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Alex Genov

User Research and Innovation, SOFTWARE INDUSTRY

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The power of a brand to turn us into puppets.

I am a staunch individualist! I have never been one to follow trends, the crowd, or allow myself to be brainwashed by advertising. At least that’s how I see myself. This makes the following story all that more interesting.

One morning in the recent past, I was to meet a friend for coffee early at Pete’s Coffee. I got there a bit before my friend and was eager to get some strong coffee in me. We have a toddler and an infant at home and the lack of sleep has turned my wife and I into zombies who function on strong coffee. I approached the counter and ordered a tall latte with an extra shot of espresso. The barista looked funny at me and repeated my order back to me – “a medium latte with extra shot.” I repeated back to him – “yes … a tall latte” He corrected me again, “you mean MEDIUM.”

At this point my mind cleared up a bit and I realized, much to my amazement, that I was not at Starbucks but at Pete’s. It must have felt insulting to the Pete’s barista that I was confusing their establishment with the competition. I was slightly embarrassed and motivated to figure out what had just gone on.

The Psychologist in me figured things out. You see, extensive research in Behavioral Science has shown that many times we move around the world on auto pilot, driven by habit. For example, have you ever headed for place A, fell deep in thought about something, and ended up at place B, just because place B is the one you usually go to? A recent study reported by David Rock, shows that “humans are on autopilot nearly half of the time.”

What had happened to me was that during one of my (sleep deprived) autopilot mode episodes, I was under the influence of a powerful brand – Starbucks. I had used the Starbucks lingo at Pete’s Coffee! Moreover, this was the lingo that I had stubbornly refused to use during my first visits to Starbucks!

To me, that is an excellent example of how effective brands get under our skin – they pull he strings while we are asleep at the wheel … Scary?


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  • Nov 4 2012: would be here all night to read all comments, but Just have to respond to the Fear of dark issue. I have been at both ends of spectrum at different times about fear of the dark. It all had to do with my state of mind (what i was thinking about ) What I am focusing my thoughts on as well as what I am letting come into to my mind. Television is a big influencer here. If you simply cut out tv. the longer time you go without the less fearful you will be. You will also be less hungry, crave fast food less often. I don't even watch the news because it is mostly negative. I watched my husband go through this negative mindset constantly on the news and radio talk shows. Always talking about politics and issues. It sounds so smart, but its negative, and does it change anything. Him listening to it changed nothing, except our marriage. He made no effect on the issues and it didn't change his mind about how to vote. Just made him a negative and abrasive person to be around. I think i have a better perspective of life in general by not watching tv very much. i don't say i don't watch at all, i think i have a pretty healthy balance on it. only if someting catches interest at right time when I am too tired or brain dead to anything else. its usually movies or a kids show. i did watch American idle for a few years, the people stories and talent.. anyway, what you allow yourself to be exposed to. you decide how you spend your time and where you put your eyes and ears. We buy into the lie at times that we are forced or have no control. The only thing we can control is our own bodies and in the US we are more free than most of the world. we decide, whatever the consequence or gain, we decide what we do with our time and our minds and bodies and behavior. we have to take control of our mind and not let it be the lemming of the world. Few attain this, I have noticed. :) oh, and I am sure I am not one of them, at least yet anyway.
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      Nov 4 2012: Hi Carol!

      Looks like we are on the same page here.
      What's the next "mind parasite" to get rid off?
      How do you protect your kid from the media?



      Ps I assume you have kids due to your comment on kids shows

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