Hucksters
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The Increased Association Of Individuals With Brands

Oct 21, 2019

“I am the cookie!” screamed Wally Amos in a 1990s interview about how he grew Famous Amos cookies into not only a massive consumer product, but also a household name, despite his cookies being, well, rather mediocre.

It might certainly have been true for a while, but eventually Amos sold his company and those little baked goods became more of a monopoly on affordable, snack size cookies with a long shelf life. There happened to be a gap in the market for such a product, and now there wasn’t. From supermarkets to gas stations to dollar stores, Famous Amos cookies began closing that gap.

“It doesn’t matter how many say it cannot be done or how many people have tried it before; it’s important to realize that whatever you’re doing, it’s your first attempt at it.”
Wally Amos

But the incredible story of Wally Amos — his energy, his character, and his eccentricity — raises some great questions about branding and companies in the 21st century.

With less and less gaps to fill in many industries, consumers (and “end users”) have developed a keener sense of things like quality, health, ingredients, custom service, and overall are a lot more critical and cautious about giving their allegiance to brands. And with the rise of the internet and social media — now everyone is something of a wannabe celebrity or influencer. This combination of changing market forces means that there is more competition than ever not just for users attention, but for their loyalty. It also means that the lines are increasingly blurred between Politicians, Journalists, Marketers, and beyond; now that everyone has multiple digital bullhorns at their disposal, usually for free, it means that there’s a bit of marketer in everyone, now.

There’s also the issue of traditional media like newspapers having gone almost entirely extinct. Most “journalists” are just remote freelancers now, sitting on their computer and writing articles for a website that sits on a server somewhere. With decreased pay and increased competition, they’ve also become more susceptible than ever to accepting bribes or quid-pro-quo arrangements. Politicians now run their own WordPress websites and social media handles, too, sometimes hiring anonymous ghost bloggers to spin their latest stories.

What does all this have in common? Two things:

  1. The internet.
  2. Money.

People can now call themselves whatever they want to call themselves. All it takes is 5 seconds to update your headline on LinkedIn or Facebook, anyway. There is no longer any face value in someone’s job title or professed authenticity or otherwise. The only way to really understand anyone’s motives online these days is to look at where they get their money, and who they are sending their money. Literally, that’s just about the most honest way left to know what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Follow the money. The IRS was the only government agency that was eventually able to catch Al Capone doing something illegal, and it’s because of exactly that, following the money. And that was 50+ years ago in a time when the US population was much smaller and it was nearly impossible to lie about your education, experience, expertise.

The reputation of brands is more about who founded them and why now, and who they hire (and why) now, and who they pay money to (and why) now, than ever before. With the exception of major figures of the past like Henry Ford or Rockefeller, who had so much money they didn’t know what to do with it, yesteryear generally the public was not very aware of the founders or executives or marketers or people who were behind a product or service. That has totally changed now. In fact, its so changed, that “startup” founders now often spend more time with self-promotion than they do with choosing a wise niche and marketing strategy for their actual business! Also now, all it takes is a quick Google search to find all the social media profiles and personal blogs of the people running that website you found, whether its for the cake shop down the street or the nifty travel booking app you found on your phone.

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Last modified on October 21, 2019

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