Sunday, June 03, 2007

SPECIALNESS #2....Branding

This is another in the series of 'specialness' stories and essays under the category of: 'What-we-won't-do-to-feel-special".

A bartender friend of mine works at a nightclub that is noted for its wide selection of domestic and foreign beers. He told me about a customer who wanted a particular beer. My friend pointed out to the customer a selection of sixty beers on the shelf beind the bar. But the customer demanded Brand XYZ. My friend said that he didn't have that brand...but he had six beers that tasted indistinguishable. The customer was skeptical. My friend offered to give him the blindfold taste test; see if he could distinguish any difference in taste from his favorite beer. The man was given six small glasses of beer. In each one was a different beer. The man tasted, admitted that the beers all tasted the same: "Exactly like Brand XYZ". My friend asked triumphantly: "So...Which one do you want?" The man said, "I only drink XYZ" and walked out.

'Branding', which is today's term for creating loyalty to a product, is the clever advertising task of making an individual feel special only when and if s/he is consuming the 'branded' (named) product. (90% of the time the specialness is: 'You'll get laid more often if you use our product!') It has nothing to do with the product's size, nothing to do with it's shape, color or taste. It has to do with the consumer being convinced that he/she is joining a special elite group by using that product; getting 'hooked' on the specialness of a desired group identification. It is similar to (if I remember my college literature course properly) the social category of Epsilons being convinced by the governmental leaders in Huxley's "Brave New World" to feel special because they wore green clothes and no one else in the society was allowed to wear green... in spite of the fact that the government consigned the Epsilons to work in sewers.

Demagogues everywhere use a feeling of specialness to divert a group from it's unproductive or miserable condition. (SEE poor US Southern whites and the feeling of specialness RE Southern blacks which for 200 years kept the Whites satisfied with their ongoing economic impoverishment by their local money-ed interests.)

Branding is a form of 'specialness' which reveals the need to compensate for how un-special consumers really feel. Sad; but true.


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