Friday, 29 November 2013


Fakebook Seven : Makeshift Studios 2013

Travelling north into Glasgow on a City-Link
 Travelling north into Glasgow on a City-Link Express bus from Manchester, I discovered we were gridlocked in early Christmas traffic. To banish the eternal boredom, as we crawled along the M77, I wondered how many brands of car I could name simply by their logo.

Soon I have spotted BMW, Mercedes, Fiat, Renault, Citreon's chevrons, Hyundai, Mazda, Peugeot's lion, Ford, Vauxhall, Honda, Toyota, Daewoo, Chrysler, Ssangyong, Nissan, Land Rover, Volkswagon, Audi.

I decide to extend the game to brands carried on trucks as they trundled sluggishly along. Several supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda and Morrisons and Eddie Stobart, Lamberts and W.H. Malcolm passed on either side of the motorway.

In 20 minutes I counted around 60 brands and that had me thinking that in one hour I would be exposed to 180 logos and coporate symbols. In a day that could add up to something like 3000 ish, if we take off eight hours for sleeping, which means we will could be exposed to some 21,000 brands a week, and around an amazing 1 million brand symbols, logos and slogans in a year.

Of course, not all of these brand insignia will be different and many brands will repeat. How many times in a day will we walk past a Starbucks in a city?

But, it had me thinking about the immense power of the brand graffiti that surrounds us as we move around the metropolis, watch television, drive, work, read our newspapers and magazines.

My calculations, of course, come with a government health warning, they are by no means scientific. I have simply extrapolated numbers from 20 minutes observation on a bus, nevertheless the sheer possibility of the numbers is mind-grabbing.

Having eventually arrived in the city I travelled on foot to West Nile Street, past
Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Caffe Nero all in close proximity to each other - you could see I had something on my mind - and manage to count an amazing one hundred brands belonging to city businesses in a ten minute walk....what am I doing with my life?

I bought a magazine full of ads and brands at W.H. Smith and then walked past a vendor selling The Sun ( the newspaper not that huge ball of light in the dull, gunmetal sky overhead) by the corner of Gordon and Union Street.

'Never mind the newspaper mate' he said winking and pointing skyward. 'I'll sell you that great yellowish-orange ball of light above the clouds for ten quid (£10)!
'What? Jees that's a bargain, done mate' I agree pulling out my wallet. 'Have you got a rope or something connected to it so I can take it home? I could imagine that in the corner of my bedroom, sit nice beside the wardrobe.'

A little further on a guy in front of me, carrying a Karriemor rucksack, called to a friend, who turned to see who had shouted after him and I immediately noticed his North Face jacket. I looked to cross the street and a bus trundled off down Union Street. Staring out at me from the rear of the coach was 1970's punk star Iggy Pop now using his celebrity to push unsurance for Swiftcover.

Later, in Starbucks, my cold hands wrapped around an Americano and the famous mermaid logo - now with the 'Starbucks' name removed (the symbol is now enoiugh for this iconic brand to be recognised) I watched as a young man punched the keys of his Apple laptop keyboard. I knew it was an Apple laptop by the 'quasi-religious apple with the bite taken out of it' insignia, reminding us all, especially at Christmas, that we are all...what...sinners? Think Adam and Eve and that fated set of teeth biting into the soft, juicy, apple...oh dear, 'A', what have you done?

The girl to my right in the coffee shop speaking with her friend wore a brightly coloured, almost garish, Addidas top and I overheard her mention that she hoped her boyfriend had bought her Opium ( Yves Saint Laurent's perfume not the drug) for Christmas.

I realised, as I sat there, that Glasgow - like every other city on the planet - was no more than the centre of a great universe of brands. No matter where you went or what you did you just couldn't escape from corporate insignia, images, slogans - The Power of Dreams, Just Do It, Saving The World From Mediocre Coffee.

There seemed to be an imperative for businesses and enterprises to hot wire their images, slogans and symbols deep into the brains of consumers. A subtle sleight-of-hand that penetrated way beyond the conscious to the very soul of our existential beings.

Maybe we are now no more than brand zombies defined by the designer label attached to our clothes and belongings.

He's an Apple guy, she's a Radley bag girl really, though her friend is more of a rainbow Adidas top, Nike bottomed, Puma trainers sports junkie.

Human? God no, forget that, we're an evolving species bombarded to a brandified stupor in a great corporate game of natural selection. Get over it...

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