Save the Whales - Don't Cry for Them! How the Social Movement Brand ‘Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’ Eludes Compassion Fatigue through Branding
Master's Thesis 2015 135 Pages
Table of Content
III) Table of Content
A. Introductory Section
2. Motivation of the thesis
3. Academic Approaches to Social Movement Branding
4. Research Aim and Questions
B. Contextual Framework
5. Disambiguation: Non-Profit Non-Governmental Organisations
6. Communicating and Performing in Neoliberal Environments
6.1 Living in a Marketised World
6.2 A Networked Society - Communication via New Media
6.3 The Branding of Everything
7. Altered Requirements - NPNGOs facing the Neoliberal Reality
7.1 Presenting Suffering is so 1990’s - The Danger of Compassion Fatigue
7.2 Changing Donors’ Generations - Changing Communication?
8. How to Sell the Good Conscience?
8.1 Branding - the Universal Marketing Weapon?
8.2 Reputation Management - Branding
8.3 The communicative Social Movement Brand
8.3.1 Why Social Movement Brands
8.3.2 How to Manage a Social Movement Brand
D. Material and Methods
9. The Information Ocean of Sea Shepherd
9.1 Conservation Pirates
9.2 Sea Shepherd in the Online World
9.2.1 Sea Shepherd on YouTube.
9.2.2 Sea Shepherd’s Home Port - The Website
9.2.3 Sea Shepherd’s Online Shop
E. Analysis Section.
10. How Sea Shepherd Communicates via the Internet
10.1 YouTube: Blockbuster Pirates
10.2 Official Website
10.2.1 Structural Analysis
10.2.2 Content Analysis
10.3 Official Online Shop
10.3.1 Structural Analysis
10.3.2 Content Analysis
10.4 Sea Shepherd’s logos
F. Discussion and Conclusion
11. Selling the Image
11.1 Sea Shepherd’s Merchandise
11.2 Sea Shepherd’s Business Co-operations
12. Sea Shepherd and Compassion Fatigue
13. Sea Shepherd’s Reputation Management as Branding Effort
14. Summarising Conclusion
G. Sources and Appendix
Hyperlinks embedded in the text (in chronological order)
The rising influence of neoliberalism in western societies led to a marketization of seemingly non- economic spheres of life. As a result, boundaries between non-profit organisations and state duties on the one hand and economics on the other hand have been blurring. At the same time, charitable organisations have been facing the problem of Compassion Fatigue and the need of new donor approaches to support their causes. Both challenges are in some extent interrelated with each other and can be dealt with by the use of brand logic. The aim of this thesis is to analyse how non-profit non- governmental organisation (NPNGOs) perform in a marketised world using their reputation as core of their brand creation. The new requirements NPNGOs have to meet in order to succeed in a marketised environment are worked out theoretically and applied to the example of the radical environment protection organisation Sea Shepherd. Its communication strategies and brand creation are examined through the concepts of Branding and Reputation Management which are used as related theoretical frameworks. The analysis of Sea Shepherd in terms of the theoretical frameworks, finally, provides an insightful example of how NPNGOs nowadays can act like brands. In a marketised world in which audiences are used to interact with and to project themselves into brands which meet their values, also NPNGOs have to play the game of the marketplace. Sea Shepherd’s YouTube communication, its online shop along with its merchandise production, its official website and finally, its use of the logo, are vital illustrations of NPNGOs’ Branding.
Keywords: Branding, conservation, Compassion Fatigue, marketization, neoliberalism, NGO, non-profit, Paul Watson, Reputation Management, Sea Shepherd, social movements
Jag vill tacka flera persona för understödja mig i studium och göra tiden p å Stockholm en br å tiden. Där mina svenskaär inte det bästa, jag vill fortsätta p å engelska.
There are several persons I want to thank. First, there is the whole department of Media and Communication Studies and all its secretaries and lecturers that made the study program possible. I am also grateful to Cornelia Weigt, the media study’s course secretary at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, who worked incredibly dedicated to meet the deadlines for an abroad master’s study. I want to thank especially Heike Graf, Roman Horbyk, Madeleine Hurd and Henrik Merkelsen for providing the course ‘Environmental Communication’ and also Per St å hlberg and Göran Bolin for the takeaways from the course ‘Nation Branding’. Both courses guided me into the direction of this thesis. Göran Bolin, moreover, supported me as supervisor and gave me tips from the very beginning. I really appreciated this.
Furthermore, I want to thank my fellow students Jamie Matthews, Anna Söderlund, Evelina Boberg and my girlfriend Ariane Petschow for all the fascinating and inspiring discussions we had during the study time. There are also people whom I want to thank for victimising their spare time to proof read this thesis at different stages. These are Lucy Rehmann, Davide Bavato and Andreas Roedl next to my supervisor Göran Bolin. None of the mentioned persons, however, are responsible for remaining errors or typos. Furthermore, the statements in this thesis are all my point of view and do not necessary correlate with or reflect those of my supervisor or the proof readers.
Additionally, I want to thank all the people who made my time in Stockholm a pleasure. These are my roommates from all over the world and all the guys from FK Bromma, especially the coaches Mats Lundberg and Richard Freyschuss. Moreover, I want to give thanks to Johanna Andersson and Love Larsson - the craziest Mario Kart fans I have ever met - for the cool evenings we had although you always defeated me in Super Smash Bros., a game I still do not fully understand.
My deepest thanks finally go to people who supported me during my study time. These are my fellow musicians who kept my Berlin band ‘Embracing Silence’ alive during my time abroad, Emanuel Fialik who not only supported me with providing a stabile student job and, first and foremost, my family. My family means my mother Micaela Weigel, my father B é la Weigel and my brother Matti Weigel. They always supported my idea of studying (even abroad) and never doubted about me (hopefully). Last but definitely not least, I wish to thank my wonderful girlfriend Ariane Petschow who proof read all of my numerous term papers locating uncountable errors and who accompanied me to Stockholm with the words “Moving abroad is almost like marrying”.
A. Introductory Section
“ Intensified competition about Amnesty [International] ’ s future in a globalized world means making the most of its most lucrative commodity, its reputation, as a brand ” (Hopgood 2006: 20)
During the last two decades, independent non-governmental organisations have experienced an enormous increase in importance in political discourse. The enhanced role NGOs nowadays play became evident in the recent decisions to strip attac’s1 German section and Sea Shepherd’s2 Australian section of their status as recipients of tax-deductible donations. Many political commentators contextualised these decisions with the power contemporary NGOs have. These decisions have been seen as attempts to weaken their financial position and consequently, their capacity to act as some of them can get harmful for traditional political and economic elites. “NGOs have reached a point where they can exert a direct impact on the financial performance of companies” (Beaudoin 2004: 366) and especially those who are active in environmental and social causes now have to be considered as an important, influential and active part of social and political discourse creation. Thus, they have now the power to shape decision making in economics and policy (Beaudoin 2004).To explain the development of NGOs’ raising importance, manifold reasons such as “the end of the cold war and the emergence of new communication technologies” (Vestergaard 2008: 471) can be adduced. Their influences possibly have been rising over the last decades due to contemporary opportunities to reach the addressed audiences via traditional and new media. Furthermore, politics is no separated autarchic field (Luhmann 1989) but influenced by the media, the public discourse and the political parties to mention just a few factors. Moreover, young people are increasingly characterised as apolitical in the traditional sense. This does not necessarily mean that young people do not act politically at all although ideas about the unpolitical consumer generation are not that uncommon, but the way of political activities has changed. There are movements which relocate political action into the everyday and combine conscious consumption with policy (Brundin 2009).3 These activists also often tend to organise themselves in spheres of independent movements, unofficial political associations or NGOs - or at least follow and support them. According to Brigitta Höijer (2004), NGOs are currently the fastest growing organisation forms while traditional political parties lose members constantly. Both facts, the interrelated field of politics which is dependent on the public discourse and the new way of being political, support the assumption that NGOs are of great importance in contemporary politics. In order to account for the social and political significance of NGOs, it is thus of importance to understand not only their role in policy making and discourse creation, which has been already researched in a great manner, but to analyse their communication strategies to reach their possible audiences.
There have already been numerous studies in the field of NGO communication which problematise the usage of new media (e.g. Bennett/Segerberg 2011; Brundin 2008), power relations between NGOs and media concerns (e.g. Cottle 2008; Curtin/Rhodenbaugh 2001; Lester/Hutchins 2009) or textual analysis of communication strategies to cope with the risk of Compassion Fatigue (e.g. Vestergaard 2008). Whereas all of these analyses were of great importance for their specific fields, they mostly dealt little with the circumstance of NGOs operating in a marketised world4. Researchers like Anne Vestergaard or Philippa Hankinson have started to combine NGOs or Charities with the concept of brands to establish new traditions of thinking and marketing is seen as a valid and common strategy for Charities, NGOs and Non-Profit Organisation yet. However, most researchers of this academic direction construct their research around the question if brand strategies could be applied to NGOs and if so, how. Contrastingly, only a little amount of research efforts conceive NGOs as transformed into what is told Social Movement Brands in this thesis. The annual report of Sea Shepherd Germany provides striking figures which support the idea that this perception is possible. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is a radical nature conservation group founded by Paul Watson in 1981 and has been growing over the last 34 years. Nowadays, it encompasses 20 sections (not to say franchisees) worldwide. In Germany alone, Sea Shepherd generated a donation’s amount as high as EUR 3.5 million in 2013. Of this amount, Sea Shepherd Germany spent EUR 3.2 million for Sea Shepherd Global’s ongoing campaigns and saved the rest for 2014. Furthermore, Sea Shepherd generated an income of about EUR 760,000 with merchandise sales. These particularly economic figures advocate the idea of analysing Sea Shepherd as a Social Movement Brand in order to account its communication strategies which have been particularly successful in the last few years. However, the small amount of studies which combine the two research traditions of Environmental Communication and Branding and the small number of citations these works generate, illustrate that there is a need of contribution to this evolving field. That the next step of understanding NGOs in contemporary times is required can be seen in the increasing field of branding research in seemingly non-economic fields such as Nation Branding (e.g. Andrejevic/ Volcic 2011; Kaneva 2011; Olins 2002). This field of research has been attacked in the beginning since it bridged seemingly unrelated topics, but nowadays there is a research tradition established. The basic assumption of these researches that today’s world is a marketised world in which every concept, idea, structure or object has to compete with alternative ones to reach audiences or acceptance, investors or donors, users or followers is shared in this Master’s thesis. Facing this circumstance, 2003 - 2009 Communications Manager of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Dan Cass, claimed that “New media is increasingly important, but the mainstream media is still very much the main game of the environmental campaigns” (Dan Cass in Lester/Hutchins 2009). Nevertheless, the problem of Compassion Fatigue which means that spectators cannot feel pity for victims of suffering portrayed on mass media any longer as well as the problems of framing in mainstream media (e.g. Lakoff 2010; Foust/Murphy 2009) and the ongoing ascendency of online media challenge this assumption.
To continue with the idea of NGOs embedded in a completely marketised world, in this thesis, NGOs are considered as acting like brands and their communication strategies are consequently analysed by using two main concepts: Branding and Reputation Management. Although both concepts have central aspects in common such as the importance of image creation, there are essential differences. Whereas Branding primarily means to create ”a set of relations between products or services” (Lury 2004: 1) through advertisement campaigns and thus, to sell a feeling rather than a product, Reputation Management stands for an ongoing process in which the Brand Identity is constantly renegotiated by the inner and the outer audiences (Hatch/Schultz 2009: 5). For this purpose, pure Branding can be a valid opportunity but the focus is on the ongoing process. Furthermore, reputation functions as core of all marketing and Branding activities. The question which is finally to be answered in this thesis is how NGOs in contemporary times use market logic and business models in order to communicate with their various audiences.
To break this broad topic down into a project which can be dealt with in form of a Master’s thesis, the study features the example of ‘Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’ (later referred to as Sea Shepherd or SSCS). While the contextual framework is explained in a rather general way, the analysis section will in great measure use material from this chosen example. To understand how SSCS communicates with its outer audiences, sidesteps Compassion Fatigue and constitutes a valuable brand, a wide range of material is used in this thesis. Beside academic sources which mirror the theoretical discourse about NGOs, Branding and Reputation Management, this material consists of one viral image clip by SSCS published on YouTube, the official organisation’s website and its online shop.
The thesis is divided into six main sections (A-F) to achieve an understanding of NGOs’ communication in general and Sea Shepherd’s Reputation Management and Branding in particular. Furthermore, this structure will help to deal with the thematic complexity of this interdisciplinary research field. The first section shortly introduces the topic and the motivation of this thesis and afterwards, develops research questions from a short research review. The ‘Contextual Framework’ creates a theoretical foundation of the field. In this second section, a short conceptual definition of the research objects is followed by an introduction into the idea of a ‘Marketised World’, the problem of ‘Compassion Fatigue’ and a justification why new approaches are needed. It is followed by the ‘Theories’ chapter which provides a basic understanding of the applied concepts of analysis within this thesis. There, Branding and Reputation Management are defined and introduced. After establishing the theoretical background, the example Sea Shepherd is introduced in detail in section three and analysed in section four. Finally, the findings are linked to draw a full conclusion of Sea Shepherd’s Branding efforts.
I want to end this introduction with a statement regarding the possible audiences for whom it might be beneficial to read this study. Researchers from fields and research traditions as various as Branding, Economics, Environmental Communication, Marketing, Media Studies, Political Sciences, Social Movement Research or Sociology could be interested in this interdisciplinary research project. Although any of them will read it in different ways, with a different understanding and from different perspectives, they are invited to critically read, examine and discuss this research project. I am confident that there could be some related knowledge included for all of these thinking traditions. Furthermore, the thesis also aims to provide an understanding of Sea Shepherd’s communication practice for everyone who is interested in this topic such as Sea Shepherd members or donators, other activists or simply interested readers. Regardless the wide range of possible audiences, the thesis has been written and published within Media and Communication Studies and, thus, uses the Media and Communication researcher’s perspective, mainly. It aims to provide useful knowledge of communication processes which surround everyone at any time in the western world. Finally, the superordinate objective of this research project is to overcome barriers and boundaries in academic thinking and to combine knowledge from the field of economics with knowledge from the field of Media und Communication Studies.
This thesis is optimised for PDF publishing and contains active hyperlinks as well as enhancing functionalities of embedded pictures and figures. To use these features, Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader is required. The hyperlinks, marked by the use of underlined blue letters, are additionally listed in the ‘Sources’ section and the figures and the pictures are attached as ‘Appendix D’ for readers who cannot access the hyperlinks or the enhancing functions.
2. Motivation of the thesis
“Climate Change a Greater Threat Than Terrorism”, “Climate Change Likely to Displace Millions”, “‘Doomsday Clock’ Ticks Forward” - News media present consistently new horror stories about global warming, the raising sea level and environmental destruction. The rise of newly industrialised countries is going to exacerbate this development in all probability. Although these problems are widely known, reactions by the public alleviated and a rebellion, thus, failed to appear. Instead reactions like “I cannot see that there is global warming when New York had the coldest winter for decades” or “There is nothing we as private persons can do”5 seem to be common. Reasons therefor are manifold. The media, as they want to sell their news, overindulge in sensationalism and routinization (Moeller 1999). Sensationalism is used to attract people on every occasion. Due to a media oversupply, attention spans of the spectators are short. Therefore, one cause follows another within short durations in media coverage. Since every catastrophe provides a real (monetary) news value for media companies just for a short period of time, an in-depth examination of causes and consequences of distant suffering hardly ever happens. Rather, coverage scratches the surface and then, jumps to the next event. Routinization, then, is an inevitable consequence of the resulting rapid fading of news and the need for sensationalism in the coverage. When a spectacular news creation worked once, this pattern will be used repeatedly (ibid). Many people are bored by the routinization of disasters or simply numbed from the overstimulation of mediated suffering. Furthermore, they might feel powerless due to the apocalyptical discourse of conservative media (Foust/ O’Shannon Murphy 2009; Lakoff 2010) underlaid with the rising CO2 emission of states like China, India or Brazil. Finally, some might be simply disinterested. In contrast to humanitarian disasters, environmental campaigns and their long-term effects are hard to illustrate. These illustrative difficulties combined with media’s sensationalism make it especially hard for environmental non-governmental organisations to communicate their predominantly scientific causes constantly via the media.
Whereas many people seem to have difficulties to strike up a relationship or emotional bonding with foreign misery (distant suffering) or hardly visible problems like environmental causes, the impact of the invisible concept of brands6 is perhaps so wide as never before. In the neoliberal world of today, nearly every organisational form is branded - regardless of its character as sport club, tech company, nation state, political party or clothing producer to name but a few. Brands’ impact goes so far that there are acrimonious debates, of nearly religious kind, between Windows and Mac OS or Android and iOS users. Moreover, “hardcore Apple fans” (Keller 2008: 162) camp days or even weeks in front of Apple stores just to buy a new 700 USD iPhone.7
The world of brands along with its ability of emotional bonding could provide fruitful possibilities for NGOs, especially for those with environmental cause orientation. The use of and appearance as brands by these organisations could increase donations and donors loyalty and bridge activism and lifestyle. Moreover, the introductory characterised problem of Compassion Fatigue and the following inactivity can be avoided through emotional brand bonding. Nevertheless, unsurprisingly no Social Movement Brand is part of the ‘ 2014 - Best Global Brands ’ ranking by Interbrand, although brands from various market sectors as diverse as computer technology and software, food and drinks, automobile industry, entertainment, fashion, body care and household articles, furniture shops or financial services are featured. Two conclusions can be drawn from this. First, Social Movement Brands do not play an important role in international Branding practices and evaluations. Although there are strong Social Movement Brands like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Red Cross, M é decins Sant Fronti è res or Sea Shepherd, NGO Branding seems to be a niche. Second, although the importance of Branding in the non-profit sector could be regarded as downsized by this ranking, it reveals an astonishing wide range of contexts in which strong brands can be created. This supports the assumption that Branding perhaps can be applied to nearly every context and consequently also provides potential for NGOs.
That Branding can be meaningful and rewarding for NGOs of any kind has been shown on the example of Alzheimer’s Australia. Interbrand has accompanied the organisation in its efforts to create a strong brand and finally, they succeeded. Not only have they created a strongly recognised brand but - at the same time - they have created a real movement, increased funding and - most important - created awareness and pressure which finally led to a politics’ change.
3. Academic Approaches to Social Movement Branding
Research about Branding in the non-profit sector is a relatively young and even smaller niche in academia. In order to identify gaps in previous research and to define a niche to which this thesis contributes, a short research review has been conducted.
There are predominantly two journals which have been occupying this topic for twenty years now, but beside there is not much discourse about the topic. Moreover, the non-profit sector is far from being homogenous. Instead, there are very different concepts like NGOs, educational sector, culture and the more included. Furthermore, since Branding is largely ignored by most environmental or social movement researchers which focuses more on social media or framing, the discourse about non-profit Branding is most notably led by researchers with economic background. In the following, a short overview of the resulting streams in non-profit Branding discourse is given to illustrate the actual academic background.
BRANDING OF THE UNBRANDABLE?
“ While the proponents of NGO branding consider branding an opportunity for the organization to be reflexive about its values and communicate these values more explicitly, one might see a contradiction between advertising ’ s logic of recognition and the logic of education or awareness-raising “ (Vestergaard 2008: 472)
There has been an active discussion in the field of NGO practitioners and academia starting with the end of the old millennium if the use of market logic by NGOs is harmful or beneficial, untenable or justifiable. Whereas Alan Tapp could not find brand orientation in NGO managerial practices in 1996, Philippa Hankinson revealed in a small scale study an overwhelming brand orientation in UK charities (Hankinson 2000). Both discourses, pro and contra brand orientation in NGOs practices, have some valid arguments as Anne Vestergaard illustrates. On the one hand, due to “Competition, neo-liberal political ideals, declining government support along side numerous scandals in the non-profit sector in the 1990s” (Vestergaard 2008: 472) a change in organisations’ communication and appearance have become necessary. On the other hand, humanitarian or environmental NGOs are from scratch non- profit and thus, some activists or supporters may be irritated by NGOs transferring into Social Movement Brands and hence, consequently into market entities. That the transformation of NGOs into Social Movement Brands or at least the application of brand logic and marketing can be useful is apparent when Kevin Lane Keller’s “marketplace benefits that are created from having a strong brand” are considered (Keller 2009: 140). At least six out of eight mentioned advantages can be helpful for NGOs as well. Transferred to NGOs as Social Movement Brands, these effects could be named “improved perception and organisation awareness” (which is helpful in the marketplace of NGOs competing for funding and news circulation), “greater donor loyalty”, “less vulnerability to competitive NGOs’ marketing”, “greater business cooperation possibilities” (e.g. WWF cooperating with the German beer Brand Krombacher or Sea Shepherd’s business co-operations which will be exploited later on), “increased range of news communication” and “additional licensing opportunities” (going along with business co-operation opportunities and the possibility of merchandise sales).
NPO, NGO OR CHARITY - A CONCEPTUAL APPROACH
Nevertheless, there have been different ideas and concepts of how Branding can be applied to the field of NGOs (Appendix A). Interestingly, most researchers in relevant sources write about Non-profit Organisations (NPOs) or Charities instead of NGOs when it comes to Branding. Also the terms Voluntary Sector and Not-For-Profit are used as often as NGO. This may be accounted for by the choice of publications. Since Branding in context of NGOs is a small academic niche, most of the sources were taken from the Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing and the Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. In context of these journals, two reasons could be exploited to explain this terminology. One may be the circumstance that UK charities are a popular research object. Although most of the research is done in general context, there is a favour for analysing UK charities when it comes to specialisation. Beside, no other focus is discernible. Furthermore, because both journals use the non-profit term in their names, they may focus more on the character of non-profit than on the character of non- governmentality. Rob Paton, for example, starts his 1995 advocacy that marketing can be applied to NGOs with the assumption that marketing in its very basic economic definition do not fit to NPOs. He sees the possibility to describe “donors as customers, the cause as a product, the donation as the price” (Paton 1996: 24), but this would lead to inaccuracies. Although Rob Paton argues that “there are no simple definitions or precise boundaries regarding what is profit-making and what is not-for-profit” (ibid), he redefines the concept of marketing to make it applicable to NPO rather than rethinking NPOs in market contexts. That there is some type of marketing in NPOs’ context is beyond dispute since the employment of “marketing professionals, use [of] marketing concepts and techniques, and hire advertising, direct mail and other such agencies” are clearly “a form of marketing” (Paton 1996: 23). The use of media and mass communication channels, a wide spread part of Branding, is seen as an additional pillar of the organisation’s communication next to personal communication via face to face contact, events and the more. Moreover, donations are not seen as pure exchange and thus, the existence of marketer and costumer is denied (ibid). But when there is no exchange and consequently no exchange value, why do people give money to organisations? Perhaps, donating should be seen as a moral trade. In this respect, donating would mean buying a good conscience. Then, there is at least an emotional value included in this exchange and this leads against to Branding with its key component of sign value - especially in political contexts (Bolin 2009).
BRANDING VS. MARKETING - A CONTEXTUAL APPROACH
The scepticism towards a marketplace for NGOs, which is not exclusive for very early texts, perhaps explains why research focusses on the question if and how marketing can be applied to NGOs nearly as often as on Branding practices by the same. Although ‘market’ is a key component of the term ‘marketing’, using this term weakens the market context. This may look like a contradiction on the first glance, but marketing is often simply seen as a method of promotional communication and thus, applicable to NGOs without further market context analysis. Branding, on the contrary, means to create a Brand with tools like marketing and therefore, to create a market entity. However, the differences between Branding logic and Charity logic may not be that unbridgeable as often referred to since especially modern Branding often bases on principal elements of traditional Charity communication (Griffiths 2005). To put it in a populist way: While NGOs struggle with applying Branding techniques, brands already use NGO communication practices (e.g. CSR reports, emotional advertisement, even NGO like commercials). There might be a convergence of non-profit and for-profit communication strategies which has first been exploited by for-profit brand.
Interestingly, according to my research review, Branding and marketization as framework is established only since this decade. Before, marketing and Branding were struggling in importance and it has been just 21 years that brands and NGOs or Charities were thought together the first time (Hankinson 2004). Thus, it is still a rather young discipline.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Although NGO Branding has been highly controversial and still is under discussion, there have been researchers which bridge the theoretical contradictions from the beginning8. While these older works often argue for Branding in the non-profit sector in general, newer articles tend to focus not only on Branding itself but on special components like Brand Equity (Du et al. 2009; Laidler-Kylander/ Simonin 2009; Autere et al. 2013), ‘ The Concept of Brand Personality as an Instrument for Advanced Non-Profit Branding ‘ (Herbst/ Voeth 2008), internal vs. external Branding (Hankinson 2004, Orgad 2013), the usage of the internet9 or Branding as technique for avoiding Compassion Fatigue (Vestergaard 2008). Moreover, the notion of NGOs as special case brands changed in the way that they are nowadays often perceived as normal brands like every other. Interestingly, an internal approach for analysing NGOs as brands seems to be more common than an audience approach. Although there are researches focussing on the donors (e.g. Hibbert/ Horne 1997; Du et al. 2009), the brand orientation of NGO managers is more often researched (e.g. Hankinson 2000 & 2001; Griffiths 2005). Charity shops, a component which is especially important for Sea Shepherd, are often analysed on its own. They have been legitimately primarily seen as funding resources (Holden 1996) and not that much as part of the Social
Movement Brand. This may be the case in many Charities which operate second hand shops for their local communities. In times of global NGOs like Amnesty International, Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd, this notion may be not thought far enough. When Sea Shepherd’s German section alone generates an income of nearly EUR 763,000 in 2013 with its online shop and sales activities (which is equal to 21.5% of the amount generated via donations), then the importance of this income steam should be given more weight to. Furthermore, Sea Shepherd (and other transnational NGOs) do not sell second hand products any longer but operate professional merchandise sales. Thus, it have to be considered as part of Branding and perhaps even Brand Equity since people buy products adorned with the organisation’s logo.
NEED FOR NGO BRANDING
Most of the NGO Branding researchers agree on the factors identified as reasons for the introduction and the need of Branding in the non-profit sector. Neoliberal developments within the society led to less funding for NGOs (Vestergaard 2008; Du et al. 2009) and the rise in organisations’ numbers increased rivalry among NGOS (Ritchie et al. 1999; Hankinson 2000; Herbst/ Voeth 2008). Both circumstances are seen as the main background for this relatively new practice. These challenges are complemented by the problem of Compassion Fatigue (Vestergaard 2008) and the change of the generation of donors - namely into the Generation Y (Branigan/ Mitsis 2014) which requires new ways of communication in order to be attracted. Although there are all kind of attributes linked to this generation, the need for meaning in various forms and parts of life is a recurring characteristic. When NGOs are able to provide such meanings via their brands as interfaces (Lury 2004), they are able to establish a relationship which provides meaningful exchange for both sides: NGOs generate income via these exchanges while the donors receive good feelings and consciences (Hankinson 2000) - and help to establish their value systems. Dominick Prinz (2014), an Interbrand professional, breaks the brands’ power for engaging people by providing a purpose down into the following words: “We are searching for purpose - something that is our contribution to a better world and our very personal legacy.” Which organisational form does this desire match better than NGOs? Fittingly, studies confirm that many people demand something to identify with from NGOs before they decide to donate (Hankinson 2000).
Generally, it has to be noticed that in analysing NGOs (or any of its synonyms)10 as brands, the cultural component (Arnould/ Cayla 2008) is more of importance than the economical. This does not mean that economic concomitants should be ignored. They necessarily have to be incorporated to understand NGOs’ brand usage in its whole. However, since “A brand is fundamentally a mental phenomenon and a result of communication [and] Human relationships are founded on communication” (Bishop et al. 2005), concentrating on the cultural component means to focus on the way NGOs use brand logic and marketing tools in order to communicate with their various audiences and stakeholders, including the way how NGOs’ logos are used as interface and NGOs’ Brand Identities are used for emotional connections and relationships which donors, activists and followers create. With this strategy, NGOs are both able to avoid Compassion Fatigue when reaching unattached audiences via general organisation Branding and to use mediated distant suffering for cause marketing when promoting actual campaigns towards their key audiences such as activists and loyal donors.
4. Research Aim and Questions
The aim of this thesis is to analyse how NGOs in general and the conservation society Sea Shepherd in particular use their brand potential in order to perform in an increasingly marketised world. Here, the possibilities of avoiding Compassion Fatigue and bonding loyal donors or volunteers are of special interest. The competition of NGOs with each other - but conceivable also with brands from other markets since private expenditures are limited (Hankinson 2000) - and the rise of brand behaviour by NGOs in online communication and fundraising is thus the centre stage. Moreover, the focus is on how NGOs use their reputation as core of their brand creation. This is seen as an important factor to forge long-term loyalty, attract volunteers and, last but not least, establish awareness and a place in the public mind.
It is not accidental that the word how is chosen instead of whether since the thesis should not question if NGOs act like brands or not. That they do so - consciously or accidentally - has been illustrated relatively early by various researchers (e.g. Dixon 1997; Sargeant 1999; Hankinson 2000). Although the ‘brand’ term implies a negative, as commercial, connotation for some activists and researchers, the cultural functions of brands are widely used among especially UK charities and can provide useful tools for transnational environmental NGOs like Sea Shepherd, too. To provide contextual background which supports this assumption, the thesis will introduce the ideas of non-profit non-governmental organisations (NPNGOs) and a broadly marketised world and problematise the partly useful communication strategy of mediated suffering and the inherent danger of Compassion Fatigue. Subsequent, the theories of Branding and Reputation Management are combined with the findings of the non-profit Branding research review to create an idea of a communicative Social Movement Brand. Finally, the online communication and Compassion Fatigue avoiding brand usage of Sea Shepherd is going to be examined in this theoretical context. For this purpose, the official website, SSCS’s online shop and its ‘Operation Relentless’ video on YouTube are analysed according to their use of reputation defence, logos and narratives among other findings.
As the research review has shown, there has been research on NGO Branding established as academic niche. Nevertheless, there is quite little researched yet compared to other academic fields. Most of the conducted research focusses on brand usage as funding technique and a way to operate more like business companies. As a result, there is a gap which should be occupied in this thesis: NGO Branding as useful communication strategy to reach the Generation Y while avoiding Compassion Fatigue. Consequently, the rather theoretical discussion in the sections B and C are underlined by and aimed at the following general research questions:
G1. How does the market for NGOs look like?
G1.1 For what have NGOs to compete with each other? G1.2 For whom have NGOs to compete with each other?
G2. Why might it be advantageous for NGOs to act like brands?
G3. Can NGOs adopt marketing techniques like Branding and Reputation Management without losing their character as non-profits?
Special interest is thereby on the example of Sea Shepherd, an NGO which gained much attention during the last years. To examine this research object and therewith to contribute to the discourse of brand usage in non-profit contexts and the discourse of environmental communication strategies, the following specific questions have underlaid the thesis’ examination in the section D and E:
S1. What are the components that make Sea Shepherd a Social Movement Brand?
S2. How does Sea Shepherd use Branding in order to communicate with its various audiences?
S3. What role does the merchandise sales play in SSCS’ fundraising activities and donors’ binding? S4. How is Branding used by Sea Shepherd in order to avoid Compassion Fatigue? S5. How does Sea Shepherd manage its reputation?
B. Contextual Framework
5. Disambiguation: Non-Profit Non-Governmental Organisations
“ As a matter of fact, the category ‘ NGO ’ describes a type of actor in society which has acquired a role of its own, a legitimacy which has its roots in recent history. ” (Beaudoin 2004: 367)
As powerful as the term NGO is, as vague is it. It is used by various significantly differing organisations to describe themselves and used in the public discourse as general term for civil associations, environmental movements and independent organisations of varying kinds. The abbreviation stands for ‘Non-Governmental Organisations’ and means in its simplest interpretation that the organisation is neither part of a government nor dependent on state funding or structures. In its most rigid interpretation, it means an independent organisation which functions as consultant for the United Nations (Beaudoin 2004).
According to Jean-Pierre Beaudoin, the term NGO was mentioned the first time in 1945 in the Charter of the United Nations. Of course, there have been Social Movements and independent organisations in several parts of society before. After 1945 then an organisation which wanted to receive the newly created status as NGO could be registered by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and within the first three years, 40 organisations did so. Since 1996, NGOs must furthermore provide reports of their activities. The number of officially registered NGOs has been growing constantly and reached 2.379 officially registered NGOs in 2003 (Beaudoin 2004). In 2014, ECOSOC has registered 4.045 NGOs as of the first September from which 142 organisations have been registered as consultative, 2.926 as special consultative and 977 have been on the Roster (ECOSOC 2014). These numbers only apply for official NGOs in the UN’s sense of the term. As researcher, one has to be careful applying these numbers since in the UN’s sense, NGOs can have the shape of ‘advisory’ lobby organisations like the “International Centre for the Training of Bank Professionals (UNIDO)” (2014: 119), “International Trademark Association” (2014:59) or the “World Trade Centers Association” (2014: 94) and must not necessarily follow non-profit causes. However, the term is often used in its broader sense. According to Pia Brundin (2009), NGOs grew from 176 (in 1909) to 28.900 in 1993 and finally, to more 40.000 with the end of the last century. Moreover, the online community encyclopaedia Wikipedia reports about 2 million NGOs in its broader sense in India alone and about 1.5 million in the US.11
The concept of NGOs can obviously differ greatly from definition to definition, from source to source and from context to context. The term is often used as generic term which covers many other terms, ideas and concepts of organisations like Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs), Not-For-Profit Organisation (NFPOs), Charities (as long as it is independent from the state), Voluntary Sector Organisations or, in some extent, also Network Activism. As the term NGO is the most common term in several cultures and languages12 and this thesis focusses not on sociology or political sciences, slightly differences in these concepts, which may exists, could be ignored.
In order to narrow down the field and, even more important, the terminology of the thesis, the concept of NPNGO is introduced. This likely uncommon term is a combination between NGO and NPO and should underline the two most important characteristics of the considered organisations. They should neither be a part of governmental structures nor be a part of a company's conglomeration. Thus, there is a clear demarcation to state welfare on the one hand and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Social Entrepreneurship on the other. Nevertheless, this demarcation does not exclude support or funding from state sources as long as the organisations clearly remain independent and do not entirely rely on this income. The same applies to possible business co-operations or donations. Furthermore, professional seemingly for-profit funding is not excluded as long as the income is used for non-profit causes.
Summarising, the important key components which define NPNGOs in the thesis’ context are that organisation is neither part of a governmental structure nor a commercially driven company. It includes a number of activists and volunteers and aims to help or serve someone, to conserve nature, flora or fauna or to educate people. It is driven by donations or funding the organisation generates itself and does not rely on governmental funding or support. An important requirement which is shared by all included concepts and must inevitable be fulfilled by an activists’ collaboration to be regarded as NPNGO is the structural character of an organisation. An NPNGO must have an official structure, meaning a foundation, an association or a society of any kind, and have to be registered somewhere. Loose connections and unofficial affiliations like Anti-Fascist Actions (AFAs) or event related alliances are exempli gratia not considered as NPNGO - neither in this thesis nor in the general discourse.
6. Communicating and Performing in Neoliberal Environments
„ The neoliberalism has eminently changed the world during the last decades - arguably much more than every other ideological innovation since the 2 nd World War. “ (Schreiner 2015: 7) 13
What makes neoliberalism that influential in current times is that not only considerable parts of the society stick to the ideological concept of neoliberalism but especially many institutional and social players like politicians, the ‘International Monetary Fund’ (IMF), the ‘World Bank’ or the European Union. Such an omnipresence of an ideology inevitably shapes societies since “ Ideologies are systems of widely shared ideas and patterned beliefs that are accepted as truth by significant groups in society. [ … ] ideologies organize their core ideas into fairly simple truth-claims that encourage people to act in certain ways ” (Roy / Steger 2010: 11)
Despite the indisputable impact of neoliberalism on societies, there is no clear definition for this term. Rather, it is used in extensively varying context and can transport considerably different meanings. Among other meanings, neoliberalism is often used as „political combat term, analytical notion for the labelling of an ideology […] and political expletive” (Schreiner 2015: 9)14. These are just a few of numerous possible contexts of use. Ravi K. Roy and Manfred B. Steger subsumed its meanings in these three summarising categories: “(1) an ideology; (2) a mode of governance; (3) a policy package” (Roy / Steger 2010: 11). For this thesis, all three categories are of importance as contextual environment, the more since they can hardly be completely separated. However, function (1) is the most interesting. In fact, it can be seen as origin of neoliberalism since this thinking tradition was originally established among economic researchers in academia (Schreiner 2015) and has then been continually reconstituted by function (2) and (3) after finding its way into the public.
Neoliberalism in context of this thesis is understood as “economic- and socio-political ideology and movement […] whose aim was and is the enforcement of market-based regulatory mechanism” (Schreiner 1015: 10)15. Furthermore, Roy and Steger clarify that neoliberalism is a “rather economistic ideology, which, not unlike its archrival Marxism, puts the production and exchange of material goods at the heart of the human experience” (2010: 12). The basis for this ideology is the conviction that self- regulating markets work as society’s engine and consequently, states should never interfere with these markets (Roy / Steger 2010; Schreiner 2015). Thus, the only states’ business should be the enablement of markets (Roy / Steger 2010). Hence, neoliberalism primarily means repression of the state by private players and the following marketization of former public or state spheres, duties or institutions. This political and economic practice results inevitable in accumulation of capital and power in the hands of small elites.
The neoliberal ideology is currently widely held among different spheres of the world. Although not fitting into neoliberal schemes of untouched markets, especially the two institutions IMF and World Bank brought the ‘Washington Consensus’ (Roy / Steger 2010: 20) into the whole world as conditions for much-needed loans. These dictated “structural adjustment programmes” (Roy / Steger 2010: 10) occasionally have been realised without democratic legitimisation.
“ It falls more and more into place, that what Europe is currently experiencing is not an episode but a power struggle between the primacy of economics and the primacy of politics. The political has already lost ground what is recognisable by the fact that all political concepts which had been tied to the unified Europe have dispersed in the wind like ashes. [ … ] Does no one see that we now leave valuations of democratic processes to rating agencies, analysts or any banking federations? ” 16 (Schirrmacher 2011)
This commentary by Frank Schirrmacher, at that time associated editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which can been characterised as the German bourgeois newspaper par excellence, in context of a planned referendum in Greece according to the EU troika reform plans aroused great attention in Germany. Regardless of the mixed reactions, the quote exemplifies the basis which sets the contextual frame for this thesis - a continuous rise of neoliberalism in all spheres of society. Ulrich Beck has warningly characterised neoliberals as “liquidators” (2000: 8) of the West rather than its reformers. Especially the most extreme shape of neoliberalism, the libertarianism, aims in its final consequence to abolish the state. Nevertheless, nowadays constitutive parts of the public, politicians and economists often seek societies’ salvation in this development. To keep to the example of Greece, the government was forced to cut public expenditures and to privatise many sectors. After the 2015 elections, DIW (German institution for economic research) head Marcel Ratzscher agreed with Syriza leader and new premier minister Alexis Tsipras that the Greek debts are not viable any longer. But instead of a debt cut, he called for more privatisation and depletion of Greek protectionist laws.
As apparent, the fundamental grasp of neoliberals is that neoliberalism is much more than a mere analytical tool which just exists among academia. Neoliberals envision themselves as constitutive force which directly aims to shape society (Schreiner 2015). This interception between theory and practice is in some extent comparable with Naomi Klein’s call for active opposition of academics who know the time of the day. Interestingly, in this sense NPNGOs could be construed to be part of neoliberalism as well. Since they are non-profit, hardly anyone would blame them to be neoliberal as they do not try to cumulate capital through repressing the state. Nevertheless, NPNGOs continually substitute and complement the state in areas in which it has failed or deferred to the “primacy of economics”. This can be the protection of the environment against Japanese Whaling industry’s financial interests, the help for areas of deprivation, political education, the protection of human rights and the more. Regardless which of these directions a NPNGO is following, it often undertakes actual duties of the society or the state. Moreover, many current NPNGOs are transnational and consequently, part of the globalisation - itself a consequence of nowadays ‘Marketised World’ and ‘Networked Society’.
6.1 Living in a Marketised World
“ A Swiss company designs baby names and charges 28.000 Euro for that service. Insanity? Actually just consequent. [ … ] „ The call for individuality nowadays is so immense ” 17 ( Süddeutsche Zeitung )
Beside this admittedly bizarre example of marketization of the private life, there are several evidences to be found in everyday life which prove the assumption that people nowadays live in a marketised world. Marketization means “The exposure of an industry or service to market forces” and is sub defined as “The conversion of a national economy from a planned to a market economy” by Oxford dictionaries. Both definitions provide an overview as what marketization has to be understood. Nevertheless, the definition of marketization in a neoliberal world should be broadened to all imaginable spheres of life. Not only “an industry or service” can appear in market segments but also clubs, foundations, associations and the more. Moreover, the aspect of conversion mentioned in the sub definition is of great importance to understand this development but has to be applied not only to former planned economies but to nearly all entities and spheres of society. After the so called “golden age of controlled capitalism” (Steger/ Roy 2010: 7) which lasted from 1945-1975 and established welfare states around the western world, the economic crises of 1970s let the political leaders radically change their strategies. In all spheres of life, competition was highlighted. Consequently, the aspect of conversion finally reached everything and everyone who or what competed with each other in the one or the other sense. This transformational aspect applies to NPNGOs in them same way as to nation states which have to compete with each other in multiply respects18 to name just two examples.
There are relatively easy identifiable evidences for a marketization of societies. These are of linguistic, structural and allegedly innovative kind. On the linguistic level, terms like housing or labour market, which are not only part of jargon but also of ordinary language, illustrate the deep embedding of market logic within culture and society. These terms describe areas of life in which most people are involved. Working and housing are cornerstones of (not only modern) societies. Through the labelling as market, it is evident that these cornerstones base on competition among people. The structural evidences are not less clear but the will of detection is the basis to reveal them. In the last few decades, there has been a constant and far-reaching privatisation in many areas of the western world (Schreiner 2015). This trend has been supported by actors like lobbyists, European Union, the IMF or the World Bank (Roy/ Steger 2010). Especially the last two have been highly active in forcing privatisation since active states had been claimed as responsible for crises and essential needed loans have been accommodated in exchange for ‘structural adjustment programmes’ (ibid: 10). These programmes are structured around what they Steger and Roy call the “‚ D-L-P Formula ‘ : (1) d eregulation (of the economy); (2) l iberalization (of trade and industry) and (3) p rivatization (of state owned enterprises) ” (Steger/ Roy 2010: 14).
As consequence, often former state duties like infrastructure have been outsourced into private companies. This concerns infrastructural fields like public transport, supply of water and energy, sovereign functions like air traffic control or education.
A current example for a marketization of life is the trend of Shareconomy. What is at the first sight a great idea to save resources and thus, to diminish environmental harm, is often a transformation of personal spheres into markets. Due to allegedly innovative 19 internet platforms like Airbnb or Uber, more and more people act like market players who have to compete with other service providers on these platforms. This transformation harms not only long established professions like hoteliers or taxi drivers but, moreover, blurs the borders between profession and private life. Since the work is delegated towards private providers competing on internet platforms but the actual profit is made by these platforms, the German journalist Sascha Lobo introduced the term platform capitalism instead of Shareconomy. All these so called interruptive startups are united in that they want to change societies and laws with their alleged innovations.
All these types of evidence for marketization prove Ulrich Beck who has already 1997 written about “subpolitics” (2000: 4) and the way how companies influence or actually make politics and ultimately shape the state. The current free trade agreements negotiations between the EU and the USA (TTIP) respectively Canada (CETA) along with the planned introduction of private arbitral tribunals are a next step into what Becks calls “globalism” (2000: 9) - a global world ruled by corporations and economies in which the state disappears. Furthermore, until this aim is reached, complex structures “such as Germany - its state, its society, its culture, its foreign policy - [should] be run in the way that a company is run” (Beck 2000: 9). Since corporations can “export jobs” (ibid: 3) to relocate them in cheaper countries and play off countries against each other, nation states “must all attract capital, people and knowledge in order to survive the competition in world society” (ibid: 5). As a consequence, there is a market for nation state brands established (Jansen 20008, Andrejevic/ Volcic 2011) although it is not that apparent like marketplaces we are confronted with on daily basis. This hardly recognisable marketplace is in some extent comparable with the also highly invisible marketplace for NPNGOs. What this implementation of neoliberal logic for societies means, gets apparent by the debate about migration which currently takes place in Germany.
“ The rating question for economic migrants is strictly to be sorted from the debate if migration in its whole - meaning also refugees and EU citizens - is profitable or not. [ … ] Admittedly, Germany was rated as second favoured immigration country within the OECD in 2013. “ But less than ten percent of the immigrants have gotten a right of residence as working force. We have to enhance this rate to fifty percent in the long run ” says the economist Herbert Brücker from the institute of labour market and employment research. ” 20
This is exactly what Frank Schirrmacher wrote about when he meant that the “primacy of economics” has subjected the primacy of politics - and the primacy of philanthropy could be added.
A world which extols the free market as ne plus ultras, declines democracy and state influence on public spheres (Bennett 2003), in which “the world market eliminates or supplements political action” and which reorganise state duties as private services, in this world also “ecology, culture, politics, and civil society” are systems “under the sway of the world market system” (Beck 2000: 9). Several researchers have claimed for this notion using different terms which basically mean the same. Among the used terminology are terms like “global capitalism” (Andrejevic/ Volcic 2011), “the global marketplace” (Ritchie/ Swami/ Weinberg 1999; Arnould / Cayla 2008), “globalized market-mediated society” (Arnould / Cayla 2008), “modern interactive marketplace” (Keller 2009) or simply “global market” and “world market” (Beck 2000). In this thesis, the term marketised world is used since it emphasises the notion of a society which is divided into several marketplaces in nearly all imaginable spheres. As a consequence of the all-embracing market logic within society, many former non-economic areas are now transformed into markets and have to compete primarily with each other for funding, for supporters or donors, for awareness and for a place in the collective consciousness, for users, costumers, activists or students and finally, to put it straight, for their existence. Elsewhere, I formulated it in the following way and I think there is nothing left to be added:
“ In today ’ s globalised (neoliberal) world, literally everything is branded. No matter what kind of product, service or institution one has in mind, there are created images, costumer communication channels and, in somewhat, brands established. This is true for football clubs as well as for NGOs, music artists or even whole subcultures. One could argue that our whole world is branded and, in some extent, people desire this for building their own identity by consuming brands. ” (Weigel 2014a)
6.2 A Networked Society - Communication via New Media
Researchers like Anne Vestergaard continually claim that NPNGOs have to alter their communication strategies due to changing media environments. The most important change in these environments is doubtlessly the development of what can be called a ‘networked society’. Its emergence is inevitably linked with the rise of neoliberalism - and vice versa. Videlicet, the networked society can be seen as a result and an engine of the neoliberal globalisation. Online networks and social media like LinkedIn and Facebook are engines of neoliberal conversion of the private sphere since they turn private lives into competitive entities on the marketplace of personalities (Schreiner 2015). So called ‘Shareconomy’ websites are a result of neoliberal rise since they totally embrace neoliberal logic transferred into private spheres in which private persons transfer to service deliverers and an engine of neoliberal transformation since they often act in legal grey zones shaping judiciary. Often, these developments are euphemistically characterised as democratisation and de-centralisation of the internet. Although this might be justifiable on the first sight since reaching huge audiences is seemingly much more easy in this new environment for smaller organisations and even private persons, especially Social Media and ‘Shareconomy’ are the complete opposition since most of the communication is done via one or two networks (Facebook, twitter) and the major part of the income is earned by huge companies like Google and not by the users. Furthermore, danah boyd (2007) and Sherry Turkle (2008) have shown already 7-8 years ago that online networks and Social Media interfere and alter the lives of predominantly young users which are now "Always-On" and hence, constitute a "Tethered Self" (Turkle 2008: 10). During the last years and due to the emergence of twitter and Facebook, the interference between online sphere and actual life doubtless has grown. NPNGOs nowadays have to face these altered realities and make the best out of it. When the possibilities are used cleverly, they can undisputedly be beneficial for these organisations.
In this respect, NPNGOs can learn from another form of activism - the Network Activism. Lance Bennett has focused on the emergence of network activism in his 2003 article ‘ Communicating Global Activism. Strengths and Vulnerabilities of Networked Politics ‘ and worked out some strengths which could be embraced by NPNGOs as well. Some NPNGOs like Amnesty International, Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd already share certain similarities with this type of activism. They are targeting directly transnational aims like global player companies (e.g. Shell, BP) or even transnational associations (e.g. FIFA, IOC). Furthermore, they seem to be more open for different political identities involved - one of the most important strengths characterised by Bennett. Although conservation societies and humanitarian NPNGOs traditionally are closer to left and green parties, they also embrace the political liberal spectrum and perhaps unattached activists. Even far right-winged politicians have discovered the conservation topic for their programmatic (Hurd/ Werther 2013). Hence, one does not necessarily have to be a leftist any longer to be an activist. Bennett argues that this particular kind of political openness matches well with development of weakened right and left movements caused by neoliberal politics - a notion which is shared by Ulrich Beck (2000). Although this assumption can be questioned regarding the current rise of right-populist and anti-refugee movements, it may correlates with the self- characterisation of young people’s political activity (see 7.2).
As a consequence of rising neoliberalism and globalisation, Beck claims that the concept of nations is getting significantly less important. Not only that people are getting more mobile in choice of working places and thus, the market for skilled labourers is nowadays international rather than bound to territorial borders, also education (e.g. Erasmus), communication (e.g. Social Media), politics (e.g. EU), economy (e.g. Coca Cola, Apple or Google) and lifestyle are significantly more international. Arguably, especially the latest has always been kind of international like the French impact on the Baroque era illustrates vicariously. Nevertheless there is a new internationality of not only companies but also the public and private lives which has altered the shape of society into a “Transnational Civil Society” (Beck 2000: 64). This transnational Civil Society is not seen as postmodern but rather as indicating a second age of modernity. In times of this so called second age of modernity, civil societies are no longer bound to state territories. Rather, many obstacles and challenges of society are at least multi-national. When nowadays threatening causes are mostly international, then protest and resistance must be structured inter- or transnational, too. In this aspect, Network Activism has an invaluable advantage over traditional NPNGOs which were based on face-to-face contact. Network Activism, on the contrary, relocates the social interaction with and between activists, followers and supporters into online connections (Bennett 2003). The mere connection via online channels - beside all its advantages - nevertheless involves the danger of malpractice. As Bennett claims, this way of connectedness can lead to difficulties in campaign controlling since in networks, many people functions as content creators and not as simple distributors like it is the case in hierarchical organisations. Hence, it is not that easy to create “collective identity frames” (ibid: 145) and these lose networks can easily run into an originally unwanted direction or be taken over by unwanted forces. An extreme example for this danger is the internet collective ‘Anonymous’. Often, left-winged hackers work under the sword of this name.
Nevertheless, since everyone can use the collective’s name and there is no members’ register or official spokesman, also right-winged hackers use this appearance from time to time hoping to benefit from the collective’s reputation. As will be shown later, many NPNGOs nowadays embrace the positive aspects of mostly lose international Network Activism without being at risk to lose the control over their campaigns and the use of their name.
Non-profit non-governmental Organisations have to deal with the internet today as it is one of the most common communication tools in current times. This means, they have to face the needs of internet communication. Some researchers argue that this will change the nature of organisations. Furthermore, especially independent NPNGOs with little resources compared to the state or companies can benefit (Bennett 2003).
6.3 The Branding of Everything
“ Brands have become ubiquitous in global popular culture. The Coca-Cola logo and Nike swoosh are brand symbols that trigger myriad responses; their cognitive salience and ability to arouse passion are undeniable ” (Arnould / Cayla 2008: 86)
To introduce a broader approach to brands, I want to shortly step back from the preferably objective researcher's perspective and refer to personal experiences and behaviour. I believe that starting this topic with an everyday life example can simplify the following academic analyses and thoughts. As private person, I myself never liked the type of consumer which is commonly referred to as label bitch in ordinary language.21 Although I am highly interested in Branding from a researcher's perspective, I could never understand why people project themselves into 'cool' brands like Adidas, Nike, A&F and the more. I never felt the desire to wear these branded clothes. Anyhow, in the beginning of 2015 then, I recognised myself in an elevator’s mirror and suddenly realised the irony considering my reflection. I wore a Sea Shepherd beanie, a Sea Shepherd shirt and a Hammarby IF scarf. I asked myself if this was not the same like wearing branded clothes. Furthermore, considering my wardrobe, I had to admit that my clothes were far from not being labelled. There were two antifascist shirts, three shirts of my favourite football club 1. FC Union Berlin and numerous shirts of my favourite bands (carefully: not brands). Furthermore, I owned 5 Union Berlin scarves and one of Hammarby IF. Next to the Sea Shepherd beanie, I owned additionally one from Union Berlin. Does this not describe entirely what is understood as a label bitch?
What this short excurse aims to illustrate is that in order to understand the possibilities of Branding for NPNGOs, it is of importance to understand the multidimensional concept of brands, first. Questions which have to be answered in this respect are what a brand is, what functionalities a brand is meant to fulfil and how it works at all.
Theories what brands actually are, are manifold. There are basically cultural approaches (e.g. Arnould/ Cayla 200), mainly economic understandings (e.g. Keller 2009) and many theories in between (e.g. Lury 2004). Some researchers claim that brands are bound to strong companies, others argue for a wider understanding of brands which could be nearly anything when it works with the logic of Branding and marketization. This thesis arguably supports the latter assumption since NPNGOs are definitely not strong companies in the conventional sense but can be strong brands as proven later on.
Examples for non-corporate brands are innumerable. There are, for instance, famous personalities whose names are by themselves valuable. Football players like Zlatan Ibrahimoviü (“Dare to Zlatan”) and Cristiano Ronaldo (“CR7” what can be considered as claim or logo) or music stars like Madonna (“Queen of Pop”) and Michael Jackson (“King of Pop”) must be mentioned here. All this is not new, already in 1882 Nellie Bly - the first woman who circumnavigated the world - was stylised as pioneer in such a way that merchandise articles were sold. Some radical opinions even go so far as to claim that every single person is a brand on his/her own since “ Everything you do, everywhere you go, the things you look up online, or the preferences you enter into your social media profile paint a pretty complete and increasingly transparent picture of what ‘ your ’ brand is all about. You do the math. That turns our world into a place with roughly 7 billion brands. ” (Prinz 2014)
7. Altered Requirements - NPNGOs facing the Neoliberal Reality
As apparent in the previous chapters, the world has rapidly changed during the last few decades. Beside or perhaps in line with the rise of neoliberalism, the traditional way of NPNGOs’ communication has suffered from deep crises. Two predominantly causes could be blamed for these crises: Rising Compassion Fatigue and the change of the donors’ generation.
7.1 Presenting Suffering is so 1990’s - The Danger of Compassion Fatigue
The media expose pictures of distant victims of civil wars, genocide, massacres and other violence against civil populations, and play a basic role in giving publicity to human suffering. The audience is expected to respond as good citizens with compassion and rational commitment. (Höijer 2004: 513)
Creating compassion has been seen as a valid opportunity to make people react to mediated distant suffering (Orgad 2103). NPNGOs have used it to create public awareness which raises donations and political pressure and media have used it to sell their news (Moeller 1999; Höijer 2004). Compassion is defined as “Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others” by Oxford Dictionaries and as “a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others and a wish to help them” by Cambridge Dictionaries. Both definitions meet the idea of compassion in regard to NPNGOs and in the context of this thesis. NPNGOs have tried and often still try to reach people via evocation of compassion, make their audiences aware of the situation which is centred to the NPNGOs activity and finally, convert the audience into donors or activists.
MODES OF COMPASSION
The definitions, nevertheless, may not be general enough as the different subcategories of compassion (or pity) by Brigitta Höijer illustrate. She divides the modes of compassion into “tender-hearted compassion”, “blame-filled compassion”, “shame-filled compassion” and “powerlessness-filled” compassion (2004: 522). The first category may apply the most to the Oxford Dictionaries’ definition of compassion since it focusses on the suffering in mediation and creates mostly a feeling of pity in the spectator. The second mode, contrastingly, does not only let the spectator feel pity but raises anger directed towards putative perpetrators. This mode can be particularly fruitful for NPNGOs since anger can be converted into the wish of support and activeness. The shame-filled mode should be avoided by NPGOs since it merely creates the feeling of shame within the spectator what can lead to inactivity or even depression. However, in some contexts this mode of compassion can also be fruitful, for example when the aim of the NPNGOs is to change consumers’ behaviour. Another possibility is that people who already think in line with the NPNGOs’ purposes but have not been active so far could be activated as this quote by an interviewee illustrates: “I get furious with myself because I do nothing. You can’t say that you do not have time. It’s a question of priority. Certainly there is more to do.” (Höijer 2004: 523). Nevertheless, this mode should be used with caution since too much blame directed towards the audience can lead to blocking reactions and finally to Compassion Fatigue. The same applies to the powerlessness-filled mode of compassion since the feeling of powerlessness may let people stop dealing with the topic. In general, traditional advertisements who centres compassion works perhaps once (even well), but finally they often will result in blunting and denial rather than loyalty (Moeller 1999).
Compassion Fatigue, according to Oxford Dictionaries, means the “Indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of suffering people, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals.”. Cambridge Dictionaries defines it more general as “the situation in which people stop thinking or worrying about a problem that is affecting a lot of people and stop giving money to them because the problem has continued for too long”. Again, both definitions are perhaps to specific focusing on the monetary aspect of compassion. Nevertheless, it gets clear what the idea behind Compassion Fatigue is. People are, for whatever reason, not able to feel pity for others any longer. Originally, this problem comes from nursing and health care and means that people who are confronted with other people’s suffering in their everyday working routine can lose their ability to empathise with their patients. In context of media studies, this syndrome is transferred to spectators and describes more a cultural problem than a disease pattern. Brigitta Höijer (2004) has discovered in a study to examine the extent of compassion felt by the audience watching news media that 37% of the interviewees do not or very seldom feel pity. Moreover, younger people react considerably less often to mediated distant suffering than elderly people, a fact which is taken up again in the next sub chapter. Although she is critical about the assumption that there is a general Compassion Fatigue problem in today’s information society - she rather claims that Compassion Fatigue can differ from event to event and is merely based on the duration of mediated suffering -, there is a common notion among critical media researcher that Compassion Fatigue is - at least - a possible modern problem (Boltanski 1999; Moeller 1999; Vestergaard 2008).
As there are different kinds of compassion, there are different types of Compassion Fatigue, too - or rather can Compassion Fatigue take various shapes. One not so common shape which should not be ignored especially in contemporary times is denying the verisimilitude of the mediator. In line with this reaction, which characterise every source as lying that is not supporting the own agenda, is the creation of a bi-polar worldview (Höijer 2004). When the world is divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’, the spectators do not have to engage emotionally since the mediated suffering does not concern their world. At the present time, Compassion Fatigue can be seen in current anti-refugees movements across the Western world from Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden to Front National in France, from Australia’s liberal and labour parties to Pegida in Germany. Especially the last movement and its proponents, who usually claim no to be rightists, reveal an astonishing lack of compassion when it comes to refugees. To underline this assumption, two - for this movement - representative events should be mentioned. The first is the murder of a young Eritrean asylum seeker in Dresden at the day of a Pegida demonstration.22 Pegida supporters reacted with Social Media posts like
- “ Rather frightened and submissive asylum seeker/ migrants than always a big mouth and criminal ”
- “ One less ”
- “ I think, it is not so bad. Because when asylum seekers put a German girl into the hospital, it bothers also no one. We just can save money. ” 23
Another example is the context of the leader’s resignation. Before, Lutz Bachmann was quoted calling refugees “dirty lowlife”, “cattle” and “trash” and claimed that “there are NO REAL WAR REFUGEES. Who is able to pay for crossing/ transport to Europe does EVIDENTLY not rank among the threatened.”24 These examples, beside a great deal of inherent racism and xenophobia, reveal also Compassion Fatigue in some extent which is comparable to the examples analysed by Brigitta Höijer (2004). The same patterns have also been perceptible in 1992 in Rostock, Germany when a mob of right-wing extremist attacked and burned the asylum-seekers’ hostel. After several days of demonstrations and agitations against refugees like
“ They do not come for political reasons. I had no objections if they from Yugoslavia - women and children who get murdered there - that we take them. But not those here. They just want to have our money ” 25 (Ble ß mann/ Hass 2012)
“ These are no asylum seekers in the conventional sense, in my eyes they are parasites who want to laze about at the expense of the working people ” 26 (Ble ß mann/ Hass 2012)
which gained much applause, the cultural division changed suddenly into aggression and pure hatred. As surprising as the eruption of violence has been for some observers, it should not be ignored that the cultural division was largely created and supported by the media beforehand (ZAPP 2012).These happenings are far from being occasional instances or a particular German problem. Even in Sweden, one of the most open-minded and liberal countries of the EU, there have been three burning mosques (in Eslöv, Eskilstuna and Uppsala) in the end of 2014.
Some people react with exploitation of stereotypes and try to explain everything with cultural differences rather than trying to understand the actual problems which cause war and suffering in distant regions. When foreigners’ suffering is merely cultural based, so the idea behind this strategy, then it is not the business of local residents. All facts and explanation which does not fit to their point of view are ignored, negated or simply denied as “Lügenpresse” - a word, which has already been used by the Nazi regime, for the press which sets its own agenda and is not perceived as reporting the truth. Denying the press relevance is hence a prominent fact in evolving Compassion Fatigue (Höijer 2004). In order to deal with this type of Compassion Fatigue, NPNGOs, which often are part of the news creation and mediation themselves, need a strong reputation.
SENSATIONALISM AND ROUTINIZATION
However, the predominantly common shape of Compassion Fatigue appears in becoming ”numb or immune to remote human suffering” (Höijer 2004: 524). This leads to reactions like: “‘I cannot engage in it any longer. A dead body no longer touches me.’” (ibid: 525) or simply disinterest like a survey by the Universities of Cardiff and Nottingham discovered. As the study worked out, 88% of the British interviewees believe in climate change but mere 18% are “very concerned”. The reasons for this emotional blunting are pre-eminently to be found in media practices. As Susan D. Moeller puts it, “Crisis coverage is déjà vu all over again” (1999: 16). The media uses storytelling and narratives which has been proven as interest floating frequently and consequently, “ the coverage falls into formula. Mythic elements - the fearless doctor, the unwitting victim - will be emphasised, but they will fall into pattern. Myths, after all, are stories. Some are heroic, some are tragic, most are predictable ” (Moeller 1999: 13)
Since compassion has been seen and worked as attractive selling model for news, sensationalism is used excessively among news media as has been apparent after the crash of a Germanwings airplane this year and became a commodity among others like sports. As it is in sports, where new records are desired in every Olympic Games and every sports event’s mediation - like other media events such as the ESC - is measured against the former (Bolin 2006) , also the commodity compassion is embedded in the mode of sensationalism (Moeller 1999). Every new catastrophe must ‘top’ (what a cynical word must be used to describe this circumstance) the former to be relevant and to provide a news value. Furthermore, media do not only use compassion in their news but in entertainment programs, too. Examples are manifold from gala shows (Höijer 2004) which create compassion with real life suffering over documentaries to crime series which probably do not function when people are not emotionally involved with the victims. This compassion overstimulation finally creates boredom among the audiences (Moeller 1999). Furthermore, creating compassion via representing suffering bases on what Brigitta Höijer calls the “ideal victim images” and the “dominant victim code” (204: 521). The dominant victim code means that always pictures of people who are considered as weak including children, women and old people are exploited for suffering representation. This applies to accidents like air crashes or ferry disasters in which the number of dead women and children is often pointed out separately as well as for news from civil wars. Beside all possible gender criticism and questions of ethics, this frequently repeated pattern will fade due to routinization of the pictures.
1 Attac is an international network consisting of various different groups in several countries. Originally, attac campaigned for introducing a financial transaction tax in the EU but have extended its sphere of activity to general capitalism criticism and educational projects.
2 Sea Shepherd is an international environmental NGO fighting for the protection of sea animals in particular and the rescue of the seas in general. The NGO was founded by Paul Watson in 1981, a Canadian environmental protector who was one of the first Greenpeace members.
3 Examples for this movement (if one considers this as one) are manifold. Organic food, fair trade coffee and clothes, Shareconomy and the Fairphone are just a few examples to be mentioned here.
4 The idea of a marketised world or marketization is a concept to explain current neoliberal societies. Researchers who claim for the existence of a marketised world extend the model of marketplaces and use it in seemingly non-economic fields. Consequently, there are innumerable marketplaces for literally everything constituted.
5 Note that both quotes are fictional. They have not been taken from journals but are suggested by the author to describe a general scepticism against climate change or global warming within part of the society.
6 The notion of Celia Lury is followed that the brand itself is an invisible object which is represented by trademarks or logos. The brand itself, nevertheless, cannot be seen or printed since it is a mental construct, an idea of representation
7 Interestingly, some of the campers are commoditising their time as well since they are paid by rich Apple fans or even companies to camp in the cue. (Silverman 2014)
8 Dixon 1997; Ritchie et al. 1999; Sargeant 1999; Hankinson 2000
9 Hardy et al. 2003; Macedo/ Pinho 2006; Jones/ Waters 2011; Guo/ Saxton 2014
10 Note that there is a conceptual clarification in chapter 5. There, also the term NPNGO (non-profit non-governmental organisation) is introduced. This term will be used throughout the rest of the thesis
11 As of 17th January 2015. It is to be noted that Wikipedia neither is a scientific reference nor should it be regarded as a reliable source. Rather, numbers and information provided by Wikipedia can be seen as a representation of the public discourse since Wikipedia is an open community in which everyone can participate and furthermore, is used by many people as information source.
12 The German version NRO (Nichtregierungsorganisation) for example is hardly used. Contrastingly, the English abbreviation NGO is usually used even in combination with the written-out German term
13 Quote in original language: „Der Neoliberalismus hat die Welt in den letzten Jahrzehnten in hohem Maße geprägt - wohl stärker als jede andere ideologische Neuerung seit dem zweiten Weltkrieg“
14 Quote in original language: „politischer Kampfbegriff, analytischer Begriff zur Bezeichnung einer Ideologie […] und politisches Schimpfwort“
15 Quote in original language: „wirtschafts- und gesellschaftspolitische Ideologie und Bewegung […] deren Ziel die Durchsetzung marktwirtschaftlicher Ordnungsmechanismen war und ist“
16 Quote in original language: “Es wird immer klarer, dass das, was Europa im Augenblick erlebt, keine Episode ist, sondern ein Machtkampf zwischen dem Primat des Ökonomischen und dem Primat des Politischen. Schon hat das Politische massiv an Boden verloren, was man daran erkennt, dass alle politischen Begriffe, die mit dem geeinten Europa verbunden waren, im Wind zerstoben sind, wie Asche. […] Sieht man denn nicht, dass wir jetzt Ratingagenturen, Analysten oder irgendwelchen Bankenverbänden die Bewertung demokratischer Prozesse überlassen?”.
17 Quote in original language: “Eine Schweizer Firma erfindet Baby-Namen und verlangt dafür 28.000 Euro. Ein Irrsinn? Eigentlich nur logisch. […]„Der Ruf nach Einzigartigkeit ist heute so groß“. Accessed on 15/01/30
18 Beck 2000, Jansen 2008, Andrejevic/ Volcic 2011, Schreiner 2015
19 Although some ideas of these platforms are innovative in the way that they introduce new business models, ‘allegedly’ is chosen as attribute since these platforms often argue that older models are out-of-date and these new, not seldom illegal, business model are without any alternative. Consequently, the innovative kind is misused to harm established structures and in this way, the innovative character can be questioned.
20 Original quote: „Die Frage nach einem Rating für Arbeitsmigranten ist also klar von der Debatte zu trennen, ob sich Zuwanderung insgesamt - das heißt auch von Flüchtlingen und EU-Bürgern - lohnt oder nicht. Deutschland muss vielmehr geeignete Arbeitskräfte außerhalb der EU-Länder erst anwerben und steht dabei in harter Konkurrenz mit klassischen Einwanderungsländern wie den USA und Kanada. 2013 galt Deutschland zwar als zweitbeliebtestes Einwanderungsland in der OECD. "Aber weniger als ein Zehntel der Zuwanderer aus Drittstaaten haben ein Aufenthaltsrecht als Erwerbstätige erhalten. Wir müssen diesen Anteil langfristig auf 50 Prozent steigern", sagt der Ökonom Herbert Brücker vom Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung.“
21 Slangvocabulary.com defines a label bitch as „ someone who only wears brand name clothes, with the name of the brand usually placed somewhere for all to see. A walking advertisement for a clothing store or brand.”
22 According to the official investigation, the murder was committed by another refugee
23 Grammar mistakes have been carried over.
24 Emphases in original.
25 Original Quote: „Die kommen doch nicht aus politischen Gründen. Ich hätte nichts dagegen, wenn die von Jugoslawien - Frauen und Kinder, die da gemordet werden -, dass wir die hier aufnehmen. Aber nicht die. Die wollen ja bloß unser Geld haben“
26 Original Quote: „Das sind ja keine Asylanten im herkömmlichen Sinne, das sind in meinen Augen Schmarotzer, die auf unsere Kosten, auf dem arbeitenden Menschen hier sich nen fetten machen wollen“
- ISBN (eBook)
- ISBN (Book)
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- Södertörn University – School of Culture and Education
- Branding conservation Compassion Fatigue marketization neoliberalism NGO non-profit Paul Watson Reputation Management Sea Shepherd social movements Social Media