Thursday, 19 April 2012

One Brand, One Vision

Radio on, different pitches of voices boomed out their opinions and experiences. What were they talking about? A scandalous act, the government, or crime and punishment? The Big Six was a phrase frequently mentioned. I'd heard of the Supermarket Four, but who were these Six? Had I missed a new mega-mix? I listened intently to grasp this debate; it was a phone-in about energy: providers, fluctuating tariffs and how the energy used is calculated. I lost interest, but kept the voices on as I whizzed around tidying up, prepared lunch etc. The next caller passionately spoke and ignited a spark within me. Companies providing essential services charge over the odds. They declare themselves as competitive so as prices rise we shop around and switch. Would it be better if prices were fixed? Or if there was no competition, but one brand supplying everything?

I turned the radio off, I needed to think and jot down some notes. A thought entered my head reminding me of the We Will Rock You/Ben Elton plot. An empire controlled by Killer Queen, a one-brand machine. Choice stamped out, destroyed. We may laugh and joke, (we could never be programmed like this!), but aren't we beginning to live in a parallel universe? Without mentioning names, I can think of a British one-word brand currently building up its portfolio. Other organisations swallow up services or merge more discreetly. We think we have choice, but do we? How many of you know that a soft drinks company owns Innocent smoothies? Or a leading confectionery brand acquired organic Green & Black's? In Killer Queen's world there's blatant transparency; if we shared this vision would we be better off?

We're consistently told competition is healthy; it's good to have more than one choice. How would you feel if you found out this was an illusion? Would you feel tricked or cheated? Most products can be linked to a conglomerate; different brands or companies sheltering under one huge corporate umbrella. Their mission: to cover as much as the market as possible. Products and services must be bought, the consumer must be blinded. These multinationals and big chains provide the same overwhelming array of similar tins, packets and utilities. Given these facts, is the illusion of choice really necessary?

British consumers, fly the Union Jack, but demand greater transparency. If Freddie was here, I think he would say: “Gimme more vision!”