Dame Anita Roddick: Brands are past their sell-by date

From a speech by the founder of The Body Shop on ethical business practice, given in Singapore
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The Independent Online

I have always been deeply sceptic about the whole idea of global brands. There is increasing evidence that people are actually bored to death by brands. People are irritated with the way the big brands are taking over public space, not just on billboards but in their heads. They don't like the bigness, the mental clutter, the sense that somebody is selling to them the entire time. And most of all they don't like their sameness, their mediocrity, their reassuring blandness.

We need to take some of the modern management-speak about brands and branding with a pinch of salt. The truth is that brands are more vulnerable, more inflexible now, more distrusted now and they wear out quicker than ever. People the world over know they are often fakes - facades that hide unspeakable cruelty behind them.

That is one reason why the world's biggest brands are having such a tough time at the moment. Last year, and for the second year running, a survey by Interbrand showed that more than 40 of the top 75 world brands lost value during the year. They are losing out to local brands and to instore brands, and most of all, they are losing out to the public's search for something real - something that isn't fake, spun, mass-produced or manipulated.

That's why the big brands are snapping up local brands around the world as fast as they can - whether they are micro-breweries or local TV channels. And that's why giants like HSBC and Interbrew have been fighting over the right to call themselves "The World's Local..."

So where does that leave us? With global consumers who are increasingly aware of manipulation, increasingly determined to provide some kind of moral coherence for themselves - and demanding it from the businesses they buy from or work for.