Marketing Bollocks.

2

October 11, 2013 by jeliwobble

I started this post because I was thinking about why we buy *stuff* and especially why we buy things that we can either produce ourselves or grow with a bit of time and energy. Again, off the back of Joanna Dobson’s most excellent post on the rage her gardening has created within her, the heart of the matter is simply that we live in a consumer driven developed world and have neglected the ways of doing things that previous generations believed were the only way of doing things.

I do kind of understand why our modern world is so detached from the place where our grandparents resided. The time one needs to bake one’s own bread, to make cakes and cookies from scratch, to cook a decent nutritious meal, is taken up with work and other concerns. We often get to the end of the day and the energy required for culinary creativity, for gardening ingenuity, for preserving brilliance, has been all used up.

See, here I am, writing an article for a page on the internet (that about four people will read) that describes a previous time when my near ancestor would have been outside, smoking a cigarette and hoeing the weeds between the rows of root vegetables. Why am I writing about it and not doing it?!

Another post on a discussion group I frequent took the thought a little further. Why does anyone buy ‘named brand’ things? How is a $100 pair of running shoes any better than a $10 pair of running shoes? Why is a bottle of branded dish soap $2-3 more than the unbranded one and why is the perception there that because it is more expensive it is *better*? Why is the quality of the merchandise in a discount store felt to be lower than in a full price one, even though that merchandise is exactly the same as in the full price store, just old stock or end-of-range?

I think the only time that paying a bit more for stuff is worthwhile is when the manufacturer is taking the time and effort to make their workers lives a little better or trying to keep our environment ticking along. Sustainability *is* worth paying for, but much of the expensive stuff we buy is aspirational rather than sustainable.

The need to acquire *stuff* and for that stuff to be the very best stuff one can possibly afford seems to be quite fundamental to the human condition. And the shinier that stuff is, the better. Sometimes, I can see the acquisitive child in us, scrabbling in the dirt for a shiny rock or a pretty leaf only to drop it for the better rock or leaf at a moment’s notice. This comic by The Oatmeal sums it all up for me.

The new iPhone is not really any better than the old one.

That tin of fancy tomato sauce that cost three times the amount of a tin of tomatoes and a pinch of herbs isn’t going to be any better for your body.

You aren’t going to magically become a marathon runner because you spent a Somalian’s yearly household income on a pair of running shoes.

The branded clothes at the discount retailers are exactly the same (unless they say they aren’t) as that same brand at the higher end stores, regardless of how it made you feel buying it there.

To think otherwise means you’re just buying into marketing bollocks built to tap into your need for the newer, shinier rock.

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2 thoughts on “Marketing Bollocks.

  1. Mr Potarto says:

    Regarding your comment about how our consumer-driven world has left us neglecting the old ways. This can be restated by thinking not of the consumer angle, but of market specialisation. In days of old (and today in certain countries), A family had to fetch water, gather fuel, make a fire, feed an animal, milk an animal, grind grain, separate the flour, make bread and then cook just to make breakfast. These days, we have contracted these jobs out to Nestle, Kellogg’s, the water company and our central heating system maker. Instead, we work at the one thing we are best at and spend the money that generates to pay those other guys.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t grow vegetables and make bread, but it should be done for the joy of the task, not to stop us going hungry.

    Regarding branding, the point of it is to distinguish the qualities of different versions of the same products. You think there is no difference between soaps and trainers (and you may be right) but imagine the air travel industry was changed so you bought a standard ticket and didn’t know until you got on the plane if it would be EasyJet or Virgin. That would annoy most people as they can perceive a difference in the brands.

    Most goods and services can come in varying qualities, and so it makes sense for companies to publicise and protect their brands, giving consumers a short-cut to finding the appropriate level of quality for them.

    In a perfect market economy, consumers would pay more for brands that had noticeably superior products (assuming there was a market for the improvement) and pay similar prices for brands where the difference is undetectable. I don’t think that’s quite where we are, (especially in trainers) but I think it’s true in many markets.

    Marketing can play a large role in certain sectors, but these are fashion items. Fashion items are by definition, not worth the price. The point of fashion is to pay not for the item, but for the exclusivity. It’s not something I really understand, but it’s their money.

    So yes, there is marketing bollocks inflating the prices of some brands, but usually it’s the head on the pint. The majority of the price is paying for the taste of the beer.

    • jeliwobble says:

      I think that a lot of what you said feels to me as if you have entirely bought into consumer culture. Not necessarily a bad thing as we all have to a greater or lesser extent. I just do not believe that branded goods are better than non-branded goods. And, for me, I do not care which carrier gets me to where I’m going, so long as I get there, except through personal experience I wouldn’t choose to go via certain ones, if that make sense? IE I have tried a brand, found it wanting for me, and gone elsewhere. There’s a good cartoon (which I can’t currently find!) which shows two diners in competition over coffee. The price keeps getting lower until finally one diner puts the word ‘luxury’ in front of their coffee ad and starts charging $5 for it instead of 50¢. That’s the kind of marketing bollocks I am on about and it *is* just all about the shiny.

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