Where does production begin and where does it end?

Each historical moment has its own words, concepts, structures, and I wonder whether it is relevant today to speak of Made in Italy and the physical outsourcing of production as we have always done.

Although the concept of Italian attitude is used and abused like never before and is a hot topic for those who deal with it closely, I think this is due to the legacy of a past so far still around the corner. The Made in Italy brand has a different meaning today: if first it was centered on concepts such as authenticity and territoriality, these are no longer fitting to contemporary language, or at least not to the same extent. An intelligent use of the concept of Italian attitude (apparently still strong in spite of everything!) is perhaps the one that insists on creativity, on the approach to the project, on the fare italiano, values that ​​refer to a particular way of making and not just to a place of origin.

However, it seems that in the last few years not even this way is appropriate and consistent anymore. Just look at the success of Eataly, a brand bearing a still different Italian attitude, which has in itself the concepts of territory and quality, creativity and taste, but that is able to go beyond them. Its strength is its ability to fit into a broader discourse, perfectly interpreting the current circuits of trade and the movement of people and ideas. Therefore, Eataly has not only understood what a certain type of audience (mostly foreign) wants from Italy, but also knows how to speak its own language and how to connect to its own lifestyle.

In an essay written a few years ago, Nello Barile spoke of Made in Italy as a meta–brand [1]. If that was the right time to talk of Made in Italy in those terms, I believe that now it may be the time to talk about another meta–brand. Answering to the question posed in the article you are reading, ‘Where does production begin and where does it end?’ Barile responds (in the article that we will publish tomorrow) talking about ‘making’ in the context of an outsourcing that is no longer geopolitical, but cognitive.

For several decades already, the production of web content has shifted a big slice of capital and resources from the ‘real’ production. We cannot find a satisfactory answer to the question, ‘Where does production take place?’ because it can occur in one place just as well as another. The novelty is the chain of cognitive exchanges and active involvement of those who Barile identifies as ex–consumers, «taking advantage of the productive vein shining in the eyes of the new craftsman: the same vein which, since the beginning of the 21st century, fostered the creation of tons of digital contents». On the other hand we, as ex–consumers or new makers, prefer to think of production as ‘making’ because it seems more real, because it is more reassuring and because it makes us feel like architects of something, and therefore, realized as human beings. If the factory is therefore only a crossroads, the brand concept undergoes a similar evolution, while remaining always and in any case the structure of postmodern communication par excellence.

A text from 2005 announced the death of brands, predicting a new approach to marketing. The author of The brand is dead, long live the customer, Clive Humby, in the subheading of the book adds: «Yes, we know brand isn’t really dead – but its life is in jeopardy in organisations that pay more attention to brand image than customer behaviour…» and in fact the brand is definitely not dead, it is alive and has never been so powerful. If the first king was Coca–cola, then Nike, then Apple, Google is now the Emperor. As has already happened for what was the revolutionary spirit of the Internet in its early days, the risk today, unfortunately already widely implemented, is the encompassing incorporation of the concept of ‘making’ on the part of the most powerful brands. The ‘making’ becomes itself a brand, in fact, the Brand: the proposed way in which the entire global production (cognitive or otherwise) can find a new meaning. Even today, the brand logic wins and, like a hungry parasite, gobbles up everything and repeats any message (and any revolution) in its universal language.


[1] “Il Made in Italy: da country of origin a metabrand” written by Nello Barile, from the book Fatto in Italia. La cultura del Made in Italy (1960–2000), curated by Paola Colaiacomo, 2006 Meltemi editore.