Gay men could be considered amongst the most brand-conscious people around. Okay, there are obviously gay men who don’t obsess or care at all about brands, but many gay men do. And, whether we like it or not, brands are here to stay. So, what is our relationship with brands?
Brands are everywhere. Look at this statistic: according to Psychology Today, every one of us is subjected to anywhere between 3,000 and 10,000 so-called ‘brand exposures’ every day. That’s a hell of a lot of logos and slogans exposing themselves to you, the naughty little buggers! It is said that the world’s most memorable brands tend to distinguish themselves in the connotation of their potential value proposition, meaning how that brand is perceived. Perception does become everything.
More and more companies are taking notice of us – yip, for some years now the pink pound / dollar / euro / whatever currency is in your little gay pocket has been giving many brand specialists and advertising companies a very warm, fuzzy feeling. It seems we’re quite a demanding bunch of consumers. A survey by Community Marketing Inc. & Harris Interactive found that 55% of LGBT adults would prefer to do business with companies committed to diversity, whilst 70% of those same adults said they would pay a premium for a product that supports the LGBT community. The Guardian stated in 2015 how, “LGBT is not a single demographic. The community is incredibly diverse and should be represented honestly.” True.
The well-known Italian pasta giant Barilla created quite a storm a couple of years back when one of its directors stated in an interview that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Gay activists went into overdrive, calling for people everywhere to boycott Barilla and switch to other pasta brands. I begrudgingly gave up buying Barilla which had always been my favourite pasta brand. Many Italian pasta makers lurched themselves onto the bandwagon and declared their undying love for gay love. Never before has pasta been so rainbow-coloured. I’m not sure how much money they lost with the boycott, but no doubt Barilla felt some pain because backtracking and apologies did occur. As for me? I went right back to Barilla at the slightest whiff of an apology. I may not be loyal to brands but I’m loyal to my stomach.
If you listen to brand managers and advertising gurus, you’d be made to believe that many people are extremely loyal to brands. How sweet. Seems they’re right. Just look at the queues that form for days on end for the launch of the gazillionth version of the latest smartphone. That’s loyalty. Just last week I saw some tech marketing guru on TV explaining about how he nearly set fire to his pants because his smartphone’s battery caught alight. And this had been happening to thousands of people worldwide with the exact same new smartphone model. You know which smartphones I’m talking about. What stunned me was how he then proudly told the interviewer that he would be going the very next day to buy another model by the exact same company, because his love for their brand was that strong! What?! So, let me get this straight: a company’s smartphone battery is so badly made that it almost turns you into a human fireball and yet you still have undying love for the same company? Are you for real?!
Do you even care to know that you have relationships with brands? And, if you do, how demanding are you? Seriously. You see, I’m every brand manager’s living nightmare. I have no loyalty to any company or any brand whatsoever. Yes, of course I might buy certain brands over and over again but don’t let’s confuse habit or convenience with undying love. I may have a preference for a certain brand of chocolate but I’m hardly going to propose marriage to that brand. I understand the allure of brand. And there are some brands worth people’s love, I’m sure. Personally, I refuse to be ‘brand loyal’ when brands are so seldom loyal to me.
Once upon a time, it felt good to love and be loyal to Lacoste shirts when they were actually (well) made in France and when Versace jeans were actually (well) made in Italy. Those days are long gone. Quality means so little in this era of planned obsolescence and our throwaway mentality. I just don’t get that excited by all the ‘connotations’ and the ‘sense of belonging’ that a brand is supposed to give one. And you know what? It’s so liberating to take things at face value and not be sucked into a relentless branding mindset. You should try it some time.