s not particularly welcoming. It’s all good-natured, but then, it was all good-natured in the US 40 years ago.
         It’s also sad that on the Republican side, the moderates (who must be the majority) are not really getting their voice in, and all we hear are fairly extreme views. Some of the Murdoch Press coverage of Occupy has been shocking.
         What was also fascinating was how long this took to get into the mainstream media, both “Democrat” and “Republican”. It must have been a month before, say, The New York Times decided to give the matter any importance—before then, it was just a fringe protest from a protester class. Guess everyone was watching their bottom lines.

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