blackspot shoes, the sole of a new company
there are a few things that get me miffed about society - one of them is the concept of sustainable consumption. and for the past seven months, i've constantly thought about my foot print. oh sure i've taken planes, trains and automobiles and find myself considering the purchase of carbon credits... time and time again, i know i've taken my fare share of dead dinosaurs. too boot, i've used plastic bags, purchased things made of Styrofoam and consumed inorganically substances that will duly destroy the planet in a smattering of centuries. nonetheless, i've been mentally wrestling with the issue of consumption. for the past seven months, i've consumed less than i have ever consumed. honestly, it feels a bit weird.... all of this is beside the point of me writing this longwinded trite, hippopotamus prose.
over the past week, i've had a bit of time to rifle through some old issues of adbusters. if you're a neo-liberal hippy hipster like me, without a doubt you've picked up this Vancouver based mag, torpedoed though the articles in ecstasy exclaiming "i will never consume again" while your chuck taylor's wrap your feet and ben davis wipe your behind.
after taking note of the questionable eco-friendly paper quality, i stumbled upon adbusters #73 (september/october 2007) issue. smack dab in the center of their social commentary, i found a letter from paul cooper on the subject of branding blackspot shoes. it's a short and notable letter. paul's oration foretells the expansion of "blackspot" as a brand.
according to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island a "blackspot" is given to a pirate as a verdict of guilt. in this case, "blackspot" is the name of the three year old shoe brand (youtube video). (does anyone else see the self deprecating irony of putting on a pair of blackspots? by wearing the shoes one extolls the virtue of hiprococy - "as an activist, i am also a slave to fashion and a slave to brands.")
so back to the shoes... after building the concept, signing deals to outsource construction and selling 25,000 pairs of shoes, adbusters wants to diversify the brand by building alternative centers of mass market consumption. from starbucks to mcdonalds, mr. cooper sees blackspot as the "go-to" brand of alternative conception. (somewhere deep inside of my peon brain, i'm having a hard time rectifying the fact that adbusters is comparing itself to the "evil" demons of mcd and starbucks while seeking to compete with them on the global market.)
there are four reasons why i am writing this article. each one is based around the essential attributes of blackspot's brand that according to paul, "this time the rule of the game have changed."
1. customer = participant, the passive consumer becomes an active participant in shaping the social enterprises of the future.
2. grassroots capitalism, people support the efforts of small-scale entrepreneurs to capture market share from faceless megacorporations.
3. open-source, anyone can brand or co-brand their products or service with the blackspot, joining a loose alliance of thousands of other indie blackspotters.
4. jiu-jitsu marketing, blackspotters will go head-to-head with the dominate companies in the industry, using the power of the world's biggest brands to drive their success.
while i genuinely think that blackspot is onto a good thing, i don't see these rules as earth shattering. they represent nothing more than the long standing fight between small business and big business.
#1 speaks about a passive consumer becoming active. yet, if you are like the millions of americans who care about the bottom line, we just want the cheapest product we can afford. i'm not an idiot (despite by bad grammar and poor spelling) i know economic theory states we must consume to exist. yet, since the dawn of towns and cities, convenience and passivity are the #1 and #2 creature comforts of humanity. nothing in this theory states why i should give a damn.
#2 is nothing more than telling people to buy local. as we move into cities, most items are produced globally. we sit with a painful realization that the world we live within is unsustainable. my ipod, my notebook, my pen, my shoes, my clothing... everything i own was not made in the city of it's acquisition. ok, most of the food i try to buy is local... but in the long run, telling people to purchase localy is not going to change the fact that north americans consume %80 of the world's resources.
#3 is novel in the sense that i can place a "blackspot" product into an advertisement and then do a bit of cross promotion. then again, the more i think about it, the more i come to understand that this is called marketing and branding. maybe #3 speaks concept that in the near future, service providers must join forces and marginalize our individual brands to compete against faceless megacorperations.
#4 is flat out about "marketing." but when i think about going "head-to-head" with megacorperations, i only see the concept of the "anti" brand. in other words, the "blackspot" brand says, "you are a smart, educated consumer. you like brands and love fashion. you know that i am not like them. instead of doing more with less, BUY ME!"
the only thing me thinks is a "revolution," is the fact that adbusters is changing.
if a company really wants to change the way the world works, let's not "sell out" or "buy in." let us find a new way to do business. yet, the more i think about how we can move swiftly into the future, i see that adbusters' alternatives are the only way to "safely consume" in hedonist material world.
as my mental tumblers roll, my mind is still locked into the concept that nothing has changed. if blackspot seeks to radically change the face of consumption, shouldn't they listen to Rev. Billy and the church of stop shopping or better yet, take a page of their own campaigns and educate the consumer and reduce the world's consumption?
ps - the more i touch an iphone, the more i want one. :P