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What’s in a name? Everything


I didn't think that I was a sucker for brand names anymore, until I started buying snowboarding gear.

Sure, I remember logos being of supreme importance when I was a kid. Everyone had Roots sweatshirts, Ocean Pacific T-shirts, and Vaurnet sunglasses. And it was amazing how much a little green alligator could change a plain white T-shirt and make it so much cooler – or, in the case of my dad who wore the cheap knock-offs with the alligator upside down, could expose you to complete ridicule.

Although it really didn't bother him too much, it was a continual source of embarrassment for the rest of the family.

I was only 10 years old then and already a slave to corporate branding.

But, like I said, I thought I had grown out of it, gotten over it and decided that logos and name brands were a relic of the ’80s – that no one really cared anymore.

I came to terms with this after listening to the protesters at Seattle and Quebec City who grumbled about the way big corporations were sucking us all in, making us all clones, unable to think for ourselves or recognize corporate impacts around the world.

To be defined by the logo on a hat or the label inside a shirt was really a sad comment on the human condition – or so I thought.

On the other hand, branding is so immersed in our culture that it's hard not to believe that I can "do it" too if I've got Nikes on my feet.

Corporate branding is especially hard to ignore in a small resort town.

Some of the biggest corporate branders of the past decade are nestled right in the centre of town – McDonald's, Starbucks and The Gap. The branding culture has reached such an extent that you start to think that maybe the world really would be a better place if everyone was wearing khakis and sipping short, non-fat lattes.

And it's not just the big guys who have capitalized on the branding craze, it extends into even the smallest snowboarding and ski stores. Names like Burton, Four Square and Helly Hansen, while they mean nothing to people who don't ski or snowboard, are as recognizable as the swoosh is in the non- snowboarding world.

When I bought a jacket last weekend, there was more concern over the brand name than anything else.

Even before the inevitable query over the price tag, the first question was "Who made it?"

Even before I had the chance to reply, their eyes quickly travelled to the sleeve to check out the logo. Only then could the jacket get the stamp of approval – or not.

Take a Burton product for example. The name itself conjures up so much more than just a waterproof jacket, a cozy fleece or a snowboard. Burton products don't have to be good quality gear anymore because the stuff sells based on the name itself.

The Burton name is synonymous with great snowboarding and this is manifest in the products that they sell.

When a brand name dominates a sport like this, it would seem to me that Burton is selling more than just the gear. Just as The Gap sells more than clothes and Starbucks sells more than coffee, Burton sells a way of life too, their own particular branded culture.

Maybe, in this case, it comes from the success story behind the name.

Jake Burton Carpenter is the embodiment of the sport today, known as Mr. Snowboard to some. He brought snowboarding to the world when no one else cared.

He has gone from making prototype snowboards in a barn, to being one of the leaders in the industry, making all kinds of products associated with the snowboarding.

So the Burton name is also synonymous with success, with attaining your goals, with being the best.

But I digress...

So there I was in the store last weekend and I knew about the Burton name – in terms of quality or notoriety it doesn't really matter – and I bought a Burton fleece.

It's a nice fleece but I somehow wonder if I would like it as much if it didn't have a certain name on the label.

— Alison Taylor

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