Sometimes we stumble across books, movies, or articles that suddenly, with crystal clarity, explain some aspect of our world. Malcolm Gladwell's books do this for me, as does Jay Carter's Nasty People. In an instant, something that was impossible to understand becomes a logical process, and I can use my new knowledge to improve my life. Recently, I found this in the pages of Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands. Written by Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi and Saatchi, the book is an energetic, exciting read. It explains the psychology behind branding and the things that make consumers infinitely loyal to a particular company, even as they have total disdain for others.
I can completely relate to this loyalty. After all, I was a Crest kid and remain a Crest adult, I have a bunch of Van Heusen shirts, and there's a jar of Koskiuszko mustard in my fridge, right next to the Gray Poupon. Some of these products are better than their competitors and some are just traditional, but, at the end of the day, I have to admit that my loyalty is pretty much unexplainable. The same goes for my continued attraction to my betrayers. Although it's been years since I last ate a Big Mac or downed a pint of Ben and Jerry's, I still feel a pang when I walk past the golden arches or see the two Vermont hippies in the freezer case.
In many ways, reading Lovemarks felt illicit, as if I was peeking through a girlfriend's diary or scanning secret plans that were stolen from my enemies. After all, Roberts' rhapsodies on the power of loyalty and the manipulation of love aren't merely academic; companies make billions of dollars a year by playing with the emotions of shmucks like me. It feels like Roberts' book has given me the tools and perspectives to understand, and maybe even combat, the control that Madison Avenue exerts over my soul. Even if it doesn't, I'll probably think twice before I reach for another tube of Crest!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. A life without Kosciuszko mustard is hardly a life at all.
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