Branded by the light

We are told that having choice matters and more choice equals progress. Some choices do make a difference, but most don’t, they are false and largely driven by marketing and branding.

On entering a supermarket you will be confronted with innumerable and largely irrelevant variations on a theme. For example, out of the seemingly endless different kinds of toothpaste which one should we choose? Plaque destroyer or gum protector, whitening or sensitive, fluoride or not, bicarbonate of soda paste, tartar control or enamel enhancer; I kid you not these are all real things. There is even one which on its packaging claims to be “Luminous with Smart Foam” – what you mean it glows in the dark and froths tidily?

It does not end there. Let us consider washing powder. Here, the plethora of possibilities is even broader. To begin with you are confronted with a choice of type, bio or not, tablet or powder or the latest wheeze capsules you put in the washing machine drum. Or how about liquid ones with fresheners, whiteners, bleach or not, eco friendly or kind to your clothes! Kind to your clothes; you cannot be serious? All this before you even choose a brand! I have even discovered one brand whose web site has a whole section on how it is working for a cleaner planet. What are they doing, washing the grass, scrubbing the trees, disinfecting the deserts, whitening the snow! Oh please give me strength.

It is the same with shampoo and shower gel, deodorants and hair colours, and I wonder how many more blades can manufactures actually put in a disposable razors. Read the labels – one worldwide company is responsible for dozens of different brands of hair products. One of these brands even says on its web site that “it is s all about self-expression. We know that when you want to express your true personality, hair matters.” Really I thought it was to keep my head clean. Marketing madness and all this before you even try to buy an onion!

I would like to propose a solution.

In the UK there is a move afoot to make all cigarette-packaging the same, complete with health warnings and pictures of blackened lungs and most folk think this is a good idea. I would like to suggest that we extend this to more products such as those I have mentioned here.

If manufactures wanted to place a claim of efficacy for their product then they would have to show the justification, a web page for example with links to the peer reviewed paper confirming their assertion.  How much cheaper would these things be without the multicoloured boxes or the endless differently shaped bottles of essentially the same stuff?

Supermarkets and marketing are designed to render you powerless in the face of so much impossible choice. We spend indiscriminately on stuff we don’t need and are overcharged in the process.

This way madness lies.

Please just stop it.

My work background is in operational meteorology and in my career I have been involved in forecasting for everything from bananas to jumbo jets.I joined the Met Office 1974 as an observer at Glasgow Airport. After training as a forecaster, I worked as an Operational aviation forecaster at various defence sites and airports. In 1982, I moved to Glasgow Weather Centre as a forecaster and STV broadcaster till 1988. He then took up a post as Senior Forecaster London Weather Centre, then Senior Forecaster ITV where I qualified as a trainer in presentation techniques for the ITV Association. After being diagnosed with MS, he moved into management and became Head of London Weather Centre in 1997 followed by a period of front-line management for Southern England and Europe covering London and Cardiff Weather Centres and the Met Offices on defence stations from Akrotiri in Cyprus to St Mawgan in Cornwall. He took up the post of Met Office Chief Advisor for Scotland & Northern Ireland in March 2008 and moved to Edinburgh. I retired in September 2014. My one claim to fame is once performed a comedy sketch on TV with Manuel (Andrew Sachs) from Fawlty Towers in support of Comic Relief.

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Posted in Brand, Choice, Comment, Humour, Marketing, Money, Sharing, Waste
5 comments on “Branded by the light
  1. David Tooley says:

    There’s too much choice: I think people are coming to the same conclusion. The success of the German retailers Aldi and Lidl shows it’s not choice but price that is increasingly driving sales, plus convenience.


  2. Alan Motion says:

    But if we took the one size fits all approach then how can i possibly make use of my time!!:-) On a serious note, your approach to hair products and toothpaste should also apply to energy suppliers. They are all supplying the same thing; the myriad “products” on offer are wholly artificial and designed to confuse. A completely artificial market offering only one real product.


    • Exactly! The grooming products argument applies to many other “products”, e.g. water. Also I am not suggesting that all grooming products are exactly the same just that we require evidence that they are different other than a change of label and that they achieve the benefits claimed.


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