Last week, we talked about the power of advertising and how Dietrich Mateschitz, the co-founder of Red Bull, wielded it by sponsoring Mini Coopers, fringe sporting events, and Formula 1 races. Advertising makes a statement and helps people change their minds—specifically to make a purchase. There are people who do similar things in order to change society. We often call them activists. Activists and advertisers possess a similar skill set. In 1950, Ian Hamilton stole a stone slap symbolizing Scotland from the U.K. in order to raise awareness about Scottish independence. In the 1980s, Harlem’s Reverend Calvin O. Butts whitewashed alcohol and cigarette ads to convince advertisers to promote a healthier lifestyle. I’d argue that these men are great advertisers. Some people even operate in a gray area that defies definition, and their actions embody both commercialism and activism, such as the artists Banksy and Andy Warhol.
If Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Butts had been in the private sector and charged with helping indie businesses, what approaches would they have taken? It’s unlikely that they’d have used Mr. Mateschitz's Formula 1 cars and Mini Coopers because those methods are too conventional. Would Mr. Butts, who passed away last month at the age of 73, have painted over the Amazon logo on one of its delivery vans? Would Mr. Hamilton, who also passed away last month, have broken into an Amazon warehouse and stolen a robot? Let’s imagine what these radicals would do if they were by our side.
Imagine Bridge could advocate for indie businesses and take a more radical approach than accepted advertising. What action would you take? Imagine you’re an activist for indie businesses and are operating outside the mainstream. What guerilla techniques would you take to show that Amazon is bad and that indie stores are good?
For example, one could print stickers saying “Can I buy this locally?” and place them on Amazon packages on doorsteps.
Often, the dramatic political events that we remember involve some destruction of property, stealing, or some other illegal act. Let’s try to keep that to a minimum, and please, no assassinations.