On Brands — the Good, the Bad & the Ugly. Tales from the Wild West(ern) Corporate Jungle

There are three kinds of brands really. The ones with a mission to bring positive change to the world (the good), the ones that have no idea what they’re doing (the bad), and the ones that feed on what’s going on in society like a parasite feeds on its host’s resources (the ugly). So I’ve gathered a bunch of examples of a few per category.

Header image by siyanaivanova.nl

The good ones I want to personally thank for existing, the bad ones, well… maybe someday they will make the shift to good. The ugly ones, it’s too late for those, they are either ugly from the very start, or by now too filthy rich to do something about it. Those might one day go away, only if we, the ‘consumers & users’ decide it’s time for them to go. But as long as companies see us like this, consumers, users, they wouldn’t stop using us. Good news? It’s all in our hands. Shall we shift from consumerism to consciousness? I think it’s time.

Before I start with the brand examples of good vs bad vs ugly, I’ll like to clarify something. More and more people (especially in the digital marketing world) have seen documentaries like The Great Hack and The Social Dilemma. So now all of the sudden, no one is in the marketing business anymore, we’re all in the value-adding showbiz. Nowadays, we don’t advertise, we add value. We don’t sell, we give value. We don’t market, we value. We call it different now, because it sells better, but we’re still selling, let’s not kid ourselves.

It’s the 21st century and finally, both science and spirituality can agree on stuff. One thing, in particular — we need NOTHING to be happy. Everything on top of that will just take a piece of happiness away with it. There is a whole, pretty recent psychology movement that focuses on that. It’s called Positive Psychology. And like the ancient Eastern philosophy, positive psychology states (backed by a lot of experiments) that gratitude is more important for one’s happiness than desire. Being happy with what you already have is happiness in its most pure form.

The constant need to desire things is something that brands taught us and it’s working such a wonderful job for them, they will never unteach us such a fundamentally untrue thing. Adding value is just a fancier way to say that we’re in the business of miserableness.

I have nothing more to add to that, here is a bit on the science of happiness to give this statement a bit more body:

“What kind of economic engine would keep churning if we believed that not getting what we want could make us just as happy as getting it? [… ] A shopping mall full of Zen monks is not going to be particularly profitable, because they don’t want stuff enough”

Dan Gilbert on happiness and economics

Fortunately, some brands do strive for a better future for all of us, and not for the sake of sales. They put the hard work into fixing broken things. Throughout recent human history, there have seen brands with a very clear mission and a good way to communicate this. So after this rant of mine, let’s move on a positive note and start with taking a look at the good ones.

The Good

As I said, some brands do aim for real, positive progress. This is how they start in the first place, with a big problem they want to fix. With the drive to bring positive change to humanity and the environment. With that, I don’t mean an H&M sub-label called Conscious, next to their regular label that popularised fast-fashion. The company is currently sitting on $4.3 billion of unsold clothing, but in a modern-day fashion (pardon my pun), still producing more and more to keep up with… I don’t even know with what. Insanity? Maybe.

What are the real brands that changed us for the better?

Tony Chocolonely — Taking the bitterness out of chocolate

Chocolate is the synonym of love. You buy it for Valentine’s Day to showcase how much you love someone, you buy it to say Thank You or I’m Sorry. But chances are that this piece of chocolate is made by cacao farmers (mostly kids) that are enslaved to work there. That’s how bitter chocolate can be. Luckily, some people are fighting this battle. Journalist Teun van de Keuken found out about modern-day slavery and thought it’s time to do something about it. He then ate some chocolate and turned himself in, as a chocolate criminal, meaning that by eating chocolate, he supports modern-day slavery. Not much happened, but Teun did not give up. He created a 100% slave-free chocolate bars and started selling those to raise awareness. And so, the most delicious, guilt-free chocolate brand ever was born — Tony Chocolonely. A brand with very clearly communicated values and mission — Make all chocolate (not only Tony’s) 100% slave-free. The brand has been, since then, sued by Bellissimo, because ‘slave-free chocolate doesn’t exist’ which is why such a claim would be harmful to other chocolate makers. Talking about the ugly… Luckily for humanity, Tony’s still here and is still on a mission to make all chocolate slave-free.

Tony’s Chocolonely is taking the ‘guilt’ out of your guilty pleasure

Thank you Tony’s Chocolonely for fighting modern-day slavery and making us aware of what’s going on in this wicked world. Also a big thanks for creating THE MOST delicious chocolate in the process.

And their website is not-your-usual

Dopper — Humanity’s biggest legacy is, unfortunately, plastic

Eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean yearly. Whereas people’s lifespan is around 80 years, plastic will be here for millions of years, if not for always. And although most people agree that this is all very sad, not much is happening to make a difference. We’ve reached a point where the porn showbiz is in the plastic cleaning business, but for most companies, recycling is seen as too much trouble, even internally. Companies like Coca-Cola are one of the largest plastic polluters on Earth, but it’s easier for them to advertise “recycle” to people, than to do anything lasting about it. They act like their hands are tied, but whom or what made them ditch the iconic glass bottle they had till the ’90s and go plastic all the way? Plastic is cheap, that’s the reason. I wished that millions weren’t spent on ‘recycle ads’ but on action. But asking for positive action from gigantic corporate is like asking a fish to find a different home than the oceans, because see Mr Fish, we need the oceans to hide all garbage out of sight. So you go live somewhere else now.

Dopper’s mission statement

The enormity of this problem is too much to comprehend for our too-busy-with-our-own-success brains. So Thank God we have companies like Dopper. I can’t articulate their mission better than they do it on their very well-made website, so I’m going to be brief on this one. Not because I don’t praise them for what they are doing, but because what they are doing is communicated crystal clear. Clearer than the oceans. Their mission can be read here, and how they are fighting the plastic battle is in three easy steps — Raise awareness, Educate, Make Change.

Thank you Dopper, for fighting the battle most others are scared fighting although no-one is scared to negatively contributing to it. Also thanks for the practical and bright designs of your bottles and website.

Headspace — Health starts from within

Want to sleep better? Be less stressed? Eat better and healthier? Be more focused and creative? Have fewer problems? Exercise more?

We all do, of course. Thing is, we’re just waiting for a magic pill to make this possible. If I told you today that there is a pill that will make all aspects of your life better, would you take it? Well... it’s your happy day, my friend. There is a solution to all your problems. For real. It’s not a pill so don’t be bummed about that. It’s not a therapist or a doctor. It’s not a genie in a bottle or Morpheus from the Matrix. It’s you. You and your mind and your body. In a harmony never experienced before. The only thing you need is… a few minutes a day. Ooh, and an app like Headspace for one, to guide you through the process.

I used to secretly despite meditation. Because of lack of open-mindedness, I guess. My mind was definitely crammed with useless worries, no space for Eat, Pray, Love bullpooh I thought. Ooh, how wrong I was. The lesson I learned? Don’t be so full of yourself, no space for new experiences that way.

Headspace finally won me over. Not only by showcasing incredible design in one of the most well-made UX and branding of all time, but with Andy's (the co-founder) personal story as well. Here is a small fragment of it:

Andy Puddicombe joining Ellen

Andy was a monk for years, then joined the circus and then realized how many people are actually eager to give this mystical thing called meditation a change. Without the mystical things around it. Just the part that improves merely every aspect of your life for the better. Living in a monestry with 9 hours of sitting meditation and 9 hours of walking meditation (walking speed around 10 meter per hour) must have taught him a lot. Thing is, he totally missed raise of the Internet and all that. So I can only imagine he was very, very shocked or confused to return back home to the UK from the eternal peace of the Himalayas and encounter phone zombies everywhere. So he teamed up with people that knew what a mobile app means and ta da! — Headspace got created. He wrote some books, gave incredible talks at different conferences and the app took of, to become what it is today– the embodiment of ‘positive vibrations’ as Bob Marley would say. There are other apps on meditation, I know. But everything about Headspace is just right on so many levels. Their animations are possible the best thing that happened to me in 2020, which are also used as ads. Here is an example:

The comments below the video shown above.

For everyone in the marketing..eeh I mean value-adding business, can you find another ad with so much love attached to it? Find me an ad that has more than 1000 people (counting likes to comments) who absolutely love it and send it to hi@siyanaivanova.nl and I will quit my design career.

Because of Headspace, I wake up in the morning with Kevin Hart waiting inside the app to kick off the day in a badass way. Then I do one of the many physical exercises there, given by Olympic medalists. Then Andy’s voice guides me for a 20-minute meditation. And after that —magic. I even quit coffee because who needs caffeine when every cell in my body is filled with unlimited energy and I can do whatever I set myself to do?

Thank you Andy & company, for creating this amazing app that truly helped me, and from what I’m hearing and reading, thousands of others. Keep up the great job.

The Body Shop — Back to nature

Founded in 1976 in the UK by environmental and human rights activist Dame Anite Roddick, the Body Shop can be considered more of a revolution than a cosmetic brand. It was the first brand to prohibit testing on animals and also the first one to introduce the Fair Trade idea to the world of cosmetics. Throughout the years, the brand collaborated with Greenpeace for their first campaign “Save the Whale”. According to the Guardian, “customers were encouraged to recycle packaging (partly because Roddick didn’t have enough bottles at first) and there was a real emphasis on natural ingredients that were ethically sourced and cruelty-free

Roddick didn’t advertise the ‘normal’ way. She was a passionate activist and just went on to tell the world what she stands for, exactly the way Teun van de Keuken is doing with chocolate slavery. Unfortunately for us (I guess?) Roddick sold the company to L’Oreal in 2006, answering this controversy with how she sees this sell as the ‘Trojan Horse’ inside the cosmetic industry that can influence even bigger positive changes. She passed away a year later, so I can’t say more about that. In the last years, the Body Shop did lose a lot of soul, now being owned by yet another soulless “monster selling unattainable dreams”. Let’s hope that the new corporate pops and moms of the Body Shop are going to keep Roddick’s legacy going, not destroy it as a marketing stunt. So that one is on the verse of good vs bad, depending on which direction L’Oreal will take it in the future.

“The business of business should not just be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”

Dame Anita Roddick

Thank you Dame Anita Roddick, for being a revolutionary entrepreneur, even though you might have despited this title. Thank you for showing us that good stuff can be truly good. And to the Body Shop’s new owners — We’re keeping an eye on you, don’t ruin the good with greed, please.✌🏼 🙌🏽 ✊🏾 ✌🏿

The Bad

‘The bad’ are examples of brands, or advertising campaigns for brands that are… confusing. There are in no way contributing to something better in society, but I don’t believe that they are also there to break stuff. Those are examples of brands without a mission, they’re just trying stuff out. They try to blend with the rest. They don’t have much to say, but they do believe that if they say those meaningless things often enough, enough people will follow and buy. And most of them are succeeding so far because they still exist.

Also — most brands that exist today are in this category. They don’t fix, but they don’t fundamentally break, for which I’m kinda grateful.

Colgate — admit it’s crap, and make more crap

Colgate, but for that matter, most toothpastes, exist to confuse us. Colgate has more different ‘sorts’ of toothpaste than we have teeth in our mouth. I’m very positive about the fact that no-one working for Colgate even knows what those different toothpastes are. They are still playing that old school marketing trick of “if it doesn’t sell enough, create a new one and tell ’em this one is better”. Don’t you love it when the newest ‘version’ claims that with it’s new ‘formula’ this one is way more efficient than any other toothpaste out there? Which of course also includes all the 30+ other Colgates. Also, don’t you love it when you’re overwhelmed with choices for no particular reason? Too many choices always make people unhappy in the end.

So dear reader, are you going for advanced white with micro crystals, total whole mouth health, triple action, or luminous white advanced? And no, those are not porn titles, but actual Colgate toothpaste sorts, but I bet that even Colgate’s employees sometimes make that mistake. If you can’t choose, I would advise waiting till their new one, because the newest one would be their most advanced one, changing your life forever. It’s a good thing that companies like this admit that they’ve been making crap every time they produce something new.

Thank you Colgate, for giving people too many choices in their busy life and also thank you for giving your toothpaste NSFW, porn-sounding names.

Diesel — The fuel for overprices stupidity

Named after one of the fossil fuels that would probably one day be the end of us, Diesel sells what almost every other fashion/streetwear brands sell. As overpriced as most as well. I had to dig deep for it, but this is what their website has to say about themselves:

“Since its start, Diesel has used “For Successful Living” as a slogan for the brand’s DNA. Through a long and storied history of strong, ironic, and playful campaigns, Diesel has become a leader in advertising as well as in fashion” Source

Me, being the consumer I am, always feel very inspired by companies bragging about their advertisement skills. Doesn’t this world just need more ads? So let’s talk ads then Diesel, hearing how you’re in the ad business as much as in the fashion business. A bunch of years ago, Diesel started gaining more and more popularity because of their campaign promoting stupidity.

Diesel’s 2010 Be Stupid campaign

Stupidity will never go out of fashion, so I see how those can be seen as ‘iconic’. Yes, they are rebellious, and if young people saw them and went on to buy an overpriced denim jacket because of it, then the message clearly resonated.

Some years passed and what happened is unclear, but in 2018 Diesel decided to go big, very big with the Ha(u)te Couture campaign. This campaign had a bit more brains, so they ditched the be stupid thingy. The whole idea was to show the world you don’t care about the online bullies, by wearing clothing with the “Fuck you” and “Faggot” and “Slut” etc. on them. There was a bit of controversy there as well, but we get the idea. Cyberbullying is an issue and Diesel saw a beautiful corporate opportunity to capitalize.

Diesels 2018 Ha(u)te Couture campagin

Hey Diesel, if you’re looking for a clever way to turn negative words into positive ones, check out the brilliant Igniting Change branding. Don't be stupid, please.

The most recent Diesel campaign though is not far from the Be stupid one. Apparently leading didn’t feel that comfy, so Diesel is back on the followers’ bench.

But a time comes when every corporate is either pressured by governments or a CEO just wakes up one morning and comes to a painful realization — This planet of ours doesn’t have unlimited resources. The current situation with the climate, the forests, the oceans, the animals, etc. is quite tragic. So now, like H&M, Diesel has its own sublabel, For Responsible Living. Wanna be a rebellious label? How about bringing some useful values to the youth?

Thank you Diesel, for being the leader in creating followers.

Supreme– Wanna be a walking ad?

Supreme, inspired by… white supremacy?, started selling white T-shirts with the word Supreme on them. And of course, as with many other streetwear labels, it used the most effective way to advertise — (half) naked women. Throughout its not-so-old existence, the label has been using women to appeal to quasi insecure boys on the street. I mean, who wouldn’t buy a T-shirt with the possibility of one day, a blond, successful woman wearing it?

Guns & sex sells like nothing else

Sadly, it works. Kid’s are totally mesmerized by it, 14-years-old ones with their life aspiration being to wear all Supreme, all the time. And Vogue being more than proud about it. Last year, I watched Mike Tyson saying how hollow and unhappy fancy clothing and money made him feel, with tears in his eyes, but a year later, Supreme is selling Always Hustling T-shirts of him holding stacks of money. I mean, Vogue asking “Is streetwear finally ready for women?” in 2019, is a clear sign that the answer is No. Otherwise, why ask?

Streetwear is not ready for women because most streetwear brands need them to appeal to boys by telling them that if they buy this $100 T-shirt with nothing else than their brand name on it, they will make it in life. So boys do just that. And when it gets to their head and they do stupid things, society says, well… boys will be boys.

Here are a bunch of very proud walking ads:

Can you feel the level of happiness of those peeps wearing those tees? Source

Thank you, Supreme, for messing up society’s values, not only of women but in general of what counts and what doesn’t. Thanks for making some people feel like they own the world, just because they own a shirt with our brand name on it.

The Ugly

Aah and then comes the ugly. There are a lot of social issues that are still unsolved. Inequality, discrimination, climate change, unsustainable energy usage, plastic, etc. But before we even get the opportunity to solve this, a new one emerges. Fake news as a new terrorist organization, young boys calling themselves incels (more on this later) fantasizing about massively killing people on the street, right extremists gaining more popularity in US and Europe, democracies falling. And behind those recent horror stories, are of course brands. Brands do have the power to change society for the better, but they also have the power to change them for the worse, and some have clearly taken that path.

Breakfast — The most brainwashed meal of the day

This one isn’t tied to a particular brand, but to a whole advertisement concept that we’ve collectively bought into. ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ relatively intelligent people have told me throughout the years. “Really? I always thought that this was a very successful campaign concept that just resonated with people”, I usually answer. Confused faces meet me and silence falls.

It’s funny how much untruth we have been fed. Not only for breakfast, just in general. A small sidetrack just to illustrate the point:

Cannabis has a (predominantly positive) history dating way back to BC times, but in the early 20th century, Americans needed legit reasons for their Great Depression (the WW I not being one, since wars are pretty awesome, aren’t they?). With more and more immigrants entering the land created by immigrants who forgot about it, and jobs of those second group immigrants being scarce, the USA government did what the USA government does best. They created a shitload of propaganda. First cannabis got renamed to Marijuana, to sound more Mexican, hence, more illegal (and bad I guess?). In the ’30s US governmental bureaus declared that “marijuana makes white women seek sexual relations with negroes, and makes darkies think they are as good as a white man”. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics went on as to testify to Congress that: “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind… Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.”

Ouch. So, unshockingly, Marijuana became a Schedule I drug, meaning it is the most dangerous drug of them all, without any medical application, highly addictive. Together with LSD, ecstasy, and a bunch of others, it’s STILL the most dangerous drug according to US laws. Yes, it is legal in almost every state now, but cocaine, crystal meth, and fentanyl are seen as ‘healthier’ drugs. STILL. So if you were thinking of lighting a joint later on, DONT! Get yourself some crystal meth instead and remove all of your teeth thinking they’re bugs. Safety first. US laws.

Let’s dim down the sarcasm a bit. It’s very sad that marijuana has been used as a racist weapon throughout recent history. More sadly tho — it’s not only marijuana, it’s way more things that have reshaped how we look at stuff, for the worse.

I stole this image from here

So now that we’re awake, let’s talk breakfast. Cereal for breakfast has been invented by John H. Kellog, an American doctor, inventor, and businessman. Why? Because Kellog wanted to save humanity. From what? From masturbation. Wait. What?

Kellog was a deeply religious doctor who believed that cereal would both improve Americans’ health and keep them from masturbating and desiring sex. Well, cereal and tying children’s hands with rope. Only one of those solutions got majorly advertised though. From the ’40s on, cereal commercials started feeding people the idea that a bowl full of colored sugar is the most important meal of the day. The thing with ads (and politics) is, if you say it often enough, loud enough, people just start to buy it. It’s 2021 and people still think it’s true. It’s 2021 and my parents still think marijuana is the worse. God bless USA. Throughout the years Kellogs commercials claiming that their stuff is “full of goodness” and “nutritious” have been banned because of a lack of truth, or evidence to back it up. I mean, define “nutritious”, colored sugar disguised as ‘fruits’ will not do the trick. The thing is, this completely false idea (and the cure for masturbation) has been circling around for so long, one of America’s biggest proudness is cereal. Grocery stores all over the world have themed aisles, right? Rice, hot sauces, noodles, etc. can be found on the Asian aisle. Tortillas, beans, spices, etc. on the Mexican. The US aisle? Full of sugar in rainbow colors. Everything that has zero (or below) nutrition is standing as proud as an eagle yelling “ Mericaaaa, fuck yeah!!” at walking-by customers.

’60s sugar frosted flakes ad, Gr-r-r-reat for diabetes and obesity

And although targeted at mostly kids, with bright colors and animated figures on boxes, cereals are now considered a serious adult meal by people taking their health seriously by pouring fun-looking sugar shapes from a box with a cartoon on it. Are we still asking ourselves why the world is suffering from obesity, or is it becoming a bit more clear now? Anyways, let’s end with a thank you.

Thank you cereal, for selling (still resonating) lies in bright colors and fun hula hoops shapes. Thanks for adding zero nutrition in our lives and curing masturbation. Where would’ve we been without you?

Calvin Klein — It’s no ads, it’s porn

Talking about using sex to sell. Like I already said, Pornhub is in the business of cleaning filthy beaches nowadays. Meanwhile, brands like Calvin Klein have used sex to sell for ages. They have been famous for recruiting 15-years-old models and oversexing them to keep up with their brand image. Years after, we ask ourselves why are women being paid less than men for the exact same jobs, meanwhile, girls are being showcased as nothing more than a body wearing very expensive underwear. Any correlation?

Thing is, boys have been made insecure by brands like this for quite some time now. So now that girls are starting to realize that they don’t have to marry rich, they can be rich and successful if they want, some boys are starting to lose their shit about it. Being neglected more and more by independent and self-made women, men are starting to get very angry and confused about life and feminism. It’s very sad actually, we now have movements like incels (involuntary celibates) and MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) that blame feminism for all their miseries. It’s a new kind of (self-harming) terrorism, where young boys come together on forums and social media groups and talk about “vengeance against attractive women for denying them sex and affection”. Advertisements like the one above are now one of the main reasons why angry, young boys come together online and fantasize about rape and mind control. In recent years quite some people have been victims of angry ‘incels’ that are being denied sex by women even though they thought that owning a dick is a reason enough for girls to sleep with them. A new age pandemic that will get worse as inequality stabilizes and women, minorities, and not-hetero people gain more independence and well-deserved status as a human being. Incels are the new terrorist, and no one is safe, especially not in places like America where guns are the most common thing ever.

When a company like CK has such messed-up values, it shows not only in ads but in everything they do. It’s not a surprise at all that Calvin Klein filled a lawsuit against Supreme, is it? Something about Kate Moss, or sex, or both. How about the fact that (former) CK’s CEO has been sued for giving herpes to his date? That shouldn’t be a surprise as well, I mean, I’m scared of contracting an STD by looking too long at their ads (or Klein himself). So, looking for some inspirational words from one of the fashion ‘gurus’ in the industry? Here’s some wisdom:

The man himself

“Jeans are sex, the tighter they are, the better they sell.”

Calvin Klein

“”(If social media had been around 13 years ago) I would have used it to my advantage … and created images that people — well, their jaw would have dropped.”
Calvin Klein on why sex still sells

Thank you Calvin Klein, for looking at women as a clever advertisement trick that will help you sell this sex of yours. Thanks for making boys so insecure that now the whole world needs to fear an incel’s attack.

Facebook — Disconnecting people from reality

Brace yourselves. This is going to be a heavy one.

Ever read 1984 by George Orwell? It’s a dark dystopian novel about what the future has in store according to the author. Written in 1949, it’s about citizens being under constant surveillance of Big Brother through technology. It’s about alternative facts exposed by politics and ministry. It’s about taking concepts and ideas away of a language, not adding to it, like when the most used word a few years ago wasn’t even a word. It was an emoji, followed by words like ‘bae’, ‘hashtag’, and many more, very useless ones.

1984 is about a society living by those three main slogans:

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

The first time I read it, years ago, it gave me shivers. “What a fucked up society that would be” I thought. But as I’m re-reading it now, I don’t only recognize how all of us are in the middle of dystopia, I kind of wish to live in their society, not ours, since the illusion of freedom and peace there are a bit more obvious than here, today and now. Orwell painted a society run by those four ministries:

“The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine art. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs.”

And he went on writing:

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — If all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ ”

So in 2016, when I heard Trump & Co saying that his inauguration had the largest audience ever. Period. I knew what was going to happen. It sounded awfully familiar. What started as ‘alternative facts’ soon become ‘fake news’, and not before long, we officially entered The Disinformation Age. In case you didn’t know that we’re in the middle of it… blame it. No one knows shit nowadays, but someone is capitalizing on that ‘fact’. Who controls the past, controls the future, who controls the present, controls the past. Someone is controlling the flow of fake information everywhere, and past and future are at their disposal.

Back to those Ministries. The Ministery of Love is the corrupted, white supremacist runned police, the Ministery of Peace is the illusion that wars are there to protect us and the proudness of people when they say “My son is a national hero, he fought in [insert a ‘bad’ country here, that is by now destroyed, with thousands of innocent people dead or on the run to save their life]. The Ministery of Plenty, well, that’s us, the consumers.

The Ministery of Truth? Facebook. Trump’s presidency, Brexit, Bolsonero as Brazil's president, the fall of democracy in countries like Hungary, the chaos in Myanmar, and the yet-to-come Civil Wars in all of Europe and USA (mark my sad words on that, the start of the end of democracy is near) all have something in common — How easy it is for extreme-right politics to gain popularity on… you guessed it, social media.

As I’m reading Mindf*ck, by Christopher Wylie, I’m thinking — damn, what a world we are creating for ourselves and our (future) kids. People like Chris Wylie risk their life to expose all the dirty games social media and psychological warfare tools like Cambridge Analytica are playing. We are more than ever glued to our phones, no wonder that depression, stress, loneliness, and burnout are a way bigger Western pandemic than Covid will ever be. Knowing how history always repeats itself, we’re flabbergasted by how ignorant Europeans were of what the Nazis were doing to Jews (immigrants, gypsies, and gays as well of course), but there is a bigger ignorance going on right now. Way, way bigger. 2020 has been Hitler’s wet dream. Very bad things are happening, and we’re all collectively sponsoring them. With our time that we just give for free to social media, with our ads money we just give to Facebook and Google, with our happiness and sanity we sacrifice to racist algorithms designed to keep us in the rabbit holes. Yes, the truth is often paid and lies are free, which does not make things easier.

But if we’re not willing to pay to use a product, then the product will use us at our own cost. Then, we are the product.

So I can’t be more grateful to Chris Wylie for collaborating with The Guardian and NYTimes to expose the dirty laundry of the tech industry, which eventually resulted in The Great Hack documentary. Now at least we know how evil the algorithms are, how addictive phones and social media are because of the rise of persuasive psychology, how easy it is for new age extremist organizations to spread fake news, anger, hate, and aggression on Facebook and Insta. Heck… we even know about banner blindness since the late ’90 but we’re still majorly sponsoring Google by designing and paying for those weird 120x600px banners that most eyes don’t even see. But at least we know. Knowledge and awareness are good first steps. Now we need a bit of action on it as well, and maybe one day we can defeat the psychological war-tools we’re so fond of. Technology has been going a dark pathway, and with singularity in sight, reality is getting more Orwellian than an Orwell novel. Dystopian sci-fi books are no more science fiction, they’re non-fiction. A documentary into our current state.

Is it time to rebuild broken business models and stop the greed for attention before it’s too late? Is it time to rethink our values and stop seeing ignorance as strength, but align more with brands that have big aspirations to help the world, instead of brands made to break it? A point would come where it’s way too late for a change, maybe we should stop waiting for that moment to happen and take some action into changing it, because one thing is for sure — we’re all falling victims to what’s going on and the ideas of freedom we don’t have and peace we lost a long time ago and ignorance is seen as bliss are starting to bring a lot of harm.

I want to truly thank Chris Wylie and everyone that worked with him on exposing the dirty business of Nix’s and Bannon’s CA and Facebook. To the people that can’t even drink water like a normal human being, I hope you’re happy and contempt with being this century’s Hitler. Hail Zuckerberg.

And now?

With that being said, let’s end positively. This article has a goal beyond just brand inspiration, design trends, advertisement insights or whatever hashtag is currently trending. It’s created to raise a bit of awareness of how much power we, as people have. Brands and celebrities don’t dictate culture, the people who buy or don’t buy what is being said, do. And buying, we have done plenty. So time to pause that and rethink our values and the power to change countries, societies, and heck… the whole civilization for the better. Someone else said that better than I could possibly ever do, so I want to let him remind you again, that collective miserability can only be solved with collective union and love.

I hope that this article didn’t offend anyone. It’s not easy to not go with the flow nowadays. Sadly, the truth is an unpopular opinion. I could spend my days writing clickbait bullcrap that will get way more attention than this article will ever do, but what would more bullcrap contribute to, except, well.. more crap?

Thanks!

Commentating on life & design. Also freelancing at both— siyanaivanova.nl.