Just as the perfect marketing system can illuminate brands that are worthy of your trust, they can also convince you to buy something that is not trustworthy.
The snazzy slogans, white-cloaked scientific experts, and the phony “proof” that elevated brands into the upper spheres of our trust no longer works, and listing irrelevant benefits doesn’t fool anyone in the post-Google information age.
We are more sophisticated. If someone tells us that Wonder Bread “Builds Bodies in 12 Ways”, most of us know that other breads build bodies in millions of ways and the tagline is meaningless. There are so many brands, and such a limited range of language that is compliant and appropriate for advertisers to use that listing benefits or trashing your competitors is for the most part completely ineffective.
So how does a brand wow and capture the hearts of consumers when their products have iffy or negative value? Sure, energy drinks, cigarettes, and junk food have their benefits and provide us with a jolt or momentary satisfaction, but the main thing we get out of buying into one of these brands is a sense of belonging. That is why companies that make addictive consumables put so much muscle into brand building.
Red Bull, Coke, Pepsi all promise belonging. They build a lavish culture that makes you feel part of something huge. Massive trucks, hot sexy people, memorable music and characters along with celebrity connections can be had by simply buying a 6-pack of bubbly black sugar water and caffeine. There is a good body of evidence to be considered that links excessive consumption of sugary caffeine drinks to a plethora of health issues including obesity. It’s ironic that while the brands promise belonging when you consume lots of their beverage, you will most likely become fat and be marginalized.
Not that this kind of branding is completely negative—it provides an intricate, elaborate, and imaginative cultural backdrop for musical talent, artists and bus painters (and might even help provide some culture where there would be none). But do we want Red Bull, Coke, and Pepsi telling our kids they need to drink sugar water to be part of something? And do we want that something to be bad for their health?