Before printed publications and the internet, how did people get their messages out?

Barbara-Kruger-I-shop-therefore-I-am.jpg                                       (I shop therefor I am, 2017)

In the past advertising would be displayed by someone walking around with a sign or sand- wich board. London was less multi-cultural than it is today, and many British people were abroad. Manufacturing was more commonly done by hand, using simple tools and methods.

In the early twentieth century cocaine was commonly used in medicine as a pain reliever. It chemically alters the brain so that someone feels like they have more energy. It became il- legal in the UK, but drug taking was more common and acceptable than it is now. Through advertising the Coca-Cola company promoted its drinks, which contained cocaine. It became a highly successful company because of its advertising and the addictive contents of its prod- ucts. At this time many people were illiterate and had a limited ability to question the infor- mation that was delivered by advertisers.

Companies such as Hoover produced new products which became synonymous with the brand name. Now many people still call a vacuum cleaner a hoover, even if it is not from this brand. This was a time when branding became particularly important to the advertising industry, with Walter Landon quoted as saying “products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind”. Consumers are creating these brands and identities in their minds.


                         (Christmas with Coca-cola,2013)

Another good example of influential branding is a Coca-Cola advertisement at Christmas, which builds an association between the product and the concept of togetherness. Simple associations such as “Coca-cola = happiness = family” are developed through adverts such as this.

The concept of cultural hegemony was developed by Antonio Gramsci. The term refers to the authority and rule of social institutions and their ability to influence everyday thoughts. The same is also true for companies, which have a strong influence on many people in our society, because they have capital and power.

New ways of consuming have emerged recently, such as online shopping. This has introduced another source of power, from bloggers, who have the ability to shape trends and influence the popularity of products and brands.

One of today’s biggest companies, Apple, used to be a failing business and was unpopular in comparison to Microsoft. This all changed with a clever piece of branding. Apple produced colourful desktop computers which appealed to people just getting interested in computing. It completely changed people’s perceptions of the company.

Another example is Adidas, which is now one of the most popular sports brands. When Adidas was created Puma was a major competitor in the same, with factories in the same city. However, Adidas was located in West Germany, which was controlled by British and Ameri- can authorities. Puma was located in East Germany. There was a lot of influence from Brit- ish and American culture, and in the late 80s, when hip hop was becoming popular, Adidas wanted to change the face of their brans by associating with this trend. It was even featured in a song by Run DMC, and other brands such as Tommy Hilfiger also associated themselves with cultural trends such as hip-hop.

Products were no longer being bought simply because of their function or physical form. They were being consumed because of their associations and the fantasies and identities that were connected with them. This was summed up by the famous quote “I shop therefor I am” (Barbara Kruger) which highlights the close connection between personal identity and con- sumerism.



Cole, N. (2017). Definition of Cultural Hegemony, ThoughtCo.


Christmas with Coca-cola. (2013). [image] Available at: php?movie_id=7316 [Accessed 6 Mar. 2017].

I shop therefor I am. [Accessed 6 Mar. 2017].


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