More brands, less choice

Brands are so ubiquitous that most of us in the UK call a vacuum cleaner a ‘Hoover’. Fashionable people obsess over labels. In clothing there is, no doubt, a difference in quality, but nothing like the difference reflected in the price. A polo-shirt from Primark can be £3.50, one from Cotton Traders £35.00p and one from Tommy Hilfiger £85.00p, but is the Cotton Traders ten times better, or the TH one 20 twice as good as that? In birding, a scope from Swarovski can cost £3,000, is it more than ten times better than one from Celestron at £275?

I’m not saying there is no difference, just that price, let alone the label, does not always reflect quality, nor are there orders of magnitude of actual difference.

Yes materials, finish, workmanship and after-sales are all on spectrums so quality is on a spectrum too, but the market place has over exaggerated the difference and people equate quality with price and, by association, brands.

I’ve seen high priced rubbish and low-priced great quality in just about every aspect of trade and commerce.

None of this bothers me when it comes to clothes, nor optics come to that. Caveat emptor I say, if you are daft enough to think that the label or price is always a sign of quality and that cheap means nasty that’s your lookout. But branding obsessions in supermarkets really get up my nose.

My general ‘go to’ supermarket is Tesco. Cheaper than Sainsbury but, generally, offering a wider choice than Asda or the German low-price stores. I’d shop more at the latter if we were not still ‘shielding’ – neither Aldi nor Lidl deliver. The seems to be an increasing trend to offer ‘choice’ by way of multiple brands rather than different products.

In the past there was more variety and a lesser number of brands but brands have expanded and, because of the policy of limiting the number of ‘lines’ offered to the public, we end up with less real choice.

Soup seems to me to be the ‘indicator species’ of food stuff. What applies here generally applies across the store. Take a look at the ‘range of soups’. There is not one single fish-based soup on offer. Previously there was Lobster Bisque and Cullen Skink. These choices are denied me, but I have a choice of no less than 23 chicken soups! OK, some are recipe variations of ‘chicken and…’, but there are eight different brands. Tomato soup has 32 offerings by 10 brands. 43 soups are called vegetable of nine brands… ALL of which contain bulking ingredients like carrots!

I do not deny that there will be some difference in taste, but, having tried a number of brands of ‘cream of tomato’ soup I can assure you that there is too little difference between them to warrant the price differences, let alone their presence precluding true variety from the soup aisle!

Us punters are treated with contempt, offered branding as a substitute for a range of experiences.

This is not choice; it is the illusion of choice.

Rant it out!
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