Occupy the Brand?

With the holidays upon us, it's hard to tell who the "enemy" is

This is the graphic being circulated for Think Local's Buy Local campaign.

It was suggested early on in the Occupy movement that some group, probably the Democratic Party, would try to co-opt the energy much like the GOP hornswaggled the early Tea Party movement. Much to many people’s surprise, this has not occurred on any significant scale. But interestingly, the brilliantly infectious and adaptable term “occupy” HAS been co-opted repeatedly, and in a surprising variety of ways. Rap artist Jay-Z hijacked the brand back in November for a line of apparel. There’s even a forum right on the original OWS website pitching a benefit recording, although – in spite of writeups like this one in the (ahem) WALL STREET Journal – it’s not getting much traction. Then of course, there’s the battle for the trademark for the name “Occupy Wall Street” itself. I myself wrote a satire piece called called Occupy Christmas not too long ago, which ironically generates a tiny amount of revenue from Amazon and Google that I am then able to put back into supporting Occupy activities. Which brings up an interesting thing about the broad demographic that espouses the ethos of the movement. While there are some occupy activists that are clearly anti-capitalist, I think it safe to say that there are plenty of supporters that aren’t. On a local level this was evident early on. I personally was contacted by parties connected with Think Local First, and tried to help set up a low-key dialog with local Occupy activists to see how the groups might mutually benefit each other. Unfortunately, someone representing himself as a figure with the original Occupy Ann Arbor group set up an event at Liberty Plaza at that time, and not only failed to show up for his own event, but then failed to acknowledge his irresponsibility regarding the affair as well. This single individual did a great job of putting a ding in my and a few other business people’s enthusiasm for Occupy A2 briefly. But apparently not Think Local First’s. They currently have a campaign in action called “Occupy Washtenaw County”. I contacted them to ask if this was a formal endorsement of the Occupy movement, or simply a strategy of “piggybacking the brand”. They didn’t offer a cut-and-dried answer, because the fact is that it’s not really either. But the campaign supports an idea that many (including myself) consider positive, which is shopping locally. At the same time however, they’re supporting a campaign against Amazon’s Price Check App, which – although it admittedly is a dastardly strategy – is more likely going to hurt big box chains than small local retailers. And what are they calling the campaign? Why, Occupy Amazon, of course. What do you think? Are campaigns like this exploitative or supportive of the Occupy ethos?

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