Obsessive Branding Disorder: The Illusion of Business and the Business of Illusion

Journalist Conley examines the implications of brand-centric marketing in an incisive investigation that illustrates how defenseless consumers are against advertising—on any given day, they are assaulted by 3,000 to 5,000 ads and branding stratagems that subtly dictate every aspect of their lives. Harnessing scientific innovations, branding has become increasing insidious—whether it is the Xbox audio logo or Southwest Airlines’ incorporation of the fasten seatbelt sound in their marketing campaign—consumers are being conditioned to think in brands. Beyond ad creep and product placement in entertainment programming, viral and word of mouth (WOM) marketing now make even personal recommendations suspect. According to Conley, 1% of American children and 7% of mothers are compensated for participating in WOM marketing. Even social policy is being corrupted—the author asserts that public branding initiatives such as post-Katrina New Orleans’ allocation of public funds toward refurbishing its Mardi Gras City image rather than addressing its safety issues shifts resources away from problem-solving in favor of perception. Conley’s perspective on branding’s encroachment into social areas is as alarming as it is stimulating.
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