Burn, Brand, Burn

On August 8th, Neil Borman will gather up everything he owns that has a logo on it.

He will take every Jacobson chairs, Christian Dior shirt, and Louis Vuiton bag, into a warehouse and cover them in petrol. Then he will burn it all.

After that, he plans on trying to live a brand-free lifestyle. It’s part of a cathartic exercise to find his true self, Boorman says. After spending “a fair amount of time engineering an image,” built around the “displaying of things made by brands,” each purchase increased the distance from his true self, he says

Neil says, “For all the time and money I have devoted to collecting these brands, these symbols of self, I have absolutely no idea who I am. For every new material extension of my character, I become more distant from the person than I really am.”

Noble aims or Buddhism redux cum Adbusters prank?

Boorman quotes Kevin Roberts, CEO of advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, “For great brands to survive, they must create loyalty beyond reason. The secret is the use of mystery, sensuality and intimacy… the power to create long-term emotional connections with consumers.”

We’re uncertain of where the quote comes from, but based on a familiarity with the CEO’s rehetoric and just glancing at this speech Roberts gave the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce on May 18, 2005, this was probably in reference to “Lovemarks,” a term Kevin invented to describe Super Brands which earn cult-like devotion from consumers. Into this category go Saatchi clients like P&G, Toyota, General Mills and Visa. However, contrast Lovemarks with another, more entrenched advertising maxim: the Unique Product Benefit. People purchase products for many reasons but the primary is that it works for them in a certain way that outpaces it from the competition. In referencing Roberts, Boorman seems to feel he’s hit on the pulsing epicenter of advertising. In his blog, Boorman also posts the Ladder Of Customer Needs:


Before Roberts’ can make people koo-koo for Cocoa Puffs, the product has to do something useful. However, that none of Boorman’s needs are being met by carefully accrued pile of consumer goods; his pyramid will stand no more. Neil’s targets are varied, his net, diffuse, his aims, lofty, and sometimes his grasp, it seems, tenuous. It’s difficult when you’ve arrayed the entirety of modern society against yourself. All of it is grist, or was that gristle? for the mill.

The blog and brand burning are but prelude to a book Boorman will publish in 2007 called Bonfire of the Brands. We learned of it because Neil sent us a four-paragraph email explaining what he’ll do, when and why. In some circles, that’s called a press-release. The blog and the belongings burning could be termed “pre-buzz” and “publicity stunt.” For a man in such battle with the forces of marketing and advertising, he has a firm grasp on their operation, a paradox he straddles, but not without difficulty.

In a recent post he writes, “I was adamant that [the book and blog] would not turn into a simplistic, all-out brand bashing exercise…. that I would use this book/ documentary/ blog to argue for some sort of third way.”

Only time, and gallons of petrol, will tell whether Neil Boorman finds enlightenment in a pile of smoldering ash.

Canongate publishes Bonfire of the Brands in 2007.
Neil’s blog is at bonfireofthebrands.blogspot.com.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Paul D says:

    What a deliciously empty gesture.

  2. LTS! says:

    Instead of burning it, why not donate it to those who actually are too poor to buy those brands and therefore are in no danger of succumbing to the brand name allure?

    This stinks of nothing more than advertising and under false pretences. If you’ve got something to say, just say it. Apparently he already knows who he is because he’s writing a book about it.

  3. RandomHookup says:

    Good luck burning that Nissan Sentra.

  4. Jimmy M says:

    Your picture is a prime example of a product that basically doesn’t come brandless.

    He’s going to be wearing a lot of sandals.

  5. karl hungus says:

    what a fucking hollow gesture. Just as you said this has all the makings of savy marketing, from press release to publicity stunt. I am sure in the end he is just burning all that stuff to make room for all the shinny new crap his book deal is going to buy him.

  6. Morgan says:

    Jimmy, it’s fairly easy to get shoes without a logo on them- at least without an obvious logo (the ones I’m wearing only have a small logo on the sole- not something that people are likely to see unless I’m kicking them in the face).

  7. Jimmy M says:


    Damn, they wouldn’t work for me then :)

  8. OkiMike says:

    I don’t see how anything can NOT have a brand. I mean, unless it’s handmade for you by yourself, your mom or you neighbor, it will have a corporate logo attached to it somewhere, right?

    Even plain-colored, Fruit of the Loom t-shirts have that “brand” on the necktag.

  9. Papercutninja says:

    Anti-establishment, modern hippie dreck.

  10. kodabar says:

    “For every new material extension of my character, I become more distant from the person than I really am.”

    You’d like to think that’s true. But it’s not, kid.