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"Oh, it's just a brand."

Posted on July 24, 2014 by Dave Clark

The Obey brand

When I asked a 12-year old relative of mine - who was very proudly wearing his cool new baseball cap - what 'Obey' was all about, his answer was: "Oh, it's just a brand."

It made me wonder whether what the next generation's relationship with brands is going to be like. 'There's nothing new and exciting about it', was the message I got.

It also made me wonder how much the blood, sweat and tears invested in developing a brand - and the story behind it - makes it through to the real world.

A brand name with a big idea behind it?

The OBEY brand is, I think, a good case in point. It all started with artist Shepard Fairey (who went on to design the Obama 'HOPE' poster - a modern day icon). His street art bill posters featuring the face of 'Andre the Giant' and the word 'OBEY' began to crop up everywhere in the late 80s, and became a global phenomenon. Were they meaningless? Or were they, as Fairey's manifesto later implied, all 'linked to Heidegger's concept of phenomenology'?. The OBEY clothing brand attempts to build on the countercultural roots and to be 'another canvas to spread his art and message to the people.'

The OBEY website says: "OBEY is about variety and experience, thinking about your surroundings and questioning the purpose. The medium is the message."

Translation: "It's just a brand."


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