Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This is a pair of Levi's

The biggest thrill that comes from being at a Starbucks is not that you are drinking expensive coffee, but that you are part of the Starbucks experience. If one were to remove the veneer of the green, topless, twin-tailed siren and the eclectic d├ęcor, what else is it but expensive coffee? The opening of the first Starbucks at Bombay shows how badly the average Indian wishes to be a part of this collective: to wait a half-hour in line just to pose with a cup of latte and then tweet it. With pride, I might add.

The power of the brand is as strong as the Force. For years, my father would chide me and say that the coffee from Cafe Coffee Day would never rival the taste of the traditional filter kaapi. My grand retort would be that he was an old fashioned man who could not appreciate the decadent lures of a Devil's Own. He would slap his forehead and tell me that the jeans with no brand were better than the branded ones out there. "Less expensive too". Only the last part stuck on me. How would a money-minded father realize the impact of the style factor on Generation X and Y? Here too, I would adamantly stick to Lee jeans, because “Levi's are for pretentious hipsters”.

I apologize for not noting the irony of my cringe-inducing sentiment.

I have pretty much escaped from the cult society of brands, and when I watch some advertisements, they only reinforce my belief that they have nothing of great value individually; it is only when we band together to give them reverence, do they become revered. Take the latest Levi's campaign: Go Forth. The first ad was visually appealing and it married beautiful imagery to a great poem by Bukowski. The ad boldly proclaimed: “Your life is your life. Don't let it be clubbed into dank submission. Be on the watch.” With a recession as a backdrop and riots in the streets of major cities, the ad was a bold call for change; take control of your destiny and living it to the fullest. Of course, the caveat was that you need a pair of Levi's to do that. A pair of expensive jeans when many Americans are living off paycheck to paycheck. When some lower middle class families think twice about donating ten dollars to a political campaign. Yeah, you need a pair of Levi's to take control of your life.

The second ad messed up the formula. Flashy visuals, close up shots of smiling men and women, people fitting on jeans with a choreographed swagger and non-stop babbling that could be mistaken for pathetic ad-libbing by an inexperienced impromptu act. Stay with me on this one:

You're gonna be great, you're gonna be great, you're gonna be great;
You're gonna find the cure, you're gonna be famous, you're gonna be shameless.
Spittin' seeds in the wind, tap dancing with your shoe laces pinned, to the back
of a bus at the end of the road, at the bottom of the ninth, with a crown on your head.

And finally the ad ends with an ominous tune and a bunch of guys wearing Levi's running away. Probably filled to the brim with confidence and pride that comes from wearing a pair of Levi's.
The impact of brand power was finally made clear to me when I was talking to a friend in Manchester.
“You see these people lining up on the street for an Apple product?”
“What do you think they are lining up for?”
“An iPhone, of course.”
“No mate, they're lining up to pay Apple to become human billboards.”


1 comment:

prateek mathur said...

DD over Starbucks anyday man! :D
I won't read too much into people's excitement for a Starbucks is just initial excitement...if it sustains, then it's affluence!
So I don;t think any big brand affects our middle class ways in any substantial way...except for impressionable kids!