Published On: Thu, Sep 29th, 2011

The Joy of a Brand

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There’s little doubt that brands affect us emotionally. Soda in a Coke can tastes better than when it’s in a Pepsi can, regardless of which cola the consumer is tasting. Wine thought to be more expensive tastes better than the same wine at a lower price. People are more creative when they are exposed to the Apple logo. More expensive drugs relieve pain better.

And, on the flip side, research from Taiwan shows that generic products reduce our self-esteem. Even brand lookalikes aren’t good enough; one study showed that people who thought they were wearing fake Chloé sunglasses were more dishonest than ones wearing authentic ones. (All were real Chloé.)

Let’s not belabor the point – it’s clear that brands really do work on our brain and change our perception of reality. But, is that a good thing or a bad thing? If a brand makes you feel better, have you been manipulated? Or instead of worrying about that question, should we focus on building even more brands that make people feel better?

For a marketing professional these thoughts and questions are ‘just another day at work’. But what happens when a young girl decides to copy a ‘human brand’ to an unhealthy level simply because it makes her feel better. Huge ambition or terribly misguided?

The "fake" brand - Carolyn Arrow Smith

Meet Carolyn Arrow Smith, a 26-years old from Britain, who spent more than £14,000 to ‘turn’ herself into her alter ego; Pamela Anderson’s famous Baywatch persona. An obsession that – as an extra – has left her with a ­serious ­tan addiction.

Carolyn’s obsession with the Baywatch star spawned at the age of 12 when she first dyed her hair blonde and her father commented that she looked like Pamela Anderson.

“I used to watch ­Baywatch growing up and thought she was beautiful. I was delighted to think I looked like her,” Carolyn says in an interview with the Mirror.

“I then became a bit obsessed with her in my teens and re-watched all the Baywatch shows. I just think she’s great.

“Any woman can have big breasts and blonde hair but she’s captured everyone’s attention for decades.

“It’s more than looks – she has charisma and intrigues people. That’s what I love and want to emulate.”

And Carolyn – who even changed her name to Pamela Anderson by deed poll in 2009 – admits she has already started using Botox to ­pre-empt any ageing.

The "original" brand - Pamela Anderson

Carolyn, who spends at least 15 hours a week on beauty treatments, also has to dye her hair bleach blonde every three weeks, get her extensions, which take her shoulder-length hair down to her waist, checked every week, as well as tinting her ­eyelashes and eyebrows every other week. Not to mention the pain she suffered from bursting implants after having a boob job taking her from a C cup to a DD cup. To put them right she needed a further 7 painful operations, but that didn’t put her off as she is saving to update to an E-version in six months.

That’s an awful lot to endure and to maintain for not being a ‘generic brand’, or like Carolyn claims; “to make her feel better”. Sure being a brand means lots of maintenance, even regular enhancements, and though ‘generic brands’ achieved instant popularity as stores introduced ultra-plain black-on-white packages of truly unbranded products a few decades ago, consumers largely rejected them after a brief flirtation with the cheaper no-brand white boxes. So, from the perspective of ‘branding’ I can see why Carolyn argues her ‘enhancements’ has got her more attention.

But as stores vouched for the quality of their generic products, they soon realized that if they were going to add value in that way they might as well build their own brand. In many cases this branding of generic product is so successful that consumers now often prefer these brands over A-brands.

For Carolyn it might be simply: “enhancing her natural assets..”, but in reality a forcefully copied brand is no brand at all. And like with the fake Chloé sunglasses brand-lookalikes aren’t good enough. To the consumer, any brand – even one they never heard of – is better than no brand at all.

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About the Author

- As a creative strategist I work on complex (digital) communications issues for international industry leading companies, organizations and agencies. I'm interested in how technology integrates with (and influences) traditional marketing, media, human behavior, society and culture.

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  1. Jason says:

    That’s a lot of work and money for such a bad copy

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