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Consuming Passions: What is Reality - and Will We Pay For It?

What is reality?  Marketers and consumers coexist in a complicated, two-way relationship. It’s often hard to tell where marketing efforts leave off and “the real world” begins. One result of these blurred boundaries is that we are no longer sure where the line that separates this fabricated world from reality begins and ends. Will consumers pay to live in a brand-free environment?

To what degree is the world of popular culture—and even consumers’ perceptions of reality—shaped by marketers? More than many of us believe, and this influence is increasing dramatically as companies experiment with new ways to command our attention. The changes Hasbro made to its hugely popular Monopoly board game illustrate the proliferation of brands in our daily lives. Seeking to offer “a representation of America in the 21st century,” the game now includes tokens styled after name-brand products including a Toyota Prius hybrid car, an order of McDonald’s French fries, a New Balance running shoe, a cup of Starbucks coffee or a Motorola Razr cell phone.

Survey evidence indicates that younger consumers are especially likely to accept this blurring of boundaries – hardly surprising considering that they’ve grown up in a branded world.  Given this complacency, will we ever encounter serious pushback again this trend? 

Ironically, a marketing opportunity lurks in the background:  Just as some of us choose to pay a premium to receive media without advertising, why don’t intrepid resort operators offer a “Brand Free” zone where subscribers earn a respite from the ever-present logo?  Even brandaholics need a vacation now and then.