Category Archive


Selfie Related Injuries and Deaths – Why?

Elizabeth Marketing, Trending, Trends August 18, 2021


Dangerous selfies are becoming a distinct sort of rash. Situations that wouldn’t normally be dangerous become dangerous as soon as someone decides to open the camera app. It’s a very minor phenomenon, but it is a phenomenon nonetheless – Wikipedia has a list of selfie accidents and injuries which I’ll link here. Surely, common sense wins, right? These people surely aren’t any dumber than their ancestors, right? Why is this happening?

Social Media – and Reward Centers

Every social media app is designed to reward you for interacting with it. Humans are social creatures that like to feel accepted, and a social media app hijacks the part of the human brain that craves that acceptance. It’s also often easier to make mutuals on Twitter than it is to build a friendship IRL. Some people become dependent on social media to supplement the attention they desire from the outside world. Some want to see other people live crazy lives. Others still only watch out of hatred.

Either way, pictures and videos are the only way the subject can share their crazy, hot, rich life with outsiders on social media. Better pictures means more followers means more money from brand deals means more money to travel for better pictures. It’s a vicious cycle. There must always be more. You don’t even have to be an influencer in the traditional sense to fall into the cycle! Average people take stupid, risky pictures just so they can post them on social media and get that hit of reward.

The reward – the picture, and the approval of dozens or hundreds of people, clouds the risk – serious injury or death. Sometimes the adrenaline is exciting too. The psychology behind this behavior is actually not entirely the social media app’s fault, and people will put themselves into danger (that they would ordinarily recognize) even without the camera.


Redlining is a term that originally comes from diving, but can apply anywhere. While diving, you have on equipment rated for a certain depth. There are failsafes in place to make sure you can go a little further – most of the time, your tank isn’t going to implode just because you sank a foot further than you meant to while exploring a wreckage or a coral reef. But you shouldn’t stay there. Redlining affects all divers, amateurs to veterans, and it’s insidious – you see something juuust beyond your depth and think ‘I can go a little further’.

But once you’re past the red line, suddenly nothing is holding you back. The barrier was weak and only mattered as much as you cared about it – as you go deeper, you may feel uneasy that you’ve crossed the line, but you’re already below where you were supposed to be, and your equipment hasn’t failed, so… how bad can a little further be? And a little further beyond that? The danger doesn’t feel like it’s getting any greater now that you’re twenty feet below your redline, but it is – atmospheric pressure, which is directly responsible for how easily you can access the air in your tank, has increased by about 50% as you went from 40 feet to 60 feet.

The danger is increasing. But the brain is wired to assume that because nothing bad has happened yet, nothing will. The threat is ambiguous, indirect. No predator is threatening you. Nothing in your environment except for the environment itself could harm you. It is you and nature. Divers die each and every year from going just a little further, and then a little further…

Redlining psychology suggests to selfie-takers that nothing bad happened last time, so they can go a little deeper this time. Get a little more intense this time. Dangle off the side of a building, hold onto their phone through that rollercoaster’s turn because they did on the last ride, you get the picture. Nothing bad happened. Nothing bad will happen. Until it does!


Dubai banned a couple from accessing one of their many hotels when they took a photo of the guy holding her over the railing of the hotel, several stories above the ground. The only thing supporting her was his hand around her wrist. If one of them slipped their grip, she would have died. That’s not an exaggeration. She doesn’t have a harness. Videos are (or were) available of them getting into this position for the shot.

While researching for this article, I discovered a different couple had taken a selfie in front of a hotel that was burning. They weren’t in danger, it’s just sort of comical that very real emergency became a photo-op for tourists. Many complain that Dubai is very superficial – what a way to catch it on film.

High-stakes parkour has costed people their lives. Some parkour folks use harnesses the same way rock climbers do, but others… others don’t believe they’ll fall. So when they do, they fall all the way down. See this Russian parkour-er who got incredibly lucky that he slipped where he did. If he hadn’t caught those cables, or if those cables hadn’t supported his weight, he’d be dead. This is redlining in action. He’s done this before, clearly. He probably has experience on that roof. All of this makes it feel safer, like the ground is only a few stories away instead of 25. He got complacent.

Expensive Cars

Driving too fast is fun. It’s not safe, it’s not good for traffic, but it’s fun.

Driving becomes infinitely more dangerous when you’re holding a phone. Not just because one hand has to hold it – many of the people I see on social media doing this are constantly glancing over to their phone to make sure they’re still centered in the picture. The picture becomes more important than the road. Transportation-based selfie injuries on that Wikipedia list are often due to trains and subways – turns out live wires on top of the train can electrocute you instantly – but cars and bikes make up a fair amount too. There’s even a plane crash or two in there!

Even worse, car-based selfie deaths often take innocent bystanders with them – one woman on a bike was injured badly after a man taking a selfie in his car hit her from behind, while he escaped unscathed. Young influencers have accidentally spun out their rented sports cars after trying to record their route live.  That’s not to say drivers never die – a woman who removed her seatbelt to take a picture was killed after a crash rolled her car.


Yellowstone and other parks have to warn people that animals are not friendly. This isn’t necessarily the fault of selfie culture – animals are big, dangerous creatures, and if you live somewhere that doesn’t have any moose, you might underestimate how dangerous a moose is compared to, say, a bear. Popular media often makes animals seem gentle and passive, unless it’s sharks, bears, crocs, or other carnivores. Everyone knows bears are dangerous.

But moose are far more likely to escalate an incident than a bear is, and also deadlier to strike with a car. Deer can kick with enough force to kill dogs and tear muscle. Bison can weigh as much as a car, and can run over tourists just as effectively. It’s totally understandable that someone unfamiliar with those animals might want to take a selfie with it up close, which is why Yellowstone deliberately warns people not to do that. And yet – every year – people do. Classic redlining. “It’s not moving towards me, I’m probably far away enough – surely I can take a picture with this large animal behind me without ticking it off.” The answer was no! You couldn’t! Tourists may not recognize bison’s warning behaviors, so the risk was already underestimated, but the dangling reward of taking a picture with an animal only clouds it further.

Strangely, many of them seem to realize they’re supposed to pull a terrified face, according to Tom Stienstra (via an article on Washington Post) but don’t seem to understand why they should be making that face. The parasitic selfie has disconnected the fear center from the action center, so being scared is a joke for the image, not a real human emotion.

Long story short: many of these folks wouldn’t get into these situations if they weren’t aiming for a selfie. I’m sure teens would still try to climb on top of subway cars, and people are struck by trains plenty of times a year without their phone in-hand, but something about the selfie itself is hypnotic. It lures its followers into the jaws of death. Take the picture. Taaaaake it.


Why do Recipe Websites Give you an Essay Before the Recipe? Or, the ~Magic~ of Ads.


Cookbooks. They’re great. They don’t have to load their contents, and they usually contain tons of helpful technique information on top of recipes. But they can be expensive, and they don’t always have every recipe you want. So recipe-makers turned into recipe-bloggers. Over time, the content got longer, and longer, and longer… and more websites sprang up out of nowhere with recipes.

And are the essays at the top of the recipe really that annoying?

Longer Websites = More Engagement… With Ads


This is the root of the problem. Access to the website doesn’t cost money, but it’s not free. To provide the platform for this recipe, most recipe bloggers use ads. If everything fits onto one scroll-bar’s worth of page, then they only have room for one scroll-bar’s worth of ads. ‘What, so I have to scroll for two minutes because they want more money?’ doubters might say. Well, yeah.

Hosting a website costs money. That doesn’t even include the labor of producing the recipe, taking the photos, and ultimately, creating the content that makes the website tick. Hosting something that other people can anonymously comment on is brutal and often thankless. The essay system allows many websites to keep running even if they’re very small. Recipe bloggers are asking for your time in exchange for free access to a quality recipe, instead of money, like cookbooks would.

Surely, viewers are adaptable enough to understand that, right? Most people are reasonable enough to wait or scroll for content they value… right?

Unfortunately, the end consumer doesn’t know the quality of the recipe before they invest this effort to get to it. It might have five stars, but only produces two servings when four are needed, or it might have five stars, but all the comments noted that ‘it fell apart, but it would be great if it had eggs!’ So it is frustrating to wait for the ads to load, wait for the page text to load, sit there as the auto-play video buffers so you can close it before it makes noise, scroll down so the recipe itself loads, wait as the screen jerks around because the top bar ad still had to load… it feels agonizing to wait for something when Google made it seem so easy and just scraped the ingredients for the slug.

It’s even worse if you don’t know how long it will take for it to finish – unpredictable waiting times make consumers angry!


More Engagement = More Ad Revenue – No Matter the Quality


Try to assume the worst of the recipe blogger, for a second. Assume the story’s obviously made up, or irrelevant to the final recipe. Assume it’s poorly written, and the narrative style doesn’t capture your attention. You only notice this if you’re actually reading these things or if the website sucks so badly you can’t jump to the recipe. Both of these scenarios mean you’re interacting with the site. The motivation to make the site better and shorter is merely “pleasant feelings from consumers”, but the motivation to keep it as-is would be ad money. If it’s what’s called a ‘click-farm’, then they don’t even care about consumer feelings. Click-farms don’t care about anything but views, they don’t care how many users hate the site, they avoid optimizing on purpose because you stay longer.

You’re more likely to click an ad, accidentally or not, if the website’s laggy, jumpy, or slow. You blame your frustration on that essay, because it’s the only thing you can still see when the site’s lagging, and it’s all totally pointless to you. (My conspiracy theory is that those auto-play videos aren’t meant to actually play a video, they’re there to slow you down. I have no proof of this. Don’t quote me.)

Bad recipe websites make users less tolerant of the ones that don’t make users suffer like this. And it’s not about the essay, it’s about formatting!

Determining a recipe’s worth has become harder because of this essay/ad space system, and frustration caused by poorly optimized websites is now transferred to the website’s format, which is a different thing entirely. Furthermore, click-farm websites exploiting the format get mixed in with the real sites ran by real people, but the end user can’t tell which is which. Recipe websites didn’t used to be like this, and many still remember the good old days. In fact, the good old days are still here, but because so many people are using mobile phones instead of desktop, this essay issue feels more prevalent than it actually is.


You’ll probably stay unless the website is atrocious – and they know that


I don’t find myself often visiting the same site twice; when I’m looking for a recipe, I usually already know what I want to make, and I’m just looking for a recipe to facilitate that. I, like many people, don’t follow these recipe blogs for ideas. There’re so many websites following the same format that they’re all more or less interchangeable. So it would make sense for a good website to try and outcompete the others by optimizing better, right?

That’s the trick, that website has to show up in the results first for that strategy to be effective. But if they’re new (and if they’re one of the millions of sites with a blueberry muffin recipe) they’ll get sorted to the bottom, and the top sites all follow the winning format because the winning format can pay for their ads. The newbies then have to optimize for the limited number of visitors to their website, which – you guessed it – means following the winning strategy. Increased funding means they can now pay for advertising campaigns, and now they’re one of the horde.

Besides, If I click on a website and realize it’s terrible, I’m still going to wait for it to finish loading. I don’t know if the other websites with similar recipes are going to have the same loading time, so I’m not saving any time if I risk it and find out the second result from the top is also poorly optimized. They’re all playing chicken, and they know that aside from standouts like Allrecipes and other crowd-sourced sites, you really don’t have another option. You won’t leave unless the website’s truly, truly horrible.


Personality books and TV – Hope


This whole event is so frustrating that cookbooks have come back into fashion, but with online personalities instead of TV ones. Binging with Babish, Sohla El-Waylly, Claire Saffitz – you might not know these people, but they have a big enough following on Youtube to create and sell their own recipe books.

I know these names because they got big – and because they broke through the format that haunts these smaller recipe bloggers. Therefore, I don’t worry that Babish’s website is going to suck because I enjoy his content, and I know the quality is going to be there. I know Sohla is an expert in her field, and I know the recipes she films have worked for me in the past, so I know the cookbook’s going to be decent at minimum. I don’t know that for these recipe bloggers. I’m interested in what Claire has to say about technique, because she went to school for it, and she tells her viewers where these techniques came from. Recipe bloggers screw up techniques (or oversimplify them) all the time, so trusting one feels more dangerous than it should feel.






When did Brand Twitter get Creepy?

Where is the line, here?

Strange Marketing Decisions

You might have seen a strange tweet from Sunny D, an orange-flavored drink company.

It’s jarring – a bright orange bottle wrapped in a brightly colored label is suffering from a mental health crisis. Other brands reply, a chorus of “we’re here for you!” and “You got this!” flood Sunny D’s channel. It’s equally strange for Moon Pie, a dry pastry treat filled with marshmallow, to be replying with “stay strong”. How could we have strayed so far from the original intent of Brand Twitter?

Easy: brands do what people do even when they shouldn’t, for sales.

Brand Twitter: The myth of the underpaid intern

Perhaps it started as a truth – when Twitter was small, many brands put minimum effort into showing up. They’d rather spend their advertising dollars on tried-and-true methods of reaching consumers, and Twitter wasn’t exactly big. When Twitter got bigger, organizations started to take notice – but marketing was busy doing other things, so Twitter advertising turned into a pet project for the person who wanted to fool with it. Sometimes that was an intern.

Thus, the legend is born! “The intern” has basically free reign to do as they please because the higher-ups aren’t looking in their direction. It paints the image of a scrappy youngster doing their best for their company the way only an intern can. Of course, most messages are generic, but whatever – that’s a real person representing the organization, and if you tweet at them, they’ll respond like a real person! You have a direct line of access to the company! The brand is a person after all!

This doesn’t stay this way. Companies take notice and realize that this is a great way to connect with consumers, but they also realize this person has an enormous amount of power over the brand’s image now that Twitter’s gotten bigger. Teams and more experienced people up the line begin to take over, and the interns are relegated to ‘help write for’ instead of ‘manage’ the account.

And yet, the myth of the underpaid intern persists. Companies deliberately behave like their account is ran by one. Even when tweets are traceable to different people, the brand acts like they all came from one person, one very funny, energetic, and quick-to-respond intern who knows just the right things to say at any time of day. (You may notice memes are outdated by the time the brand gets to posting them – that’s a clue that it’s a team, rather than a single person with full control).

Sunny D

All of this makes Sunny D’s post even weirder. “I can’t do this anymore”. It’s so simple, and very concerning – it echoes a suicide note. It implies something that corporations are literally not capable of, and if this weren’t brand Twitter, I’d be seriously concerned about the person behind the tweet. In a way, I still am – was this someone who got control of the account for a moment, or did the main account controller forget to switch to their personal account? Surely, this wasn’t intentional. Surely, Sunny D’s marketing dept didn’t look at that and think “yeah, this is okay.”

If they really didn’t mean to tweet that, it makes sense that Sunny D would then try to salvage this tweet that’s already been seen by thousands – a savvy Twitter user knows deleting a tweet like that could cause serious alarm, and Sunny D would be forced to handle it seriously. By replying as though they meant this to happen, they save face. It’s still in poor taste, but it looks like it’s intentional and not as serious as the initial tweet might suggest.

Digital Overstep

If they did mean for this to happen – It’s scummy. It’s a drink brand. Corporations are not really people in real life, no matter what the law says. There is no person with the identity of Sunny D that you could physically harm, there is no body or brain of Sunny D that could be experiencing “I can’t do this anymore”. There are the people that make up Sunny D – that’s a different matter. Those people are real. Sunny D the brand is entirely fictitious, it exists only as an idea used to sell orange liquid. It is a concept. Not a person.

This wasn’t particularly effective advertising, and it was overall sort of creepy. Sunny D markets to children, right? Children can have these issues, but that’s not what Sunny D brought attention to. A brand twitter behaving like a person is distinctly unsettling, in a world where ads are slowly creeping into every facet of life. Brands aren’t supposed to require this kind of mental burden. You aren’t supposed to see something a brand has tweeted and feel heavier for it. It’s incredibly weird. It oversteps boundaries.

Marketing: A Tangent

But that’s what marketing does. It pushes, and it pushes, and if it pushes too far, other brands take a note of how much or what kind of reaction they got. Pepsi’s ill-thought-out ad with Kylie Jenner, for example, was a laughingstock, and as a result many companies quietly pulled back from social issues of the time so they wouldn’t get swept up in the widespread scrutiny that happened afterwards.

Even then, had Pepsi dared to throw its weight behind one side or the other, they would have come out better. Their audience would have been polarized, but the folks who stuck around would have been more devoted. See Gillette’s The Best a Man Can Be ad – they split off some of their userbase with that one, but they also came to be regarded more favorably by the ones who appreciated the message of the ad.

Or, you could look at the MyPillow Founder’s fervent support of former president Donald Trump – that, once again, split his audience (and ruined relationships with vendors), but he made more money off of his target audience as a result. It goes to show that it doesn’t matter which direction you push, as long as you pick one. There are people who believe the moon landing was faked, and those people buy products too – you can sell to them as long as you do it wholeheartedly.

 MyPillow picked one. Gillette picked one. Pepsi didn’t.

Sunny D’s undefinable agenda in this tweet is only working against it.

But what is it for? What purpose did this tweet serve? What agenda is Sunny D advancing?


Simultaneously, brands feel enormous pressure from brands like Wendy’s, which has the benefit of being one of the first to be ‘sassy’ on Twitter. Other notable front runners for this trend included Denny’s, which posted to Tumblr as a singular person before it was cool. Other brands know people remember Wendy’s for being funny. They know Wendy’s is on the consumer’s mind before they are. However, those brands have also noticed the market’s a bit oversaturated for Wendy’s style content at the moment, and it’s not appropriate for every audience anyway. Tony the Tiger might get some angry replies from parents if it roasted a customer. Wendy’s can afford to be mean because it’s not selling to children as it’s main audience.

Other brands then have to figure out how to transmute what Wendy’s has with its audience into something they can say is their own.

Steak-Umms owns that it’s not great quality meat, but it is tasty, and that’s endearing in its own way. It jokes that it’s set is cheaply made online. Denny’s is still Denny’s, and they own the strange atmosphere of their restaurants and turn it into a selling point.

These campaigns are unique, a little edgy, but certainly not tasteless. Unique enough to be remembered, not unique enough to revolutionize the space. Meanwhile, Moon Pie and Frosted Flakes are incredibly milquetoast, but their branding is familiar, and the campaigns aren’t offensive.

All Together

Sunny D, for some reason, strayed from all of this. The tweet’s edgy. It’s too dark for the target audience: if they understand it, a drink brand just threatened suicide, if they don’t, then they don’t get the tweet and it was sort of meaningless. Agenda-less. Not promoting anything except empty words of affirmation towards an entity that only exists on paper. Meaningless chatter that also crosses a line.

The tweet is somehow totally devoid of meaning and wildly too personal at the same time!

Sunny D’s tweet seems so creepy in comparison to other tweets because it’s too much for the average consumer to take in from a stranger even if Sunny D were a person. This is the kind of thing you text to a friend in private. It’s a personal moment. It requires a lot of delicacy and understanding, the kind that a stranger can’t often provide for another stranger. How would you even go about comforting a drink brand?

And keep in mind: a brand always wants to be your friend, because most people listen to their friends. Ask people for favors, and they’ll feel obligated to help – and people like feeling helpful, so generally they’ll think a little better of you. Sunny D is pantomiming a very real, personal interaction with you via this tweet and asking for help it is literally incapable of receiving: once again, it’s a non-sentient drink brand. It’s asking for a favor it can’t use, one you’d never refuse to a real person.

Sunny D is behaving like it’s something it’s not, and in doing so it’s entered a digital uncanny valley. It’s mimicking human interactions in an attempt to sell more orange liquid.

Public Campaigns Vs. Public Image: A McDonald’s Story

#Farmers of McDonalds


#MeettheFarmers was the initial campaign, the one that McDonald’s had planned for. There was some static; the same issues that apply to the meat industry as a whole apply to McDonalds, but complaints of cruelty and poor animal husbandry didn’t completely ruin the hashtag. Generally, the farmers were happy, the animals looked happy, and McDonalds was happy with it’s campaign.

It’s always risky to get folks involved if the company doesn’t know for sure that they think of it positively, but so many farmers rely on McDonald’s that it was basically a slam dunk. Sure, PETA got a little rowdy, and nobody’s going to make themselves look bad by posting pictures of their sad or poorly treated animals, but the crop farmers generally felt that they’d been treated fairly by McDonald’s. This was great! McDonald’s does a lot to support local farming, and it was smart to emphasize how much of their food they bought from US farms. The patties are still packed with things that keep them from molding, but the cow didn’t have to fly overseas to get to it’s destination packing plant or restaurant.

It’s a genuinely good campaign – they could trust that they’d done right by the people who’d be replying, and they’d retweet specific responses as a form of curation.  Marketing done right!




After the success of #FarmersOfMcDonalds, McDonald’s paid to promote their next big hashtag, #McDStories. This went downhill, very fast. Where McD farmers are a small, controllable group who are generally professional, the public is… not. And it turns out, when a corporation consistently underpays and overworks it’s workers, they’re going to do things or skip things that customers notice. McDonalds yoinked the paid promotion slot, but by then it was already out of control.

All they could do was damage control as all sorts of nasty stories rolled in. Violence by staff members, sanitation issues in the bathroom, uncleaned ice tanks, solicitors in the parking lot, solicitors inside the store, solicitors coming up to windows in the drive through – customers had seen it all! Heck, even workers joined in – McDonald’s was apparently struggling with it’s management chain in places, and issues that could have been resolved with better training and store support (the shift lead isn’t supposed to be in charge of pest control, for example) just weren’t even getting noticed, until #McDStories forced them to the front of the line. Bugs. Food contamination. Food poisoning. Incorrect cleaners being used for grills and the ice cream machine. Rats. All things that could be controlled or even eliminated with better contact from whoever’s in charge of regional management.

Beyond that, though, the campaign showed that McDonald’s didn’t really know how it looked on the outside. A fast food restaurant universally loved by children, or a fast food restaurant with locations that play it fast and loose with adult customers’ food? The upper management had allowed both to happen, but only one of those demographics is regularly on Twitter.

McDStories highlights a critical disconnect between the McDonald’s marketing department and the outside world.


Marketing Mistake


Every company wants to be perfect in the customer’s mind. They all want to be clean, friendly (except for Dick’s), and accessible. However, things start to split when you get specific: pubs cater to adults, so they wouldn’t have the same bright colors as family-friendly restaurants. Therefore, the marketing for a pub is going to be very different than the marketing for a fast-food restaurant for kids. McDonald’s has been trying to shift more towards adults in modern times, and since adults care about different things than they used to, McDonald’s has been struggling to find a common thread among McDonald’s customers. Maybe this was a crowd-sourcing campaign for ad ideas, maybe it was just an attempt to appeal to adults.

Either way, it made a disconnect between ‘McDonald’s the brand’ and ‘McDonald’s the restaurant chain’ pretty obvious. You’d never see Waffle House doing this sort of campaign. Waffle House knows what kind of people stumble into their restaurants at 3 AM for a couple of post-bar waffles, and wild stories of incidents inside Waffle Houses scatter the web. A famous Vine shows two of the employees fighting while a customer asks for a waffle in the background. And yet, Waffle House is well-liked. It knows what it is, it doesn’t try to pretend every customer has a great time; they’re there for cheap food and the strange sense of community a 3AM Waffle House has. Besides, Waffle House’s management style seems to keep customers and workers alike pretty happy!

Denny’s, another cheap diner with 24 hr locations, has incidents, but they rarely go viral. They’ve gotten a cultural image of ‘you ate at Denny’s, you knew what you were getting into’. McDonald’s has unknowingly slipped into the same territory – appealing to adults with a 24hr schedule means you’re going to get some strange customers. They don’t seem to realize that’s where they’re at, so they don’t know how to lean into it yet like other 24 hr restaurants do. They’re very concerned with being family friendly. Management- and Marketing-wise, something’s obviously slipping if these stories were genuinely unexpected.


How Could They Fix It?


The long and the short of it is to listen. Burger King’s rat-bun scandal caused the store to shut down while Burger King corporate handled the issue. McDonald’s has had complaint-tweets before, but somehow they don’t get much traction until the tweet’s got a bunch of retweets, so really, they set themselves up by using a scrollable tag. Companies that won’t respond to anything but highly public tweets about their issue do this to themselves. If a complaint to the manager or to corporate doesn’t change things, then of course the customer is going to resort to what works.

Listen to customers through official channels, and the unofficial ones that everyone can see won’t be flooded with horrible stories of missing quality!



Apple Wheels – It’s Wheely About Advertising

Ah, Complaining.


Apple Wheels


The Apple Mac Pro cost several thousand dollars, and it looked like a cheese grater. The little Apple-branded wheels to make it move cost about 700$, or approximately the price of the iPhone 8 at launch. Oh, but don’t worry – you can buy the feet for a mere 300$, if you just have to have Apple Brand. How did we get here? How did we, as a society, get to 700$ computer wheels?


Brand = Trustworthy


Branding by itself is an interesting mark of human psychology. It’s a shortcut to trusting something! The brand of an item itself purely imaginary – the brand, by itself, does not produce value for the final product except for the value the consumer gives it in their mind. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Look at IKEA: all those items come from different factories, so customers shouldn’t just blindly trust whatever they buy, right? But because IKEA has put their name behind it, consumers still buy the cheap shelves with the understanding that IKEA has endorsed them. If these shelves were somewhere else, and un-branded, consumers wouldn’t trust them as much. They’d sell less. Branding, in this way, is extremely valuable even though it’s intangible.

And it’s good for the customer, too! It allows them to make a more informed decision. Emotionally, people become loyal to brands that have served them well. Fortunately for the brand, they’ll stay loyal unless something seriously impacts their mental image of that brand.

All of this sounds totally logical and reasonable, right? It’s the way people have done business since cash was invented. It made sense for people to trust the smithy, who branded their creations, over someone who wouldn’t put their name to what they made.

Strange things start happening when people like the brand more than the products, and we’ll get there.

Even though consumers may know the store-brand comes from the same plant that the name-brand does, they may still pick name-brand. This is part of that trust – it is scary to try new things, and keeping one constant, the brand, the same, makes buying big electronics or new foods less scary. When consumers stop showing a brand loyalty, or they start complaining, the brand could do things like throw in warranties or spare parts for free and retain that good will. Store brand doesn’t stand a chance even if it’s literally identical.


Brand = Money


Branding can save a company even if they’re like modern day Pyrex, which has a different heat tolerance depending which factory you get it from. People post infographics online so consumers can identify the ‘good’ pieces, because they love Pyrex so much. A change to the glass manufacturing process means that the brand is no longer a reliable indicator of quality, but people still want to like Pyrex. Otherwise they wouldn’t go through all this effort to find the right Pyrex factory, they’d buy somewhere else. This is where brand starts to become more important than what it’s selling.

People will pay a premium for a brand they trust, and companies know this. We see this everywhere, from cars to computers. If something was good, some people will believe it’s still good. That’s the business principle of goodwill. Sears might have survived a couple years off of goodwill and nostalgia alone.

Branding, therefore, can become a phylactery in the hands of a new controlling board. As soon as a company starts to rely on goodwill to sell items that they know other companies would have ditched, they become like Apple. Unlike Apple, many of them don’t sell high-ticket items as a luxury.

For Apple, the brand is demand. Where Steve Jobs might have demanded innovation out of every item they released, the controlling board doesn’t. They know that the brand reputation he built will sell items because people love Apple, and they know people want to look like they have money, and by smearing Android products as ‘cheap’, Apple became a shortcut for ‘expensive’. Apple wheels are a natural result of a market that’s so hyperfocused on branding that it doesn’t care about functionality. A combination of goodwill and a little psychology gives us these overpriced items that are only overpriced for the sake of it.

The irony of all of this is that people will eventually buy the item as a ‘flex’, unironically, and then the product exists in a quantum state of sincerity. How does Apple live where others die?


Wheely Worth It


Apple sells sincere items alongside their ‘meme’ items. While Apple sells things like wheels and pens for hundreds of dollars, the past generations of phones are still about the right price for what the user gets. Factoring in things like R + D, factory overhead, and the materials to go into it, a comparable phone made by a third party would be cheaper, but not by much. They’re only at a small premium to other comparable brands for the same computing power, which makes sense with Apple’s well-known tech support. They haven’t gone full ‘Sears’ yet, and there’s still some value in the idea of their brand, and they still release ‘worthy’ items alongside the garbage ones. Why risk it with wheels that cost as much as an iPhone, a genuinely expensive item?

Simple: it’s for advertising, and it’s fairly cheap as far as campaigns go. Either ‘hype beasts’ (people known for buying branded clothing just because it’s expensive) buy it to flex on others, or regular people discuss how out-of-line Apple is. Either way, Apple’s name is out there. Apple might not actually expect to make money with these wheels, but the items are so cheap to make that a single purchase could finance the production of 50 more sets. Not to forget hype beasts!

This new trend of “flexing” expensive-but-nearly-worthless items has led to the creation of the Supreme Brick, the Apple wheels, and all sorts of other tomfoolery that relies on branding. Now, some brands use branding as a shortcut to ‘luxury’ instead of ‘trust’. Luxury clothing items have already been doing this for years, so while the material is thin, the manufacturing process cost cents on the dime, and shipping it en masse cost maybe a couple dollars, the final item is an 800$ shirt. Not because it’s made of especially good materials, or hardy – because it has a logo on it.

The only reason knockoffs are not worth as much is because the original brand has convinced people that their product is ‘better’ because it cost more, not that it cost more because it was better. And people believe it! Anyone self-conscious enough to get fake Airpods or a third-party Gucci shirt are still pursuing that image of luxury, which is fantastic for the brand. The same goes for Apple Wheels, and Airpods, and Supreme clothing… if the consumer values it, then they’re worth it. The Apple Wheels are worth 699$ to the people who want it, and that’s good enough to keep making them.  They’re buying Apple Brand, after all.

Apple Wheel. It’s wheely about the advertising.




What Happened to Those Obnoxious Banner Ads?

Elizabeth Marketing, Trends October 21, 2020


Poorly Drawn Flashing Banner Ad

A poorly drawn banner ad is placed here for comedic effect.


Ah, the 2000’s. Remember when all the banner ads above your favorite flash-game website (or in some cases, your favorite news site) were just as bright and colorful as the games themselves? The 2000’s were the first decade with widespread internet access on machines that were finally, finally user friendly enough for children to use. Children, who are easily fooled by bright flashing colors. Children, who can’t imagine that someone would go online and make up a lie about winning an iPad, just to steal their mother’s credit card information. What happened to those banner ads? Not that anybody misses them, but…


They Aged Out.

As more and more people become aware of a phenomenon, the less likely they are to fall for it. Banner ads, even non-malicious ones, rarely lead to where they promised in the early days of the internet. If it didn’t end in something unsavory being downloaded to the browser, it could end in a payment portal that the user couldn’t pass, and therefore lost interest in. After all, online payment in that era usually required a credit card or a check, and if the kid was smart enough to not go digging through their parent’s wallets – the banner ad failed at its goal.

People simply grew wise to the ways of the banner ad.


They Were Made Obsolete by Other Ads.

While highly personalized ads creep a lot of people out, they’re there for a reason: the user is more likely to click an ad that appeals to them, and those bright, obnoxiously flashy banner ads of the 2000s are just not it anymore, replaced by others that made the individual sites they were hosted on more money.


New Software Came Out Specifically to Stop Them from Appearing.

AdBlock is likely the most recognizable browser download designed to make using the internet less annoying. Aside from blocking pop-ups, videos set to auto-play, and other advertising shenanigans, one of the biggest casualties was, you guessed it – banner ads. A lot of people with ad-blocking software don’t even notice they’re gone, which should really be a testament to how difficult it is to make an ad that people both

  1. A) remember and
  2. B) don’t mind seeing.

Browsers even got in on the ad-blocking action! If the browser can keep people from downloading an ad blocker just for a few ads that they absolutely hate, then they don’t have to handle extra stress on the system from whatever third-party software the user is using to block ads. Essentially, some third-party software doesn’t play nice with the browser, but the user doesn’t always know that, and may report issues that are only being caused by the ad blocker. Inconvenient!

This means that browsers themselves may include the option to block banner ads, pop-ups, and auto-playing videos all by themselves. As of this article, Firefox will alert the user to auto-play content!


Websites Stopped Selling Adspace to them.

Except for especially seedy websites that don’t care, it’s bad for business when users stop coming to a site just to avoid the ads. Sure, the ad might get a glut of stolen data, misbegotten cookies, and maybe some adware downloaded before people realize what’s up.

But after that initial round of visitors getting a virus, figuring out from where and reporting it, or just giving up on the website – the ad gets kicked. Most blogs know that they live and die by their users clicking their ads. If

someone finds out that the ad isn’t harmless, they’re going to be less likely to click the next ad they see, even if it looks more trustworthy than the traditional flashy banner. Repeat until the website is flooded with angry emails and measurable revenue loss, and the ad is kicked.

It costs the host site money and time for the ad to be unethical, so eventually it just became easier to verify with the ad vendor that the ads weren’t terrible, and voila, natural selection favors harmless ads, and bland ads look more harmless than flashy ones.