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Products branding personality

Globally, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year on advertising. Much of this is designed to create brand names and logos through which people can associate products and services with certain values or qualities.

Market fundamentalism argues that the “free” market brings out the heroic qualities of people. They take risks with their capital, and with the resulting income or dividends are free to choose what to buy.

Through the freedom of what to buy and receive, advertising encourages people to express a myriad of other freedoms – such as what to think and feel about oneself, judgements made about others, etc – through their choices of what to buy.

Market fundamentalism sub-verts basic human freedoms by channelling a range of people’s choices through their consumer choices. Brands are the medium by which this relationship is established. This is why so much money is spent on them.

But even this limited form of freedom is fake. Even putting aside the obvious fact that most people in the world will never be able to obtain the dividends to become consumer libertarians, do even we have much of a choice?

The father of market economics, Adam Smith, assumed that the market coulds only work when it contained a large number of small buyers and sellers, and where producers and consumers had perfect knowledge about a range of issues that affected supply and demand (and therefore price). Smith was distrustful of large corporations due to their ability to control the market in ways that limit consumer choice.

Today most markets are dominated by a small number of large sellers and, in some situations, by large buyers where transnational corporations dictate conditions in the Two-Thirds World due to their mass purchasing power of product parts.

We think we’re making choices, but we’re being served 27 versions of the same thing.

The product being manufactured is you.

* Rodney Vlais is a social analyst involved with several non-profit organis-ations.

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