One phenomenon of the recent â??Make Poverty Historyâ?? campaign was the emergence of conspicuous consumption as a means of political protest. Attending the G8 demonstration on the 2nd July (2005) in Edinburgh, it was interesting to view the number of branding and merchandising opportunities exploited by the organisers and associated groups. The most bizarre of these was the â??Scottish Socialist Partyâ?? stall selling red â??make capitalism historyâ?? wristbands, demonstrating either a profound economic nievety or well developed sense of irony – (I rather uncharitably suspect the former rather than the latter). The white wristbands have been in themselves an interesting way of communicating and disseminating an idea. By using the endorsement of every wearer of the causes of the campaign, a wearable advert has been created, like a physical manifestation of a viral campaign.
Of course this was originally hit upon by â??Nikeâ?? with their livestrong campaign, who for all their dubious operating methods, are amongst the shrewdest of operators when exploiting new marketing channels in the most effective ways.
While it would be easy to criticise the percieved dumbing down of political causes for mass consumption, the interesting question would be whether this (and other) campaigns have more impact and effect by drawing in a bigger constituency through modern marketing methods. Is the environmental and social impact of the production of all these pieces of merchandise justified by a bigger voice for the campaign and its causes. So do the ends justify the means? Answers on a recycled postcard….