RAGE! Does anyone else share my rage at all the branding bollocks we are inflicted with in this day and age? It’s bad enough that every waking moment we are bombarded with advertising – on the street, on the bus, on the TV, on the radio, in the newspapers, on the internet, at the bottom of emails, as we turn on our computers, as we pick up our phones, a whole world geared up to find new ways of selling new stuff that we don’t need and never shall through the new gadgets on which our lives become more and more dependent.
And then there’s a whole new level… such as, for example, the ‘brand exclusion zone’ being set up around the London Olympic site. This obscene idea takes branding to a whole new level. Within the 1km or so ‘exclusion zone’ around the main Stratford stadium, not only will you be unable to buy any food other than that approved by McDonalds, or drink any drink which isn’t sourced by Coca Cola, but you will be unable to buy it with any credit card other than Visa and – in an act of almost barbaric stupidity – spectators wearing overtly branded clothing which isn’t approved by the Olympic committee, can be asked to remove it, or themselves. Great rings of legal apparatus have been thrown up to ensure that, for the duration of the games, only those companies which have paid through the nose for the privilege (and I grant you, every penny the taxpayer didn’t spend is welcome…) will be permitted to advertise their goods or even reference the Olympics, and we, the spending customer, will not only be bombarded with images of their goods, but flatly monopolised by them.
I find the very idea of branding, utterly counter-intuitive. Buying heyfever medicine a few days ago, I was given a choice – between a budget hayfever tablet and one containing precisely the same ingredients for £2.50 more, which had a brand. ‘Some people like the comfort of a brand,’ explained the pharmacist, as I sneezed and dribbled over her counter. ‘They like knowing they’re better off.’
“But, it’s the same medicine, yes?”
“Oh yes!” she sighed. “Absolutely the same stuff.”
When did this happen to us? When did we, as a society, decide that we couldn’t think for ourselves? When did we stop reading what was on the back of the package and just look at the shiny brand stamped on its front? Sure, there are certain brands in which I trust… nutella, for example, is an infinitely better chocolate spread than Tesco’s own brand… trainers which cost £8 from Shoe Zone are more likely to disintegrate than those which cost £30 from Clerks, fine, but this isn’t an exercise in market forces, merely common sense! This is a process of us, the consumer, using our judgement, wisdom and experience to determine a) which chocolately condiment we prefer in the morning and b) how many miles of pavement pounding we’re going to get out of our shoes. I don’t need to spend £150 on a pair of shoes because Adidas says it looks cool! Indeed, I’d feel a shudder of horror at the merest notion, someone feeling as if with every stride I take, another pound of damage is inflicted on these over-priced wanderers! I don’t need bling by Burberry, don’t want the perfume of movie stars, don’t see why because some C-list celebrity I’ve never heard of chooses to wear a certain type of underpant, I should wear those pants too. It’s not just offensive to my intellect and common sense, it’s actually insulting to people as individuals, reducing us from the chaotic mis-mash of bits-of-this and bits-of-that thrown together and shaken about – which is essentially all people ever are – into mere cliches of ‘Nike man’ and ‘Monsoon woman’, our bodies bought up and turned into advertising copy for a company whose ideals stand for no more and no less than profit and global uniformity. Who are they to define my kind of cool? Who are they to tell me what food I should eat, what clothes I should wear, what holidays I should desire, what houses I should live in, bombarding me with a vision which is not my own from every corner of my daily waking life? I am my own kind of cool, individual and unique, and I defy anyone to stick a brand on that.