Advertising: Cultural Industry
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I feel that the bombardment of brands when I was younger has had an effect on my present identity and choices. It has deterred me away from brands today, although I also think that subconsciously I am choosing brands to be ‘cool’. From the day I was born, my parents have provided me with essential products from Baby Co. , shoes from Hush Puppies, toys from Mattel and food from Woolworths. This is when I think that it is not that I have relied on brands to be present in my life, but it is expected for brands to be present.
When I was a toddler it was the branding of Barbie and Disney that consumed my life and my bedroom. Being a teenager had already been branded as being troubled, confused and misunderstood; which was why my high school years were a blur. Now that I am an adult, I am able to reflect on the choices that I make and am able to determine why I buy brands or accept and deny them. Klein (2000) describes the way in which corporations and brands are not limiting themselves to specific wares and categories, but are expanding into every crevice in our culture and lifestyle.
Pringle and Thompson (1999) and Savan (1994), also support this argument but Savan states that as consumers we do not mind the branding of our culture. I can almost always find myself in a similar predicament, I don’t want or like seeing brands everywhere, but when I do not see the presence of a brand I tend to freak out or predict what it would be. How else could my mother brand me but with what I was seen in? I was her little angel and had cute little outfits that cost the same price as clothes would cost me now and yet I would grow out of them within several months.
She would push me around in Babyco (www. abyco. com. au) prams and sit me in their high chairs, because “Babyco loves ya baby! ” My mother wanted quality at a reasonable price from the products she would buy for me, and where else is she able to attain this? From a store that seemed to know a lot about babies and that cared for their comfort and safety; whom claim that they are “striving to provide the very best in quality, service, range and price” (www. babyco. com. au). Another product I would have been seen in was food, and if my mother did not have the time to prepare my meals, she would serve me food from Heinz (www. einzforbaby. com. au).
Heinz claim to be “dedicated to making the best baby food possible” which ensured my mother that Heinz was taking care of me and my nutritional needs when she was unable to. If my mother was able to prepare my meals she would have used the fruit and vegetables that she bought from Woolworths (www. woolworths. com. au) because they were and still are “The Fresh Food People”. I disagree with Blackett (2004), as he states that “the name is also the one element of the brand that should never change.
All other elements should change over time, but the brand name should be like Caesar, ‘as constant as the northern star'” (p. 3). There are some circumstances that force the brand to change sometimes, but it is the constant recognition of the brand and the consumers’ familiarity of the brand that should remain constant. It is this that comforted my mother, being able to trust the brand and its name, because if the brand changes than she would have had to familiarise herself with the brand name again.
Being a toddler could only really mean two things; Barbie and Disney. If you could think of a line extension, I would have owned it. Not because I needed it to fulfil my childhood dreams but because if I wanted to be a ‘normal’ little girl, I must own all that was Barbie and Disney. The only difference is that when I was a toddler, there were only dolls, dream homes etc. , colouring in books, books, clothes and a couple of cassettes, whereas now, anything and everything is branded by Barbie and Disney.
Klein (2000) states that “it is this insistent desire to become one with your favourite pop-culture products that every one of the superbrands – from Nike to Viacom to the Gap to Martha Stewart – is trying to harness and expand upon, exporting Walt Disney’s synergy principles from kid culture and transplanting them into every aspect of both teen and adult mass culture” (p. 146), which I can recognise when I am shopping today, with Disney car air fresheners or Barbie lecture pads. Some of my friends are still obsessed with Barbie and some, myself included, still watch Disney films.
In September 2004, a summary report was issued titled 2004 TippingSprung Survey of Top Brand Extensions, there is an interesting point that “a number of respondents happen to mention Crayola as a candidate for brand extensions. Is this a case of nostalgia making brands that we loved in our childhood relevant to us as adults? Barbie is capitalizing on the huge goodwill that adult women feel toward the brand with their launch of adult fashion and fragrance brands. Could other children’s brands ‘grow-up’ in a similar way? ” (p. 4).
An other example of the synergy principles that is being transplanted into the adult mass culture is “seen with the Disney Color by Behr (paint sold at Home Depot). The new Color Center at Home Depot has paints in lively colors and themes inspired by Disney characters” (p. 7). The most interesting stage of my life was my teenage years, and this is because of the high school I attended. Brigidine College St Ives (www. brigidine. nsw. edu. au) is a private Catholic School that “commits itself to education that is centred on the Gospel and is faithful to the Catholic Community and the Brigidine Heritage”, which I attended for six years.
Whilst I lived in Ryde all my friends lived on the Northern Beaches, so through my teenage years I would alternate between being a ‘surfie’ and a ‘westie’, this has confused me till this day. Remembering my years there, I am reminded about the constant branding of our school which went beyond the clean uniforms and school hats; it went deeper, into the subjects we chose, the sunglasses we wore-if we chose to wear them (Brigidine College sunglasses to be exact).
The ubiquity of brands during my teenage years was not all about my school, it also involved the types of music I listened to, the food I ate and the hygiene products I would use. The fun, carefree lifestyles that my friends had, influenced the choices I made back at home, I did not feel like I was at home in Ryde, but it was only when I was at the beach that I felt more at ease. I never wore Nike, Adidas nor did I own the USA jumpers that were so popular with all my friends in Ryde, instead I wore Lee, Billabong, Roxy, Converse, Arnette and One Teaspoon.
The branding of the later brands were what I had been exposed to for so many years during and after school hours and it is only now that I own the ‘westie’ brands that my high school friends would claim to be ‘too woggish’. For six years I was exposed to ‘surfie’, ‘skatie’ and dance music that centralised around teen angst and the life experiences of living on the beach. The bands themselves were branded by the styles of clothing- no Nike to be seen, and to the similarities of music they played.
The lifestyle I had during high school was much different to the lifestyle I have now, only because I rarely go to the Northern Beaches and my friends now live in the Shire, Liverpool or Bankstown. I seem to be questioning my choice of brands in high school, Nair over Nads; Pump over Mount Franklin; Cotton over Libra; Paul Mitchell over Pamolive and Maybelline over Revlon. Some of these choices I have discarded, others I still use, like Paul Mitchell hair products, because it has proven itself as a good hair care product and I have become a loyal consumer.
Maybelline I do not use anymore when it comes to cosmetics because I am now using Chanel and Christian Dior as these brands are much more exclusive and are not about the same woman in the street that may have been ‘born with it’ but are about the essence of beauty. Celebrity endorsements may have swayed me from choosing one brand over the other, because being a teenager I wanted to be like my favourite celebrities like Sarah Michelle Geller and her endorsements of Maybelline is what swayed me to purchase that brand.
Klein (2000) states that “corporate sponsors and the culture the brand have created a third culture, a universe of brand name people, products and media” (p. 60), I agree with this statement and also agree with her, when she says that “the people are brands and brands are culture” (p. 61). The shift in my lifestyle is clearly seen as I reflect on how I was, to how I am now as I have embraced all aspects of my life, my past and present. Now being twenty years old I can make my own choices of the brands I buy or conform to.
While I still wear surf like brands, they are more mature and trendy like Paul Frank, Von Dutch and Sass & Bide. I think that as I get older it is not the branded lifestyle that appeals to me, but the attitude the brand is claiming to have, for example; Sass & Bide (www. sassandbide. com/#) “has been described as a love of all things creative, a passion for individuality and freedom of expression, and the intuitive fusion of contradictory elements to form a beautiful whole”, although this does not mean that I have these qualities, but it does mean that I have the style and money to spend on it.
I find that with my close girl-friends that it is the cost and exclusiveness of the brand that appeals to them more that the brand itself. The ‘coolness’ and exclusiveness of the brand, is what Klein (2000) has described as being the “perfect identity for product-driven companies looking to become transcendent image-based brands” (p. 68). Although my choices are not all based with what is cool, but what makes me feel good and comfortable. I would only wear Nike when I am at the gym; and when I go out, I wear tight, modern outfits and when I am going to uni I wear what I feel comfortable in.
The choices I make are due to the influence of branding in high school, for years it was all about style and coolness and that is what has stuck with me subconsciously. My lifestyle involves socialising at university, going out, clubbing, talking over some coffee at a cafe and with this goes smoking and at time alcohol. There is not so much of a brand for cigarettes as there is with Billabong, but it is what is not being branded that makes cigarette branding so effective.
Smoking itself is ‘considered’ cool to the few that see actors and musicians doing it on the big screen. I still remember old advertisements that included The Marlboro Man, or beautiful beaches with people having fun, the branding of enjoying life and experiencing the true essence of enjoyment and satisfaction are the ideas that I took from those advertisements. It is only with cigarettes and alcohol, that I believe that branding has entered into more than just advertising and placement.
The reason why I began to smoke was because I felt like it and I was being a teenager and rebelling. The choice I have now made to quit is has been seen by my friends as the ‘new cool’ and while most of them continue to smoke, they do not see me as any different from when I was a smoker. Charlton (2004) found that “young smokers go through a series of stages. Each stage is influenced by different factors: any action developed to prevent youth smoking must address these influences… the child is not thinking about smoking, but receives messages about it.
At this stage, parental and siblings’ smoking, advertising, films, television and role models all exert an influence” (http://factsheets. globalink. org), which I am able to recognise now. Similar themes are seen with alcohol as it is branded as being lively and fun, where your senses are unleased and you are able to have a good time. The branding of alcohol has been that of, you can not have fun with out it; it does not brand the hangover or the social issues that arise from alcohol consumption.
I also believe that the branding of ‘non-smokers’ has been more effective, as they are the ones who are allowed inside clubs and restaurants and do not have to sit outside and be cut off from the rest of the group, nor do they have to stand on the other side if train station away from the commuters. Licensed to Kill (www. licensedtokill. biz) captures this sentiment by branding cigarettes as being a “Global Masacre”, “Crave” and “Slave”. Brands have affected my present identity and choices as it is not simply what logo I wear, but how I wear it.
I am so used to seeing brands everywhere, that I accept them and where there is no official brand, I sometimes find myself creating one myself. Although I do find that it is the exclusiveness of the brand itself which appeals to me, and the way they make me feel and look. My lifestyle is a hybridisation of different brands; I am still uncomfortable with the idea that brands have an influence on my identity, because I had always thought that it was all about me as a person.
Branding has entered into every crevice of my lifestyle and is present no matter where I turn. It is the ubiquity of brand during my childhood that has exhausted me from using the mainstream brands today, I prefer to pay for quality and exclusiveness, when I can afford it, for certain products like cosmetics and skincare, perfume and nice jeans and tops rather than shop at Priceline for foundation from Maybelline; use toner from Loreal; use Impulse deodorant spray and buy from Just Jeans or Valley Girl for outfits.
Again it is because I have matured and I am detaching myself from ‘teenie’ brands and am creating my own identity, which as it seems will continue to be fulfilled by brands, from the clothes I buy; the nappies I will buy my children; where I will buy my groceries and what music I will listen to.