As someone who works in advertising, I almost certainly spend more time thinking about adverts than the average person. Thinking about how they work and their place in society. And with the release of the big retailers Christmas ads and then the madness that is Black Friday - that now seems to extend well beyond a single day - it got me thinking even more about our relationship with brands and the advertising they spend so much time, energy, and money on.
We all have that preferred brand of product. It might be a small thing like Heinz Beans over Branston. Or a Big Mac over a Whopper. It could also be bigger things too. The rivalry between Apple and Android springs to mind.
As individuals I'm sure we'd all like to think that we're not influenced by adverts. That our choice in which products we buy, which clothes we wear and which restaurants we eat in are all our own. All made without any outside persuasion. I also think we all know that on some level this isn't true. How can we not be influenced when the average person encounters six to ten thousand ads a day. Everything from an advert on the TV or radio, to subtle product placements and influencers on social media talking about the products they use. It's everywhere and we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought we could avoid it.
And the thing is, it could actually be a good thing. I know, an ad guy saying ads are good, big shock. But here's how I see them - bear with me.
I shop in Lidl. I'm not an Aldi, Sainsbury's, or Waitrose shopper. I'm aligned with the Lidl brand, and I happily tell people that. They have some great products. This means that each week I don't need to decide where I shop. It's a small mental load that I therefore don't have. Same for my caffeine fix when I visit the office. Out of all the options I have available to me, I know that I go to this one specific place. And that's another decision I don't need to make. Decisions I don't need to make because I've decided to align with those brands.
By aligning ourselves to brands we're not only subtly creating an identity for ourselves, we're also giving up a whole bunch of decisions that we otherwise have to make. Think about it, how crazy would it be to decide each week which of the 6 or 7 supermarkets you did your big shop at.
I felt this recently. After 4 years with the same phone, it was finally on its last legs. Time for a new one. And unsurprisingly in the 4 years I had it, phones had improved tremendously across all the brands. Each with their own unique selling point.
With my current phone being Apple that would seem like the obvious choice. But I didn't want to be 'brainwashed' into buying another. Influenced by adverts. So instead, I spent time researching what was out there. Watching videos, reading reviews, and comparing prices. I spent hours and hours doing this. The conclusion - all the options are both good and bad for various reasons. There is no perfect choice.
After spending so much of my time on this I realised how I'd make my decision. I'll make it because of who I am - I'm an Apple guy. I use the tech for work and have done for years. And my last 3 phones were all Apple too. Because I didn't want to just buy into another Apple phone, I wasted hours of my life when I could of just bought the latest Apple offering. Hours I could have spent much more productively, or with family or just happily taking some time for me.
So, the next time I have a brand decision to make. I'm going to joyfully take the direction my gut tells me. Or, more accurately, the direction years of advertising has influenced me to go. Because I'll ultimately feel more satisfied with the purchase since I've been conditioned to think that, and I'll save time, mental load, and stress. Being aligned to one brand or another is a small price to pay for that time I think. After all, there is nothing more valuable than our time, right?