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Brand perceptions of the postmodern kind


Brand perceptions of the postmodern kind “The most flattering pants you’ll ever buy.” In Don Delillo’s 1985 novel, White Noise, a famous passage occurs that lends unusual insight to our cultural obsession with “watching”: Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cow path to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides—pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book. “No one sees the barn,” he said finally. A long silence followed. “Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.” “They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said. A hyper-consciousness of mass imagery The passage reflects a recurring subject of postmodern literature: how modern media, particularly commercial television, has created a hyper-consciousness of mass imagery and of viewing and being viewed. People watch a barn whose claim to fame is being an object of watching, while at the same time Murray is watching people watch a barn, and his friend Jack, the narrator, is watching Murray watch the watching, and we readers are watching Jack watch Murray watch the watching, and so on.


Borrowing this postmodern theme and apply it to advertising claims and brand/product perceptions can yield some interesting dynamics. Ponder this line culled from a cable television shopping program: The most flattering pants you’ll ever buy. The key word in the claim is “flattering” and it’s fraught with implications. The suggestion is that another person will notice and admire the wearer wearing the pants. The admirer, in turn, will be noticed admiring the person wearing the pants by the person wearing the pants. It’s an interesting study in self-consciousness because it essentially asks us to imagine not only how we will look in the pants, but to imagine how other people will imagine we’ll look in the pants. Or consider these lines from a Victoria’s Secret campaign: Tell her she’s your angel. Give the gift of Desire. Obviously directed at husbands and boyfriends, the slogan (along with an image of a scantily clad model) suggests that a man picture his significant other wearing a sexy item of Desire lingerie. Hopefully the image will be alluring. But who is actually receiving the gift of desire? Because “desire” is used as a double entendre, it takes the dynamic a step further, suggesting that you picture yourself becoming desirous as you picture your significant other wearing Desire. In other words, “Give yourself the gift of desire by giving her a gift of Desire.” In this vein, the man who comes home with a gift of lingerie for his wife or girlfriend is really coming home with a gift for himself. Is there any way for a husband or boyfriend to escape from the self-serving conundrum set up by the clever lines? Only if he considers wearing the lingerie himself. Picture that.


1673 W 8th Street Erie, PA 16505 | 814 454.6236 | PAPAadvertising.com

Brand perceptions of the postmodern kind  

Brand perceptions of the postmodern kind “The most flattering pants you’ll ever buy.” In Don Delillo’s 1985 novel, White Noise, a famous pas...

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