I’ll admit it. I want an ipad. I have no use for one, but I want it more than anything. Why? I mean really, what is this?
A few months ago, I was listening to an NPR story on Apple’s marketing campaign. Apparently, some researchers did brain scans on test subjects as part of their consumer market research. Subjects were flashed a series of pictures and every so often, they’d be shown an ipod or the Apple logo and such. What they found was that the region of the brain that was activated when they were shown the Apple brand was the same area that signals an emotional response. Specifically, it’s the same area that lights up when people are undergoing a deeply moving religious experience. The “Spiritual high”.
Brand loyalty has become a religion.
As crazy as this sounds, there’s something palpable and strangely familiar in these findings.
For instance, TIME contributor and self-professed Apple “fanboy”, Stephen Fry put it this way about the newly released ipad.
I discovered that one doesn’t relate to it as a ‘tool’; the experience is closer to one’s relationship with a person or an animal. I know how weird that sounds. But consider for a moment. We are human beings; our first responses to anything are dominated not by calculations but by feelings. What Ive and his team understand is that if you have an object in your pocket or hand for hours every day, then your relationship with it is profound, human and emotional. Apple’s success has been founded on consumer products that address this side of us: their products make users smile as they reach forward to manipulate, touch, fondle, slide, tweak, pinch, prod and stroke.
As understandable as this may be, even a 16 year old knows that this sort of thinking rests untenably on a sinister slippery slope.
Apparently not this hunk of love who decided to marry a robot:
But it makes you wonder, is this in our not too distant future?
The interesting thing about consumerism is that sometimes, it contradicts evolution.
Our competitive market spurs innovation, so that we’re not stuck with something old for very long. But every so often, a product comes along that we just absolutely fall in love with. We want to marry it.
And no matter what improvement emerges in the marketplace, we consumers stay loyal to the OG. This is a counterintuitive anthropological phenomenon.
A good example of this is the rise and sustainability of the Snuggie.
It absolutely cornered the market. People who get the chills after getting out from under the sheets, think ‘Snuggie’. People who wish their arms could move around but still be under a blanket, think ‘Snuggie’.
I thought Snuggie too when it was time to buy my grandma a Christmas present. Most hours of the day, she’s watching television downstairs, the coldest room in the house. Every once in a while, she needs to get up to answer the phone, turn off the lights, get the laundry, etc. So I think, look. This is the perfect opportunity to get a Snuggie. It’s the only product that fits this exact need.
On Christmas Eve, I begin my search. I went to 6 different stores and all Snuggies are sold out. I used Snuggie as a curse word.
At the 7th store, Bed, Bath & Beyond, same story. But the cashier directs me to another product very similar to the Snuggie…cheaper too.
It’s called the Softie.
And unlike the Snuggie which is just a blanket with sleeves, this thing has THREE functions: blanket, throw, and a wrap
But like I was saying before, my mind was just fixated on the Snuggie. I had spent 3 and half hours of my life looking for this damned thing, and here in my hands was a cheaper, better version, and I STILL can’t bring myself to buy it.
After a lengthy internal debate, I determined that it was late, I didn’t have a gift, so I had no choice but to buy this Softie. So I bought it.
And you know what? She who didn’t know the difference between a Snuggie or a Softie, couldn’t be happier.
The point of this is, let’s not be consumer slaves. Just because Steve Jobs says that you need an ipad, doesn’t mean you do. And just because Snuggies have cornered the portable blanket market, doesn’t mean we’re confined to it.
I say, we begin to think for ourselves. I say, we stop letting corporations brainwash us into thinking we need something we don’t.
I say, let’s evolve.