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Escaping A Life Of Logos

by Gip Plaster on October 11th, 2011

Today, I encourage you to take a few steps back from the life of logos, mottos, slogans and brands that surely surrounds you as completely as it does me.

While some bloggers focus on creating a brand for themselves, I’m focused on escaping branding and living in a generic, advertising-free world.

Of course, that isn’t really possible.

I Understand It Less Each Day

Sometime when I was in, perhaps, junior high school I noticed that lots of my classmates were wearing t-shirts, and most of these t-shirts offered advertising for a hip and cool product.

I didn’t understand that then — and I understand it less now.

Why would I pay to purchase a shirt with a Nike logo a foot tall it if they aren’t paying me for advertising? Aren’t things with advertising on them free — like those paper fans that funeral homes used to pass out? Don’t you at least get a discount when you agree to show a brand logo?

In many cases, you actually pay more for products just because they have a popular logo. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

As I write this post at my home computer, I’m surrounded by logos. Without turning my head, I can see HP logos on both my monitor and CPU. Since I have a postage printer on my desk for my bookselling business, I see a cute little zebra on my — you guessed it — Zebra brand printer. I can even see a Stamps.com logo because my postal scales are old ones that Stamps.com gave me for trying their (cumbersome and long-ago-rejected) service.

When I look around a bit, I see my old Dymo postage printer that I need to sell on eBay, my Pelouze high-capacity analog scales and a WorkForce brand tape measure that needs to be put away.

How many logos do you see from your current vantage point on the world?

I’ve already bought these things, of course, so there’s no need to advertise these products to me. Shouldn’t these companies be paying me to look at their logos? And now that I’ve mentioned all of them on a respected and growing blog, what will that get me?

Rejecting A Branded Life

Logos are very literally everywhere, so you can’t escape them. Every store displays some of their own and some for their products and suppliers too.

Even the lid of large unsweetened iced tea from McDonald’s has logo for DART, a company that apparently makes lids.

You can’t escape logos and brands, but you can make sure you don’t contribute to the commercial culture. Here are three things you can do today to reduce your contribution to the silliness of logos:

  • Don’t go to “logo villages” — also called shopping malls and strip centers. Their only purpose is to sell you something.
  • Don’t brand your blog, if you have one. So Much More Life has its name in text and a simple phrase that describes my purpose in offering this experience to you. That’s all. It’s never had a logo and never will.
  • Don’t intentionally offer free advertising by wearing huge logos. I really like the look of some North Face jackets, but I don’t need a logo on my shoulder and neither do you.

Don’t you carry enough on your shoulders?

It’s Ultimately About Buying Less

The logo experience can’t be avoided by those of us who can see. I have some readers who can’t, so this discussion must seem as useless as my mentions of MetroPCS are to my British readers or my take on Aldi is to those elsewhere in the United States who don’t yet have this discount grocery chain.

Escaping the logo world is ultimately about buying less — and participating less in the consumer culture, something all of us can do. It’s also something that I and a number of other bloggers have been suggesting for years.

Between where you are and where you’re going today, there are logos everywhere. Still, there’s no need to perpetuate the logo problem yourself or get sucked into the persuasive power of a powerful logo.

I may sometimes have an alligator over my left nipple since I buy all my clothes used from thrift stores, but I’ll never have a corporate-branded monkey on my back.

Or a North Face logo either.

Believe it or not, I write professionally! If you need professional writing services from a web content writer, visit Fort Worth Copywriter.

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31 Comments
  1. Megyn @Minimalist Mommi permalink

    It’s hard. I completely agree with you in theory. In practice? I have a hard time with this one, especially clothes. As a woman, we are almost brainwashed to believe that brands are essential. My jeans have a logo on the butt pockets. My shirt has a little bird stitched in on one lower corner. My purse has the brand name sewn in. I try not to get too involved into branding when it comes to my own clothes (however, if you look in my closet, you’re bound to find the majority of one brand…but that’s because it’s the 1 store where I know the clothes will fit easily). For my boys, I’m a brand junkie! Boys clothes are hard. There’s not much variety in terms of style. You get t-shirts, polos, jeans, shorts, and cargos. It doesn’t leave much for style. Plus, I HATE all the kiddish looking clothes. So, I end up buying shirts that look just like Daddy’s. Hurley. Quiksilver. Volcom. I don’t want to set the boys up for a life of living for the brand. but 1. I LOVE the designs and fit of those brands. and 2. Since I was given boys, I want to dress them well and not look nerdy (no offense to anyone-just hate typical little boy clothes). How do you dress boys well and avoid logos/branding? From a male stand point, what’s your suggestion?

    I actually wrote about my love/hate relationship with advertising a while back. Still not sure what I will do personally, but I completely appreciate you putting a great perspective out there!
    Megyn @Minimalist Mommi recently posted When the Demon Emerges

    • Jeans or shorts and a t-shirt look fine on everyone, male and female, old and young. I don’t actually wear t-shirts, though. I usually wear polo shirts with patterns, something that’s hard to find now because they are completely out of style.

      Avoiding logos is an ideal rather than something that you can actually achieve easily, but I think it’s important to try.
      Gip

      • Megyn @Minimalist Mommi permalink

        See, I think that’s where I get frustrated. I don’t want the boys to be “stuck” in “plain” shirts and jeans every day. Thus, why I wanted girls. They can wear clothes without labels easily, and the cut/style is ever-changing. For boys, especially toddler/preschool age, there are very few options in terms of style. I guess, I just find it boring and would rather look at a “cool/pretty” branded shirt over a boring, plain blue or brown or pink shirt. Plus, a lot of the little kid designs, I find atrocious…ugly, cartoonish animals or characters. Yet, it still leaves the whole branded thing. I just feel like there is no winning with is unless I want to sacrifice cute/cool-ness.
        Megyn @Minimalist Mommi recently posted When the Demon Emerges

        • I think plain is glorious. It would be a priviledge for your boys to get to enjoy plain clothing while everyone else is forced to become billboards. It’s also a great values lesson for them. You’re right: Most clothing designed for children is atrociously silly.
          Gip

          • Megyn @Minimalist Mommi permalink

            I think that’s the thing–there’s SO much plainness or child-ness in kids’ clothing; thus why I turn to the adult looking stuff. I hate fitting them into that kiddy mold lol! Like plain khaki cargos, a plain colored shirt with a small pocket, and Crocs….I couldn’t, in good conscience, put my boys in that stuff. It may just be me overreacting to how much I desperately hate boys clothes. I may be a bit of a clothes snob when it comes to them (at least I’m frugal about it!). But this is my one thing I get as a mom of boys…and I’m taking it lol!

            I’ll be a minimalist in every other way, but suggest that I dress my boys like every other little boy, and I can’t help but rebel 😉
            Megyn @Minimalist Mommi recently posted When the Demon Emerges

  2. When clothing has a patch-type label that can be removed, I remove it. Embroidered ones are harder but I sometimes make that effort, too. When buying a new vehicle I tell the dealer that, if they put their dealer ad on my vehicle, I will charge them a monthly advertising fee. That keeps at least one logo off my car.
    Linda Sand recently posted First day of last trip

    • Those logos on cars have always bothered me too. There’s usually two on the back — one on the trunk and one on the license plate frame. Texas law has reduce the ones in size the ones on frames here because you are no longer allowed to cover up the word Texas on the plate, for some reason. Good for you, Linda, for keep the logo off your rear end. You know what I mean.
      Gip

  3. Oh Gip, I LOVE North Face! I buy mine at a huge discount and truly own only a couple NF pieces. I live on the coast and walk on the beach nearly everyday in all weather. Warm and dry is king and the cheap off brand stuff just does not cut it. So fowl weather gear and hiking boots are where I draw the line. Oh, and underwear. I do buy my PACT underwear only on sale but it does have a logo and it falls into the category of blatant branding.

    I don’t seek brands, in fact I really do avoid them for the most part. But I do fall prey from time to time. Megyn brings up a good point about boys. I have a teenage son and most of his shirts and baggy butt jeans SCREAM branding. So while I was going to jump on your bandwagon I realize I would be a hypocrite if I did.

    Ahhh . . . and I’m a MAC owner too . . . : \
    Darris recently posted Bodega Bay Surfers . . .

    • I almost included something about Mac logos on laptops. I noticed that HP logos used to be upside down when the laptops were open, but they finally caught on and turned then over so people can see the logo properly when the laptop is open.

      I suppose I’d own a North Face jacket if I find one at a thrift store. I’m never going to pay full price for one.

      Store brand jeans often don’t have logos and they look otherwise the same. Logos can often be removed as well. It’s good for children to learn the silliness of branding early.
      Gip

  4. Too, too funny, Gip! I get each post by email but prefer reading online, so I always open the email and click the link to the post. During my brief time with the email, my eyes usually pick out a few word or phrases. Well, today I mis-read logos as legos, which was reinforced by seeing “Sometime when I was in, perhaps, junior high school I noticed” which may be the time kids outgrow their legos. Anyway, too funny for me when I get to the real post and it has nothing to do with outgrowing your toys:)

    Now about logos – I agree. I don’t know why people pay for clothes to advertise for a company. There are a few brands that I am 100% loyal to, however. Dove soap comes to mind. I tried to get all thrifty and switch to a generic that boasted the same ingredients but my skin disagreed. But I’ll not be wearing a Dove logo any time soon.
    Crystal recently posted Debit or Credit – Which Card Should You Use?

    • Legos weren’t a big thing when I was kid, although I may have had some. I definitely had Tinker Toys (real wood then) and Lincoln Logs. I liked those.

      At least you tried the generic of your soap. Some people never even try. And often, there really is no difference.
      Gip

  5. Diana permalink

    I agree with you about taking a stand against t-shirts with giant sports logos on them and that also generally cost more. I’m glad that you brought this whole subject up because it’s making me think about the weird relationship I have with branding. Especially the unconcious thought process I use to decide when branding is acceptable and when I say “no way”. For instance, the sports logo thing on t-shirts is offensive to me. Is it because I don’t think humans should be walking billboards? But I don’t think twice about my car with the Subaru logo on it. I guess I’m ok with being a driving billboard 🙂 Also, I’m glad that my old hiking boots had a logo on them because by the time I wanted to replace them I had forgotten which brand they were and they were the most awesome hiking boots I had ever owned. Food that I consume, unless I’m buying unpackaged fresh stuff, also comes with a logo. Paper goods and cleaning products, ditto. Almost everything has a logo on it. Since striving for minimalisim means leading a simpler life with balance, then limiting your contact with consumer culture (like you pointed out in your blog) is about the best you can do. Also avoiding a ffeeling of smugness about the brand you choose. However, no use making my life more difficult worrying about if something I need has a logo on it or not. That said, I will continue to avoid sports t-shirts with logos on them. But I guess I will keep the car until it dies. I use public transportation when ever possible but sometimes I need the car. And you know what? The bus has it’s own logos plus a bunch of advertising on it too!

    • We accept logos on some things because they’ve always had them. Even note pads and pens have logos on them. If I were a city official, I would rather have advertisers paying for my public transportation service than having to pay it from public funds, but I do think wrapping a bus with ads and then presenting more of them inside is a bit much.
      Gip

  6. Regarding some of the comments so far, I don’t think Gip has an issue with having a brand preference. If you like a particular manufacturer’s products, that’s fine. I think he’s irked by being forced, against his sense of values, to advertise for these brands. That and the fact that so many people as so shallow as to judge products and the people who use them by what name they are wearing.

    I think Linda has the right idea – de-brand when you can.

    I’m with Gip – I’ve never been a label-snob nor “brand conscious.” I do have some brands I like for certain items, but tend not to brag and don’t want to be forced to brag. Actually, I take special pleasure in finding the hidden gem of an off-brand item that is not only superior to the popular brand, but less expensive, too.

    The other type of branding that irks me, and Gip didn;t really mention it, is the commercial branding of sports, arts, and entertainment venues. Those things used to be named either with geographical references or perhaps, in the case of sports, to the hometeam. Now we have names like “Bank One Ballpark” and “Cricket Arena.”
    Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted Exploring RV Living – Staying Connected

    • (If I reply to my own comment, am I talking to myself?)

      Regarding the naming of entertainment venues, even more confusion ensues as the name changes whenever it changes hands or when one company buys another. I just realized that one of my examples, “Bank One Ballpark” is actually now called “Chase Field”.
      Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted Exploring RV Living – Staying Connected

      • When Ameriquest Mortgage went out of business, the Texas Rangers ballpark almost got it’s real name back. Originally called, creatively, The Ballpark in Arlington (and ironically located on “Road to Six Flags Street”), the name became Ameriquest Field through a sponsorship agreement. When that company failed, they decided, creatively again, to call the place Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Although I don’t follow sports, I think Cowboys Stadium down the road from the Ballpark has a better name. It’s almost minimalist… in name only.
        Gip

  7. Robert Wall permalink

    I’m kind of in the middle. I don’t look for brands (unless it’s one of the few instances where I have a brand preference), but I don’t usually de-brand anything either.

    Once I cut a small patch off a pant leg – they were black pants, and the manufacturer put a godawful 2″ x 1″ bright white label on the leg with their brand. I figured that was uncalled for, so I hacked it off.

    I either wear plain t-shirts, button-up t-shirts, or t-shirts that I’ve had printed with my web design business logo. They don’t cost me much more than plain t-shirts, and they do a bit of advertising for me. I figure that’s better than spending a ton of extra cash on shirts that advertise for somebody else, and a local screen printer gets some of my money for the printing. Win-win. 🙂
    Robert Wall recently posted Clutter Busting – The 15 Minute Zone Defense

    • I don’t actively cut off brand labels, either. I can’t think of anything I brand preference about. I often buy the same thing I bought before because I’ve already examined the ingredients or materials or whatever and have found them acceptable. So brands for me are just a shortcut.
      Gip

  8. Had to come in on this… I hate branding generally. I wear normally wear plain clothes although they may be a branded it tends not to have words emblazoned on them, and don’t like to see advertising on items. However… what brands do in some circumstances is give reassurance and credibility. You mentioned North face and that’s really why I felt compelled to comment… I purchased a North Face Nuptse Winter Jacket over 10 years ago for £150. I ski (and love it!) but struggled with the cold (having Raynauds Syndrome). This jacket was the warmest jacket I have ever worn. The day I sold it on eBay over 10 years later it was worth £80 – over half what I originally paid and had worn time and time and time again. In this instance I am prepared to wear their brand and on show. I value what they bring to the product, and also found that buying NF was an investment as others felt the same about the brand and had the confidence to buy it once I had finished with it.
    I’d highly recommend buying one if you need a good jacket regardless of the brand being on it… and it’s not that large a logo anyway! 🙂 “Everything in moderation …including moderation” – Julia Child
    Jo@simplybeingmum recently posted No Waste Tastes Great 7 October 2011

    • Fitting a Julia Child quote onto a minimalist blog is a challenge indeed. She wasn’t a minimalist, but she was very plain-spoken, so I have something in common with her.
      Gip

  9. tammy permalink

    i am so with you gip.
    my clothes are plain and simple. just like my ice cream. simple vanilla please!
    does that make me boring??? NO!
    minimalist packrat said it well, once in one of her posts… they get us to do their advertising for them!
    i hate labels. whether it’s labeling people, (the worst) or clothes or ballparks or whatever.
    they built a beautiful ball park and named it southwestern bell.
    not exactly a place babe ruth would want to hang out i think!
    another wonderful, thought-provoking post gip!
    love,
    tammy j

    • I’m glad you like this one. I’m actually surprised which of my readers have strong opinions about brands — and which apparently do not. Thanks for adding to this week’s conversation.
      Gip

  10. Lorie McCloud permalink

    being totally blind, I get to be oblivious to most of this stuff but there is something that really chaps my hyde, as they say. and that’s the names of arenas used for sports and music, you know, like Nokea Theater in Grand Prairie. there’s Jexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas and I have no clue what that used to be. what gives these corperations the right to put their names on the places where we go for entertainment? I was also told that these arenas are plastered floor to ceiling with advertisements but I don’t have to experience that.

  11. Robin Nijsse permalink

    Cool article, written from an interesting point of view. I have been toying around with ideas like that myself, but to get back to your example of North Face jackets, I am an avid skier and usually the more well known brands actually have the best quality jackets.

    Too bad you have to sell a kidney to be able to buy one of those, that’s a situation to which I have no answer yet, unfortunately.
    Robin Nijsse recently posted My minimalist wallet

    • There’s nothing wrong with buying something that’s of proven quality, but there are probably a handful of other brands that are just as good. I’d rather choose one without a prominent logo if possible, just as a matter of principle. You notice that makes don’t offer a choice, however, because many people would always choose the one without advertising.
      Gip

  12. Ellen permalink

    Hey Gip – I’m a new reader and I like what you’re trying to do here, as well as the tone of much of your writing – your sound like someone with a sense of (dark?) humor, much like myself. I wanted to comment on this topic – as someone who is trying to pare down the volume of ‘stuff’ that surrounds me and invades my life, I also have frugal goals to go along with it.

    So, here’s my dilemma where frugality, minimalism and logos collide… Free beverage travel mugs! I have a few mugs that we have received over the years that are obviously advertising for the places the gave them, but I’m faced with a three-fold decision here: 1 – do I use them because they are free and therefore, I do not have to spend my money purchasing mugs?, 2 – do I get rid of them because I don’t technically ‘need’ travel mugs, but if I can use them, why get rid of them?, and 3 – do I really want to be an advertisement for the Mercedes dealer (my husband got it playing in a charity golf tournament – we don’t own one)? Or even the veterinarian that I take my pets too for that matter?

    Am I over thinking this?

    • Collections aren’t usually consistent with a simple lifestyle. I suggest eliminating all the mugs that aren’t important to you in some way and the ones that promote things you don’t want to promote. I would never want to be seen with a Mercedes cup, but I don’t mind promoting the vet that cleared up my cat’s mouth infection. It’s certainly smarter than actually buying a mug if someone will give you a nice one.

      I think it’s important that our collections and the logos we display show a true picture of us.

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Ellen. It’s good to meet you.
      Gip

      • Ellen permalink

        That’s the decision that I was heading to – I don’t mind the vet cup – we love them and they have treated us with compassion and are always there to help. And there is no need to have 8-10 cups where 2 would do the job for me and my husband.

        My next issue of concern and irritation is licensed merchandise for children! Ugh. I have an 8 month old baby and have been the recipient of quite a bit of hand-me-downs from in-laws, as well as gifts from them. However, so much of it is licensed merchandise such as Toy Story and such. I don’t want my kid wearing that stuff, or using Toy Story baby utensils! This is tough to escape…Especially when family is involved…

        • I wouldn’t be too concerned about a child playing with a relatively wholesome toy from a cartoon movie, but I wouldn’t want to put a shirt on them advertising the movie or its characters. There’s no reason to turn a child into an ad, but there’s no reason to completely avoid a fun toy or utensil just because it promotes a brand. Of course, I don’t have kids, and I suspect if the best shirt in the kid’s closet was one with a logo, I’d put it on them rather than pay for one without a logo. It depends on if your aversion to logos is stronger than your frugal tendencies!
          Gip

          • Ellen permalink

            I hear ya – and with me not working and staying home with him full-time, the frugality issue wins out 99.9% of the time. I just do my best to balance the two issues, I guess that’s all I can do. Thanks for your comments!

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