I don’t watch TV, don’t listen to the radio, hardly ever go to the cinema, read less and less print media, and surf with an ad blocker. Practically the only advertising that gets through to me are billboards, posters, in-store displays and the increasingly more frequent flat-screen panels around. My contact with these is mostly minimal, and I try to reduce it as much as possible. Contacts beyond that with advertising are beginning to be slightly alienating. The only ad slogans I know anymore come from the billboards – and these, thankfully, tend to be for products and services that I don’t want or need. I sometimes come across new products in the supermarket that by the looks of them must have had launches with major advertising campaigns.
That is how I judge these new products: by the looks of them. There’s power in the branding here, in the design and packaging. It’s apparent what is well-thought out and what’s hastily or cheaply put together. I’m still victim to that in that I’m definitely willing to pay more for something that looks nicer, even though I’m often aware that there is no real difference in quality. For bigger purchases, or ones that mean an investment of time, like movies or books, ratings on the internet are a main factor in my decision-making, as is advice from my friends. There branding has often been relegated to an afterthought.
Overall this means I have a much nicer shopping experience nowadays. I’m less driven to things that wanting to buy has been hammered into me, and more by my needs. It would be even nicer if the old brands disappeared. There are decades of marketing still at work inside of me regarding these. I may not have seen an ad for them for years, but the old ones still resonate somewhere inside of me. Take ‘Maoam’, a German brand of chewy, chemical-ersatz-fruit-flavoured sweets. The current packaging is terrible, but every time I see them I remember a commercial that’s so old that the original isn’t even on YouTube – and sometimes this, mixed with childhood memories, still leads to a purchase of a product I don’t really like much.
This power is unlikely to ever disappear. Branding is something that gets into us very deeply. I have to live with the brands that decades of media consumption carved into me. All I can do is try not to let their number increase much more.
PS: Nothing in my media abstinence has been an ideological decision. I just find that in almost all cases there are much better ways to get at the content I want, and I have no time to waste on content I don’t want.
PPS: For those willing to risk brand-exposure: I found a remake of the classic Maoam commercial . I guess the damage from watching it once won’t be too severe – so it’s OK to go ahead and view it!