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Brands and creating an alternate reality

Brands draw from the activity of human life. They draw on the imagination and dreams by linking them to the extent of the capability to possess or consume. The brand is about to almost bury the identity of people as it is viewed as an alternative value to the self and its worth rather than being looked at as an added value.

The glamour which results from owning a brand carries emptiness within because it is related to purchasing a materialistic glamour that is not part of the self’s energy and that’s not related to the individual’s creations. A man thus drowns in a torrent of brands and he becomes haunted by the magic of these brands, from clothes to cars and other precious personal belongings.

They are of course tempting. They also dictate a certain approach on people as they end up engaged in some form of symbolic competition. These people’s reality thus turns into an arena for display where empty people compete using the brands they possess. The social status transforms into a continuous battle to defeat others by showing them their purchasing capacity and increasing their consumption. It is therefore a desire to possess a self-worth through materialistic possessions. This is the peak of bankruptcy.

The issue is not about mocking the brand or about steadily listing it as personal bankruptcy. There must be tools for understanding before getting involved in debates related to brands, and we must be careful of burying the self and breaking the centrality of humans in the world and thus have brands and themes occupy people’s minds. The brand must not be an alternative identity and it must not define a man’s worth and individuality.

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran


The semiotics of the brand imposes the necessity to research this considering it is the trait of the era. Precious brands have become part of the hopes and dreams of groups across the world. The Semiotics of Brand is one of these significant researches by Paul Manning. He talks about the ‘McDonaldization thesis’ in reference to the McDonalds brand.

He sees this as part of the controlling tools – not on the political level – as it is rather a global brand that is used to create a network which consists of the biggest number of people in order to set their behavior and organize global routine according to one pattern. Critics of globalization categorize this as within the plans of global capitalism. Manning then discusses other brands, like Coca-Cola and Nike and places them within the category which anthropologist Danny Miller calls “meta-symbols.”

Secondary culture 

Manning says that brands makes daily life materialistic in terms of consumption or they can be a source for a secondary culture for fashion and tastes or they can represent the various contradictions of contemporary global capitalism or can simply sum up the psychological analysis of desires and instincts.

Daily consumption of ordinary brands and precious brands, which are for the elites, captivate people and drag them into arbitrary wars. The product also develops a network that reveals the symbolic connection among people. People silently communicate in the street via their cars or watches or clothing. The same happens in occasions and shops among women as silent debates using bags, personal tools and brands, speak louder than words. A part of the product’s purpose is to measure the extent of connection and struggle among consumers.

According to David Oglivy, an advertising genius, a brand is “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it is advertised.”

The issue is not about mocking the brand or about steadily listing it as personal bankruptcy. There must be tools for understanding before getting involved in debates related to brands, and we must be careful of burying the self and breaking the centrality of humans in the world and thus have brands and themes occupy people’s minds. The brand must not be an alternative identity and it must not define a man’s worth and individuality.

A man must fortify himself from being included in groups that are fully drowned in daily consumption activities. Philosopher Martin Heidegger considers these groups as people with fake existence. Reality hence becomes filled with people chasing brands and symbols and lacking existential and individual awareness. Therefore, these people do not refine themselves through education, experience and inquiry.

Man though is deeper and more majestic than his belongings.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on May 4, 2017

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Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.

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Last Update: Saturday, 6 May 2017 KSA 13:49 - GMT 10:49
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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