I like to read or reread works from earlier eras, especially anything from the 1960s to the 90s that covers social and cultural issues. In this case, I read No Logo shortly after it was released and decided to revisit it.
No Logo was originally published in 2000. Naomi Klein also wrote an update in 2009 for the 10th anniversary edition. Now it's almost 15 years later than the update, so we can look back and see what has changed over the years (sadly, not much as far as the main topic goes).
No Logo was written in the early days of the internet and also the beginning, in some ways, of the modern era of big brands. Obviously the advertising industry goes back quite a bit further (as anyone who's seen Mad Men, set in the 60s, knows). But if you think of mega-brands that stamp their names on stadiums, and the Disneyfication of areas such as Times Square, the 90s is when brands really started to get invasive on a large scale.
Klein covers the phenomenon from many angles, with sections entitled No Space, No Jobs, and No Logo. She also covers the opposition movements that sprang up in reaction to this, traveling to locations such as "free trade" zones in Asia and interviewing various activists and labor leaders.
Although the book has what seems now like a naive optimism about the rising opposition to branding, Klein was already seeing less hopeful signs by the time she finished the book (or not long after). As she points out in the afterward, after September 11, 2001, many of these movements lost steam as the nation largely stepped into line when President Bush said "You're either with us or with the terrorists." (or something similar). Klein's later book Shock Doctrine points out how the powers that be conveniently use crises to justify a reinforcement of the economic and political status quo. Some would go further and suggest that they bring about these crises.
In some ways, No Logo is a little depressing to read 20+ years later, as the trends Naomi Klein covers haven't been scaled back at all while the opposition to them has mostly fizzled out. Many of the companies that were facing PR challenges in the 90s over issues such as sweatshop labor, such as Nike, Walmart, and McDonald's, are still going strong today.
While 9/11 had something to do with this, that's far from the whole story. Protests and radical movements have some impact, but ultimately what really matters to brands is consumer spending. Brands can only flourish if consumers buy into the hype and buy the products. Obviously, most people haven't abandoned the brand bandwagon. For each successive generation, a brand-centric world becomes ever more normal.
Branding has become so pervasive over the last few decades that hardly anyone questions it. For example, if you're Generation X or older, you may still find it bizarre that stadiums, convention centers, and other buildings are now routinely named after big corporations. But if you grew up in the 90s, that's all you ever knew.
One of the benefits of reading No Logo now is that it helps put all this into context. Naomi Klein wrote this when people were at least debating whether large corporations should have such a dominant role.