How do branding and marketing impact our everyday decisions?

[This post is part of our “Curriculum of Questions” series].

Are we really free to choose which products we buy?  Which medicines we take?  What clothes we wear?  What technology we invest in?  Which products we clean our homes with?  This big picture question is intended to get us thinking about the daily choices we make and discern which ones might simply be made as the result of good marketing.


A few months ago, I heard about a campaign launched by the Mayor of London about eliminating fast food ads in all public transport locations due to the increasing obesity epidemic.  I asked my children if they thought it would “work”.  Would eliminating a McDonald’s ad and replacing it with a “eat your veggies” ad help people make wiser choices about food consumption?


Then I came across an exhibit at the Museum of Brands called “Can Marketing Save Lives?”.  If you happen to live in the London area, this young museum is a little gem.  After perusing their website, I knew we had a big picture question brewing.  We plan to do some research, create a product, and post our findings on Padlet, all leading up to a trip to the the Museum of Brands in order that we might engage in this exhibit in a more meaningful, informed way.

What questions do you need to ask in order to answer this particular big picture question?  Here are some to get you started.  (It’s definitely not necessary to answer ALL of them.  And you may come up with questions of your own that aren’t on the list at all.  Simply choose the questions that will lead to a good understanding of the purpose behind branding and marketing and that seem most relevant/interesting/thought-provoking to you.)

What is branding?

What is marketing?

Look around your house.  In 10 minutes record the number of branded items you find.  Was there an intentional decision made to invest in those particular brands?

How does the food and drink industry use branding/marketing to influence the public (Think Starbucks, Coca-cola, McDonalds, etc.)?

How have brands used their influence for social change?  What are they sacrificing (if anything) by doing so?  (Nike Dream CrazyReactions, and CBS News report, Gillette, and it’s response)  *Note: Parents please preview these commercials and reports due to their mature content.  

What is your favorite brand?  Why?

How is branding related to identity?  Do you need a particular item because “everyone” has it or because it is a reflection of “me”? (Mac vs. PC ads)

How are branding and design related?

What is your favorite commercial?  Why?

What makes a good advertisement/commercial?

How does advertising affect culture?  How does culture affect advertising?  (“Think Different” Apple, “Greatness” Nike)

Which demographics are most susceptible to marketing campaigns?

What have been the most influential ad campaigns in history?  Why do you think they were so impactful?

Can marketing save lives?  I grew up with the commercial, “This is your brain on drugs.  Any questions?” as well as the D.A.R.E. program in my school.  Are these tools effective?

social media phone sticker

I saw one of these stickers on a man’s phone while riding the tube.  I chuckled to myself, but later thought that in the future it might not be too far-fetched.  Will we see these labels on every new phone we buy similar to  the mandatory warnings on a pack of cigarettes?  

How is branding related to medicine?  Are generic medicines just as effective as branded ones?

What brand could you see yourself working for?  (i.e. Which brands have a mission/vision that you believe in or identify with and have jobs that fall within your passion/talent/gift set?)

That’s a lot to take in.  A big picture question is intentionally broad.  It gives us the freedom to narrow in on one particular aspect of the question that strikes a chord with us personally.  Each child (or adult) who digs into this question will have something unique to bring into the discussion based on the line of questioning they choose to follow.

The Challenge:  Have your children create a video, write an essay, compose a poem, make a collage, create an infographic, present a TED talk, create an advertisement or commercial, etc. with their findings on one aspect of how our daily lives are impacted by branding and/or marketing.

If you follow up with a trip to the Museum of Brands, the museum website has loads of activities available for you to incorporate during your trip.

Please share what you and your children have discovered or, even better, how your thinking or actions have changed based on your time investigating this question.

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