Don’t look now but you, and all the other students out there, are being watched. Your every tweet monitored, every social network entry sifted for meaning and your opinions and attitudes sought. Why? Because the Brand-Mongers, those organisations that seek to turn you into a good little consumer of premium brands, need to use every trick of their trade to influence you both today and for the rest of your life.
The Brand-Mongers represent the premium brands of everything from cheese to political parties. Their job is to build up, in your mind, a positive association with the brands they represent. That leads, they hope, to you becoming a loyal paying customer or fervent believer, in the case of political parties. The tools at their disposal range from mainstream media advertising to the viral videos now permeating the likes of YouTube.
But why target students? Students are, for the most part, an impoverished group who make up a tiny percentage of the population. But once you graduate it’s a different matter. Suddenly you become a salaried consumer with money to burn. Or that’s what the Brand-Mongers hope. So, while you beaver away at university, you’re bombarded with promotional messages. Freebies are handed out during Fresher’s Week. Promotional stands pop up on campus. Student magazines are laden with advertising. All of this effort is exerted by the Brand-Mongers in order to get their claws into you at a time when you’re young and vulnerable. Students lack the protection of cynicism earned through experience.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
You need to adopt a new mindset when it comes to buying anything. The first question you should ask yourself is “Do I actually need this?” Very simple but very powerful, and it’s hated by the Brand-Mongers who do their best to “encourage” you to buy new products even when you don’t need them. This is common in the fashion world with its ever changing “latest styles.” Why should a perfectly good item of clothing suddenly become un-wearable just because someone in the media says that it’s “so last year?” Especially when that someone is being paid to promote the latest offerings from a premium clothing brand. Don’t allow yourself to feel pressured into buying something because it’s described as cool, the latest trend or endorsed by a celebrity. If you don’t need it, then don’t buy it. Simples (sic).
However, if you do decide that you need to have a particular product then it’s time to ask yourself, “Can I get a similar product for a lower price?” Often the answer will be ‘yes’. You’ll just have to put a bit of effort into finding that lower cost alternative. Your local supermarket is a great place to test this idea out. The next time you find yourself doing the grocery shopping, look at how the stock is laid out on the shelves. The best location for stock to be placed, to ensure higher sales, is at the eye line of the average customer. This ensures the product can be easily seen and is effortless to pick up. A very important issue indeed. Why? Because the average shopper isn’t thinking about saving money, they’re more interested in buying those trusted brands that they have been educated to rely upon. If you dare to look up and down, however, you’re likely to find some cheaper own brand alternatives that are stocked in most supermarkets. It’s not unusual to find those sneaky, cheaper, perfectly usable alternatives almost hidden! Again, it’s all about making it harder for the consumer to find an alternative when their favourite brand is easy to hand.
So why bother to look for alternatives? Because you’ll want to spend your money wisely and avoid the clutches of the rapacious Brand-Mongers. As a student you need to squeeze as much value out of your monetary resources as you can. Why waste money on unnecessary and expensive products when you could be saving for that once in a life time holiday, a deposit for a first home or even paying off some student loan debt? Avoid the clutches of the Brand-Mongers, resist the urge to be a ‘good little consumer’ and exercise your right to make your own decisions when it comes to how you spend your money.