The Backstory: truth in advertising and faux status

There is actually quite a bit of truth in today’s WTC story. I do drive a small sports car, I enjoy the back roads of Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and I go through quite a few small towns. It’s sad that so many towns, once prosperous and growing, are now mere shadows of the past. It’s also true that many of these towns have designated historic districts. Even my town of Dothan, population 58,000, has an historic downtown even though it’s only two blocks long.

bmk138tsThe real story is not about small towns, it’s about how fake and false things have become in America today. We’re being marketed to death and consequently we too often buy into what the big companies and politicians are selling without asking questions.

The reality is that not everyone can be a king or queen, and no amount of faux status from marketing or political blather can change that. This is still a land where everyone can start off on an equal basis, but there’s no guarantee that everyone will end up that way. Life brings us winners and losers whether we like it or not.

Some years ago I had a side business selling antique toys. Toys prior to the 1960’s are considered antique, after that they are considered collectibles. The joy of old toys to me and other dealers at the time was remembering something we played with as kids or, better yet, something we had inherited from a parent or grandparent. We never understood younger dealers who salivated over things they’d never even taken out of the package.

Marketers have capitalized on this and use bloated language and terms to describe mundane products. If a DVD has some extra film footage it becomes a “special edition.” Some products are deliberately produced in short supply and labeled as “limited edition.” Some products might even be called special or limited for something as trivial as color. The software and technology industries seem especially tuned into this method of selling, but they also don’t seem to realize that when everything is special, nothing is special.

Once things like this start they rarely stop. The practice of making cars in three versions – standard (S), deluxe (DX) and special edition (SE) or limited edition (LTD) started as nothing more than a bundling scheme to sell gizmos and features. Today it’s standard practice and of course we all want the SE edition because it has the coolest stuff in it. But we shouldn’t be made to feel that we are lesser humans if all we can afford is a standard version. That’s where all that labeling starts getting ugly because cars, cell phones and gizmos are status symbols.

That opens up a hornets’ nest of related controversial topics that are beyond the scope of this little blog. However, my hope is that consumers (and voters) will start seeing products (and politicians) as they really are, not as the marketing hype portrays them. Why? Because hype leads to disappointment, let downs, and unhappiness. Considering how short a span we have to live, that seems like a giant waste of time.

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