It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Advertising's big spenders are ramping up for their favourite time of the year. The marketing machine that amplifies the magic of Christmas is swinging into action and it's an awesome sight to behold. Christmas is getting bigger and bigger each year. In the United States, Black Friday signals the beginning of a festive spending spree that last year was estimated at nearly $60 billion, a rise of over 10 percent on the previous year.
Christmas is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Brands have become such an integral part of the way we live that we rarely question their role in society. They alter how we relate to other people. They influence how we bring up our children — just consider how much the average baby buggy costs. Whether we like it or not, brands shape us. And the relentless pace of technological innovation means that children will grow up in a world where brands will be even more influential than they are today. This may sound alarming but it could actually turn out to be a good thing. We're hoping our tips here will encourage children (and adults) to adopt a more active, thoughtful response to the brands that surround us.
We are born inquisitive. We are constantly learning about ourselves and brands can provide a useful way to explore our identity and to project different sides of our personality for specific situations — as long as we question our own motives.
Many objects are designed for obsolescence. They are intended to last a month, a season or a year in the hope that we will want or need to replace them with increasing frequency. This costs a lot of money and creates a lot of waste.
Market research is a multibillion-dollar industry. Brand owners are falling over one another to gather ever deeper insights into our preferences, attitudes and habits. The rise of social media, search engines, GPS and NFC-enabled mobile devices means that many of us are giving away valuable information about ourselves for free.
Bigger brands have a greater ability to influence us, but they also make a company and its activities more visible and more accountable. There is a wealth of information available on how brands source their products and services, as well as the working conditions they provide to their employees. This can be as simple as a Google search or a brief glance at a label to see where a product is made and how far it has travelled.
We have far more to offer the world than just buying things made by other people. How we use products and dispose of them affects everybody — including ourselves. Happiness is not related to the quantity of stuff bought, but the quality of experience.
This post first appeared on the Dragon Rouge blog on December 9, 2013.