Well, brand my ass!
Simon Houpt has an article in The Glode and Mail about new research that confirms some common assumptions regarding branding. It turns out that some are more susceptible than others–no big whup, there. But what is really interesting is the way branding alters their self-perceptions. Apparently, if you give some people a pen with an MIT logo on it, they actually feel smarter. Give them a Dos Equis, and they feel more interesting.
Pretty much everyone I know thinks they’re immune to advertising–I mean how could they be manipulated when they are such shrewd critical thinkers. What could be more superficial than identity claims? What could be more hollow than using consumer purchases to define who you are? But such is the culture we live in. We all succumb to this, I imagine. For me, I’ve turned the absence of logos on my clothing into a logo, into a statement of who I am. The fringe benefit is that it happens to be the cheapest way to fly, identity-wise.
Maybe that’s my identity. Cheap loser guy. So fucking be it.
Anyway, the thing that killed me about the article was the way this kind of aspirational manipulation was spun as a positive, as something marketers are giving to consumers… What? Flattering, fictitious selves?
But then, why not, when indoctrination into fictitious selfhood is what our culture is all about. This was an article about how marketers condition populations of consumers to feel certain fictitious things about themselves regardless of their scruples. Since everyone reading the article has had their hardwired default egoism groomed and moulded by a lifetime of false claims and misleading imperatives about how they’re in charge, how they’re immune, how they need only listen to the ‘tutelary natures’ (animal instinct and childhood indoctrination) within them, how could a little aspirational advertising hurt?
It really is the case that people do not give damn who is pushing their buttons, so long as those buttons remain hidden behind the veil of their pseudo-self-enmpowerment. The problem, of course, is that science has finally kicked down the door to the cockpit, and is in the process of figuring out not only which buttons do what, but how to fly the plane.
Like my brother-in-law use to say to me all the time: “I know I’m not addicted to cigarrettes because I could stop anytime I wanted to. I just don’t want to.” This, in a nutshell, is the illusion that condemns us: the inability to see that those vagrant wants and desires that move us to do this or that often belong to someone or something quite other than ourselves.
That our brains consist of three pounds of skin–not muscle.