An old famous advertisment stated that “Power is nothing without control“.
This goden rule applies to activism too. Logos and slogans not registered as a Trade Mark allow twisted uses and awkward associations of their meaning. If not controlled, they can undermine the original intent of the symbol and weaken the strong protest symbolic power of activism actions. Learn more about this aspect in our analysis of the so called Arab-Spring uprising and the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
Improvised and not strategized activism can lead to questionable use of symbols. In turn, this can undermine the protest. For instance, the recent use of powerful protest symbols such as the U.S. national anthem and flag for the NFL protest opened the door to contradictory interpretations. As a result, the debate was re-directed away for the issues behind the protest and the attention focused on dilemmas such as Rights of protesters VS. Duties of patriots, Protesters VS. Traitors, and Money VS. Values.
The English idiom ‘put one’s reputation on the line’ is translated in Italian with the expression ‘Metterci la faccia’ – literally show one’s face. The picture on the right showing the ‘back face’ might be funny, and such turn and adaptation may attract attention and make people laugh. It can just be considered of a questionable taste. However, the problem is that if this twist make also decision-makers and the media smile/laugh, they might question the seriousness of the action, while the cheerful message might undermine the relevance of its meaning. Similar twists can make the strong protest symbolic powerof some logos unusable for other causes.
The lack of control can also backfire. The non registration of the slogan ‘Keep calm and …’ allowed the sale of T-shirts with the slogans ‘Keep calm and rape a lot’. The company selling these customised on-demand products immediately apologised. However, forced by the events for the company this slogan transformed into ‘Keep calm and go out of business’.
Learn about the other weaknesses we have identified.