I leaned over to put my shoes on this morning and mocked myself. I buy shoes very rarely because I buy brands that I’ve learned last for a long time.
But I mocked myself because when I do buy, I’m a brand sucker. Two pairs of RM Williams boots – dress and knock-about; two pairs of Florsheim work shoes – black and tan; Airflex casuals because they are so light and comfortable – shoes and sandals; and then for 25 years plus I’ve always had a pair of Dunlop Volleys in the bottom of the wardrobe.
This afternoon as I flicked through this week’s Economist (the last before I let my subscription lapse has a cover story – ‘The Joy of Growing Old: Why Life Begins at 46’ 🙂 ) I joined another set of dots that further explained my brand allegiance. The Tyranny of Choice, discusses a phenomena I’ve previously described as ‘smorgasbord paralysis’; the experience of poor decision-making when faced with lots of options (eg loading your dinner plate with a variety of cuisines at a smorgasbord, or the reality of being paralysed by the overwhelming choice as you stand in front of the cheese section in the supermarket deli.) The Economist helped me understand that my inclination to stick with known brands is a contemporary survival mechanism – it helps me immediately eliminate the number of options available to me.
Aaahh. So that’s why for years I only bought Blazer shirts, why when we browse surf shops I gravitate to Rip Curl, why Tetley’s tea, Uni-ball pens, Fossil bags, Levis and Kooringal hats are my fare. Of course there are other reasons why you and I are loyal to brands, but I immediately recognised the truth, at least for me, of the sorting and simplifying function that brand allegiance fulfils.
So, if like me you sometimes feel gullible when you buy brands, as if you’re giving in to the marketing pollywaffle, give yourself a break. We need to encourage each other to simplify life and brand loyalty might be one way to snub the consumer myth that choice is good per se.
So how do we know we haven’t been completely suckered. The test for me is addiction. Can I say no? Good choosing is about knowing what we need and making an informed decision. So I might gravitate toward a particular brand, but can I turn my back on it?
Addictions kill freedom. It’s usual to think of gaming, drugs or alcohol when we talk about addictions, or maybe screens of various kinds; internet, games or TV. But I wonder what addictions lie unchallenged in our thinking. What can we not walk away from? Habits rarely begin badly. Nor do beliefs. Addictions create a fantasy in our heads. Freedom cannot coexist with addiction.
What about contemporary digital addictions: blogging, twitter, facebook. (email addiction is sooo 2008!) The point is this: lets choose our stuff freshly – every time. Let’s not do stuff because we can’t not. Let’s not buy stuff without choosing with sobriety and wisdom. Let’s exercise the freedom that says no to ridiculous choice and no to blind addiction.
Here’s my Christmas, New Year tip: Choose not to do something that you think is a good habit, just to make sure you’re not addicted. You can call it your New Year unresolution.