Can brands bring about the next summer of love?

 
Craig Wills
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While fear persists in the media, brands are promoting positive messages (Source: Flickr)
I count myself very lucky. I was a "yoot" in the second summer of love, that heady blip in the late eighties when we revelled in the utopian vision that 10,000 people and 10,000 watts of belly-rumbling bass could actually signify a change in the human state: love could indeed save the day. It was school blazer and house tie during the week, house music during the weekend.
The dominance of Thatcher's Britain at that time was arguably punctuated with a cultural movement well-documented to have rocked the core of the establishment - in fact, it inspired the Criminal Justice Bill passed in 1994, 20 years ago this November.
Rewind to ’94 and the UK witnessed the biggest demonstrations and marches since the Poll Tax and Miners' plight: 50,000 people descended on London in October of that year where running battles with the police were witnessed across the iconic capital spots of Park Lane, Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square.
Arguably, this was in part a counter-intuitive law that ushered through clauses on the criminalisation of the gathering of people around repetitive beats. Old people's homes were raided while Dottie and friends banged out Nightingales Sang in Berkeley Square, and teenage birthday parties were closed down by the boys in blue; many aspects of the Bill were seen as a direct attack on legitimate lifestyle choices.
But beyond this I believe it kicked off a cultural shift so wide-reaching that we all experience it today: fear.
As Lars Svendsen wrote in his book, Philosophy of Fear: "The prospect of dire outcomes have been relentlessly inflated… the result is a widespread sense of fear that increasingly permeates contemporary life."
And so, the brand of fear we're served is perpetual, sneaky, often unfounded. Of course, there is threat in our world, but what we miss is a real understanding of what fear really is as one of the least understood of our emotions.
Fear almost precedes any rationality of thought, overshadowing context. The fear of terrorism, a brand called ISIS, Al Qaeda – the fear that permeates through our lives, aggressively flogged to us. Even closer to home is a fear based mantra – house prices, NHS, Trident, border control, EU.
It is against this heightened backdrop of fear that we can observe the countershift in brands. Many are in pursuit of love – "lovemarks" and brand love - wrapping customers up with optimistic promises. No longer the fear of germs, but the freedom for children to play, no longer fear of an STI but promoting the pleasure of sex, even high street banks are offering to be there for the journey.
So while fear permeates the media, there appears to be a positive solace in brands – brands replacing the establishment as anchor-points for positivity, hope, love.
What we need right now is the power of love to rule over the often unfounded power of fear.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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