I know people like Obama, J Lo and Clinton have a brand. Tony Abbott’s brand would have to include the famous budgie smugglers. Bob Hawk’s would include his beer skulling skill. There is an outlet centre here in Perth that asks as part of its advertisement, “What is your brand?” So clever and insidious. All the sudden you are thinking about yourself solely in terms of the toothpaste you use and the shoes you wear. You are adding up each piece of merchandise you buy and determining that the sum of the parts equals the whole you.
I have been taking this Marketing for Managers class and either it is messing with my head and making me paranoid or everywhere we go marketing teams are adding us up and slotting us into a nifty niche to determine where we fit in their campaigns. It is called market segmentation and basically it breaks us down into brands we buy, values we have, our age, our geographical location etc… I was talking to one of our professors about this the other day and he said I was a freak. He said it in a much nicer way because he is a very nice man but, yeah, I am a freak when it comes to trying to break me down to my parts and add me up. Why? Because I like to read labels, I like to know if there is citric acid is in my cereal. I don’t know what citric acid is but I still want to know whether or not this crazy little chemical is in my food. I want to know whether my coffee is rainforest certified, fair trade or organic. There are other things that make me unusual apparently. Things I wasn’t aware of, like the fact that my husband and I like to watch three different news broadcasts every evening. Overall though, I wasn’t surprised I was unusual or, as the professor described it, “a purchaser who lies on the periphery.” I embarrassed my mother enough as a child to know that the way my brain works is a little bit wondrous and scary all at the same time. I called my first headache a brainache and refused to use the proper word because I felt it did not accurately describe my suffering.
It is not as if the idea is new. The saying “You are what you eat” has been around for ages. Paying celebrities to promote brands is an age-old marketing ploy. The idea that we are a brand is attractive to a lot of us.The funny thing is I am not saying we aren’t a brand but if we are, maybe the brand shouldn’t be made up of things that can be purchased with money. We have a friend in China who can fix absolutely anything. He is magic. He cannot be replicated or broken down according to the tools he uses or the overalls he wears. I guess if someone was to ask what my brand is, I hope the answer would be so much more than my jacket or my shoes or the suburb I live in. Intangibles are what makes up all of us and it is a shame if we fall into a trap that convinces us that merchandise is what we are all about.
You are what you eat, or study, or the clothing you wear, but truthfully we are worth so much more than the sum of our purchasing parts. I hope I am worth a thousand hugs from two wonderful boys, love given and received from friends around the world, the wisdom that has been shoved into my brain by many hardworking mentors, the look in my husband’s eye when he sees me after a long day of work and so many other priceless parts. By the way, no matter what a certain credit card company says, not one part of those things can be purchased with money. When I look at my friends I don’t care about their jackets, but I love their honesty and their smile when they see me. I don’t look at a house and see a sofa that is custom-made or a sofa that was passed on from a relative. What I see is a sofa that we sit on and drink coffee while we chat. What I see is good times and memories.
What has changed about the way marketers break us down is that they have access to so much more information about us. They can keep track of what we buy and where we go. The interesting thing is that even though they have all of this information and the new ability to use the information so much more effectively, marketing campaigns still fail. They fail spectacularly to the tune of millions of dollars spent by massive corporations that should have been able to predict our purchases much more accurately. They fail because our intangibles, the stuff that really makes up our “brand” is not quantifiable information that can be put into a spreadsheet. How wonderful is that?
So today celebrate the priceless you. Come on let me hear you say it with me, “I am more than the label on my undies!” Well maybe that is a little embarrassing. Instead why not comment and tell us one of the things that makes you priceless?