Sunday, March 23, 2008

Check Your Dignity at The Door

Imagine if you went to someone's home for dinner and as you were leaving, a guard asked you to empty your pockets -- just to make sure you weren't stealing anything. To say it would be insulting is an understatement. What do you think the chances are that you'd return any time soon, or ever? Pretty absurd concept. Chances are, you've had a similar experience and didn't think twice about it.

Recently I purchased a pair of work gloves from a large retail store. It as a quick exchange -- I found what I wanted and proceeded to pay for the merchandise. There was a "guard" within 20 feet of the checkout who could clearly see the transaction. As I was leaving, several exiting customers proceeded to line up -- presumably to have their purchases "checked." As I breezed through the door, the guard called out: "sir..., sir..., SIR!" I proceeded to my car without delay. My son Henry, who was with me said "dad I think that guy is calling you." I explained to him that the guard probably wanted to see a receipt, but since the merchandise had become mine at the moment the sale took place, and I had no obligation -- legal or otherwise, to prove it to anyone. And that unless I had been shoplifting, the person had no right -- legal or otherwise, to detain me. This might be the store's "policy" but my policy is not to be kept waiting. I had to explain to Henry why some stores do this, and that it didn't used to be this way.

Branding Lunacy

Who thought of this? More importantly, when did it become acceptable to paying customers to line up like sheep eager to prove their innocence without a second thought? How much will people take in the name of "low prices?" Apparently the requirement that they prove they didn't steal from the stores they've just patronized has become acceptable and expected -- for a lot of people. I don't know which is worse: the fact that companies cook up these policies that disparage customers, or that the customers put up with it.

I wonder if the companies that spend millions on branding and identity give any thought to what they are doing when they make policies that essentially say: "All CUSTOMERS ARE CONSIDERED SHOPLIFTERS UNTIL THEY PROVE OTHERWISE." From a branding perspective, things don't get much worse.

Copyright 2008, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Symbols of Patriotism

Barrack Obama's patriotism has been questioned because he doesn't wear an American flag on his lapel. In October, he said that the flag had "become a substitute for true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues of importance to our national security." The American flag is not a political symbol. But increasingly, that is what it has become. It may be precisely because Obama understands the power of the flag's symbolism--and its politicization, that he stopped wearing it.

Misuse of the flag has been on the increase in advertising and in politics. It started in the Reagan years and Republicans have managed to brand it as theirs. "Support our troops" ribbons and flags seem to be code for "support our commander in chief." If you don't support the commander, then you don't support the troops, or the flag. And that means you must be unpatriotic. It's part of the "if you're not for us, you're against us" attitude that has caused such deep division in the country.

Democrats could dilute its power as an icon for the right by reclaiming the flag and making it a symbol for the UNITED States, and not one ideology. In a nation so fractured politically, maybe some common ground can be found in the flag as a shared symbol.

Could it be that Obama reveres the flag so deeply that he cannot bear to see it used as a symbol of anything less than a great nation? Maybe he has more respect for the flag than some of the "patriots" waving it.

Copyright 2008, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.