Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Our Branding-Obsessed World

Did you know that the sound of your car’s turn signal is actually branded by the car manufacturer? Or that companies are paying top dollar to have “product placement” in novels? Or that even the scent of most stores is uniquely selected because scent has been shown to influence consumer behavior and to increase sales? In his fascinating book, Obsessive Branding Disorder: The Illusion of Business and the Business of Illusion (Public Affairs), Lucas Conley exposes the branded world in which we live. Conley believes there is “a global branding disorder that stands to shift human nature radically, perverting our definition of community and shaping our sense of self.”

Conley notes that “we’re branded, quite literally, from cradle to grave.” With so many products competing for consumer dollars, many brands spend more money on marketing than on improving products. Marketers now know that “price is a rational purchasing consideration and brand an emotionally driven one,” so the key is to trigger people’s emotions. What’s more, “branding’s most fervent gurus celebrate the best brands for their capacity to establish themselves firmly in our hearts and minds. Our relationships with our dearest brands, they argue, ought to resonate on a spiritual level.” Conley laments, “Branding is corrupting our culture by heralding emotion over reason, surface over core substance and packaging over experience.”

Unfortunately, Conley doesn’t seem to write out of religious conviction. The concluding chapter on how to respond lacks substance or even awareness of how religious communities can navigate a branded world. But that shouldn’t keep us from reading this book. It is very readable, and full of statistics and quotes that can serve as good conversation starters for anyone interested in how marketing affects young people.

--Derek Melleby

1 comment:

chap said...

nice find for us derek. thanks for the heads up!