If you’re going to loot, go for brands

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MENA

“A couple of decades ago, the supermarket, that beast of hyper-convenience and cheap bundled deals on household brands, did something few people expected. It bit the hand that fed it. It was the moment when the “supermarket own brand” was born, and the moment CMOs took a liking to Valium. The Own Brand, you see, was supposed to be marketing’s own version of the neutron bomb. Copycat products, with quality control, for much less than you normally pay for to
get your whites whiter than apartheid’s wish.

Somehow, however, the whole thing kinda petered off. Not only did brands wage the kind of fightback that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger want to attend the casting session, but consumers themselves also felt, I guess, cheap. Or at least weary of squeezing Tesco shampoo into Lux bottles. And when, a couple of weeks ago, rioters transformed London into, literally, a free-for-all, the outcome was clear: brands win.

I don’t know what it is about what we do, as advertisers and marketers, to make these ephemeral entities so essential, but one thing is clear: we do. The astonishing thing about the London riots is not that people went through shops picking up anything they wanted: it was that, while eschewing food and practical stuff, they went after anything that’s cool – or that we have made cool. Apart from the much-publicised incidents of people coming back to change trainers they had looted because they were the wrong size, and getting hernias from carrying oversized LCDs, one incident summed it all for me: it was that of a hilariously unlucky idiot who broke into a flat and who, instead of stealing the jewellery, took a Macbook – not knowing that it belonged to a former NASA and FBI IT security bloke, and that it had all the tracking gizmos you could imagine.

In the end, it is all about desire, and desire is notoriously irrational. Bottom line, the target audience is not just those who can afford your brand. It is also those who can salivate over it. Or want to steal it.”

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