How To (Not?) Be Manipulated By a Brand

For the next couple of weeks I'll be featuring some notable articles from Casual Kitchen's archives. I'm taking a brief break from writing to do a French language immersion in Quebec.

Once again, thank you for supporting my work.


How To Be Manipulated By a Brand

There's an important tautology in the world of consumer branding that I was never able to put into words until now:

If you know a brand is trying to manipulate you, it completely loses its ability to manipulate you.

I know, I know. On some level it sounds obvious. But there's more than meets the eye to this sentence. What it really means is this: you can only be manipulated by branding if you're totally unaware that you're being manipulated. Or if you believe you're immune.

And yet almost all consumers sincerely believe they are immune to branding. I mean, it's kind of intellectually insulting to think otherwise, isn't it? Nobody wants to walk around thinking they're easy to manipulate.

And that's exactly why product branding works so well.

"I really like this brand, it's much higher quality." Sure it is. Have you actually blind-tested it against other brands to see for sure?

"I don't get trapped by all that branding and advertising stuff. I think for myself." No. That's your brain's ego-protection software kicking in. There are entire market segments designed specifically for independent thinkers like you.

"Look, I'm totally anti-consumerist. What I really care about is the environment." Guess what? There are brands for you too.

We talk often at Casual Kitchen how branding can mislead consumers into overpaying for products that don't deserve higher prices. Furthermore, branding is costly, and those extra costs are borne entirely by consumers--in the form of those same higher prices that we think make that brand worth it. It's incredibly circular logic that's incredibly profitable for the companies that sell branded products to us.

We all think we're immune to branding, but we're not. And we never will be.

And that's the key. Knowing you're not immune to branding actually empowers you as a consumer. It makes you more aware of the various forces acting on you when making a purchase.

And that makes you tougher to manipulate.

Read Next:
The Do-Nothing Brand
Where Going Generic Works... And Where It Doesn't
Ten Thoughts On the Value of Brands
Still Sixteen Ounces
Brand Disloyalty

* This post was first published on July 31, 2012.

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