16 Nov 2021

I am doing a course on Future Learn on ‘The Secret power of Brands’. Power it is – thousands of people, millions of pounds, to discover how to part us from our money to buy product ‘x’ or ‘y’. The word ‘brand’ comes from old Norse, to burn’ Traditionally to mark your property, be it cow, handle of pick axe, or burn the name of your house on a piece of wood with a hot poker. I quote the course “It fills psychological needs; love, belonging, affiliation, achievement”. It could also be used to label, to stigmatise. War victims in concentration camps were marked for life by numbers on their fore-arms.

I was ‘branded’ the other day – and am questioning if I am getting ‘touchy’. I was in a hotel in Windsor, spoke to a few people. Then a couple just leaving came up to me – the lady “I said to my husband, we must speak to the old lady before we leave”. I was shocked, stupid, I know I am old. But never think age (other than being able to remember the war, austerity etc.) I have friends and acquaintances of all colours, creeds, nationalities, ages – they are just ‘people’. I felt I had been put into a category, and did not like it. The same week, another lady of ripe years (9 more than me), our Queen, had politely but firmly refused to be chosen as ‘The Oldie of the Year’ by that magazine.

On the course, we have an ‘assignment’, what ‘Brands’ mean to us. I thought of adverts or slogans which were etched on my memory (doubt if I ever bought the products) and why they were noticeable. ‘If you want to get ahead, get a hat’ (in the tube yonks ago). Then ‘superiority’, Burberry or Barbours, associated with the upper classes. The tutor showed four ties, all silk, two from markets £10 each, two from Libertys, £100 each. It was claimed that although the Liberty tie wearer did not show the label he ‘felt good’ because he could spend £100 on a tie. ‘Persil washes whiter’ (line of white nappies, ergo you were a better Mum). ‘What your right arm’s for’ (beer, did not notice brand). ‘Something happens after a Badedas bath’ (dashing man on white horse coming up drive). One could go on, it’s a fun game.

But I am feeling serious concern about the ‘power’ of advertising. Not just in the paper or commercial channels of our TV’s. It is insidious, manipulative, leads to jealousy, this wretched ‘street cred’, spending more than you can afford so your kids won’t feel deprived in the playground. Some companies, notably Coca Cola and Monsanto are always being sued. Many of the accusations are that they actually harm health. Some parts of India have banned Coca Cola. Monsanto gets rid of dodgy chemicals on poor countries. But they continue, getting richer – because they throw so much money in their ‘defence’ that nobody is powerful enough to make anything ‘stick’. Do you get cross/ignore ads? We’re impotent, I know.

The Gardener

A Moodscope member.

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