Evil Prosumers

An article by the esteemed Rob Walker in the New York Times called “Faux Logo” takes a look at the rise of the Blackspot Sneaker, released by anti-brand/anti-consumerism advocate Adbusters. Although the notion of the sneaker is totally cool — no sweatshop labor, the use of “vegetarian materials,” and an anti-marketing marketing strategy — the key take-away is that the sneaker “is designed for those most cynical about consumerism.”

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And here’s where the article gets interesting. According to Amanda Helm, a marketing prof at University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, there is a “a desire among cynical consumers not simply to avoid companies and brands they dislike but also to punish them.

At the far end of the cynical-consumer continuum, this might mean defacing advertisements, but for most it plays out differently. For example, shopping at Target because you can’t stand Wal-Mart — Wal-Mart came up a lot, Helm says — thus denying dollars to the disfavored company. The marketplace itself is not the enemy in this situation; it’s a tool for expressing discontent. Thus one of Helm’s most interesting findings: that the cynical consumers who are her main focus “demonstrated very strong brand loyalty to the few companies they could trust.”

Is this why consumer-generated marketing is so hot? Or why everyone is so keen on using brand evangelists?

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