A 2 minute window

That’s all the mental time you spend on the soap you use every day, isn’t it? You don’t spend hours decoding the promises in the shopping aisle. Take any other product purchase. How long do you linger over the powder? Or the detergent? Or even the shampoo? What is it that triggers purchase in the store? Is it the ad you saw on TV last night? A friend who told you that ‘X’ shampoo made her feel good about her hair? Or the attractive merchandising that caught your eye as you walked past? Was it the familiarity of the brand name that got you? Or was it simply that it said the right things subliminally? Is there a single shampoo that does not promise dazzling hair that glistens and cascades in endless ripples? Is there a soap that does not make your skin glow? Or a cream that does not reach deep into the pores of your skin and rejuvenate it?

Is there a real difference between Oil of Olay and Pond’s Age Miracle? Maybe there is a distinctive formulation when you get down to examining the ingredients, but they both aim for the same objective. The preservation of ‘growing old’ skin and delaying age-related wrinkles. So, how do two women in the same age bracket decide that one of the brands works better? Can they even assess the difference after a few weeks? Both creams smell pretty good right out of the bottle. They are both applied in a light layer at night. And both women emerging in the morning do not look at themselves in the mirror and fantasise that they are looking a year younger. Not in the real world. But in the advertising world, yes. So, the only rational explanation for this is that advertising is your fondest fantasies played out in 10, 20 or 30-second instalments and you buy into them, one product at a time. Once in a while people do come up and say ” Come on, no one has hair like the one they show in commercials”. That’s true. But no one will buy the product if you show how hair looks in real life. People want the fantasy, not the truth when they buy a brand

While we can discuss the finer points of positioning, the age group targeted and the benefit statements, try asking people to explain why they like some brands more and others less. There isn’t an explanation, just conjecture. They play back the promises made in the ads . The family togetherness of Hamam is just not for the ones who prefer the starry airs of Lux. The ones who sip on Mountain Dew would not be caught dead with a Maazaa. Brands are as much about exclusion as they are about belonging. And the more sharply the brand image draws those invisible lines, the more the attachment. Millions of people buy a Nike, yet each of them thinks they are in a special zone, an invisible club that does not admit everyone who aspires to it. We’d like to believe that we are unique. And we consume mass produced products to prove it. The irony is delicious.