How difficult is it to avoid branding? Take a quiz. One of the things that we tried to avoid with Abby was exposing her to too much generic children's television. This isn't really an issue of "too much TV", which is a valid yet different discussion. What we really didn't want is to have to hear requests too soon for a room decorated in a SpongeBob Squarepants motif. If you take a look at some of her classmates (in the 3-4 year range), they might as well have brands stamped on their forehead.
For valentine's day, Abby gave out hand-made cards to all the kids. The valentines she received, while nice, were all branded except for one. Spiderman, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob. These things are a gateway to brand addiction in adulthood. The big corporations aren't worried about brand addiction to brands that aren't their own. For example, Budweiser doesn't care that you are brand-addicted to Miller, even though they have beer that is comparatively identical in its flavor similarity to water. They're just biding their time until they strike the right nerve with their advertising and you suddenly switch brand loyalty. Until then, they have their own brand-addicts that they need not advertise to. It's a big game to them. Brand loyalty isn't just something that applies to products, but to the delivery mechanisms the companies use to deploy their marketing. For example, have you noticed similarities in the ads that each TV networks run? Should I mention that blogging is a branding exercise, too? Have you noticed that there are large interconnected groups of blog sites with very clear delineations between each? I'm surprised how difficult it is to wander out of my own collective and into someone else's. There are peer groups where each element links to each other and to higher level sites (typically A-listers) that are mostly separate and autonomous from other peer groups. I guess this should be expected, but the effort you have to go through to break out of an existing blogging brand is great. We should all make logos for our brands. Ask yourself some questions about your brand addiction:
- Do you or your children watch heavily-marketed shows (SpongeBob, Dora, etc.)?
- Have you ever purchased a brand-name item rather than a cheaper generic brand simply because you recognized the name?
- Have you ever related a situation in real life to a commercial you saw on TV?
- Have you purchased music because you heard it in the background of a TV show?
- Do you refer to generic items by the name of a specific brand of that item (Kleenex, Xerox, Coke, etc.)?
- Do you drink beer infrequently, yet can name more than 3 brands easily because you've seen or heard the advertisements?
- Do you own an iPod even though there are many smaller, higher-capacity, more functional, cheaper MP3 players on the market?
Here are a couple more interesting things to notice:
- Sports arenas are now mostly named after some huge corporation.
- Celebrities, especially athletes, often attach their brand/names to apparel like shirts and shoes.
All of this was brought on by something I heard on the radio in the car this morning. I don't even remember exactly what it was that annoyed me, but it turns out that I thought I was doing something because I enjoyed it, and it turns out that I was played. I don't really enjoy that thing, and I was doing it because it was connected to a brand. See also: Starbucks, trademarking a size ("Venti"), and chai lattes.