Name recognition is one of the biggest human characteristics that advertisers have for getting people to buy their products. According to years of research, if someone sees a name enough in all kinds of places, they tend to lend favor to that brand in their mind.
That's probably the reason we see so many t-shirts, sweat shirts and jackets emblazoned with the names of products from Mars Candy to Viagra.
Last year my son and his wife took a trip to the northwest and brought me back a Nike shirt. It has a large advertisement for Nike Waffle Trainer shoes on the front and a little Nike emblem on the back. I really like the shirt and wear it quite often, but the other day I was in a discount shoe store picking out some new athletic shoes and the guy there kept trying to turn me toward some Nike's that listed at $89.95. To be honest I have never spent more than $25 on a pair of athletic shoes and I told him so. He looked at me kind of perplexed.
"Then why are you wearing that Nike shirt?" he asked.
His comment made me think. Does everyone assume that when I wear my NASA cap a friend of mine bought me in Florida a few years ago, I am a rocket scientist? Or do they think that when I am drinking a from a cup that says "Coke" on it I am a Cocaholic?
It's a ludicrous thought, but then I started to consider all the things I own or use that broadcast a product. Some of those items are so related to a brand or kind, that I have had little choice in the perception at all.
The truth is that we are all stuck with this dilemma, unless we become pretty discerning in what we will use at work or buy in our private lives.
For instance, years ago I had a business where I worked with various colleges and school districts around the nation. Often when I was done with a project, the college I was working at or the school district I was connected with would give me a sweat shirt or cap that said their names on it. In one case I even got a huge banner from a school district that had one high school which displayed their Rocket emblem and the name of the high school.
In another instance, I got a cap from an all girls school in New York State. I had to wonder if those that saw it, and knew about the school, thought I might have a daughter that went there.
All this about clothes and the drink cups are a growth out of a promotional environment most of us just take for granted. If it's a warm and comfortable sweat shirt we will wear it even if it is promoting a business we care nothing about.
However there is one kind of advertising that has really grown in recent years that perplexes me entirely. That is the tendency for people to leave the license plate frames on their cars from the dealerships from which they purchased the vehicle. I noticed that trend was a big thing in southern California when I lived there about 20 years ago. I had not seen that a lot in Utah before I moved there. Before that, when I lived in Salt Lake, I saw few of these kinds of plate frames. However, in those days, dealers usually would put a stick on logo on the back of your car (one that wouldn't come off unless you wanted your paint job ruined). Or they would attach one of those metal emblems that were put on with screws or rivets. When taken off the result would be gaping holes in your cars trunk lid.
But license plate frames? Once the fluorescent placard they stick in the frame before the dealer sells you the car is removed and it is replaced with state plates, I am not sure why people continue to use the frame that came along with the car. Are people proud of where they bought their car? Are they too cheap to find a different frame that says something they mean like "Happiness is that my last kid left home last week" or some such thing? Or is it that they just think they need a frame with their plate so they use the one that is there?
I don't know about you, but I have never seen any kind of license plate frame on a car or truck that protected the plate, so I doubt that is the reason. So I did a little poll in a parking lot with some people the other day.
I stood in the lot as people went to their cars and I asked them why they kept their plate frames from the dealerships. I surveyed only 10 people.
Two looked at me as if I was nuts, got in their cars and quickly drove away. Three said they didn't even know the frame was there, and that the dealership had put their plates on for them when the state tags had arrived.
Two went on about what a terrible deal they got and how they would never buy a car from that dealer again. When I asked them why they then wanted to advertise the dealership, they said they thought that the state required a frame and they just hadn't found the time to replace it. (The state does not require a frame around a plate.)
Two others were real honest. They said they just didn't care what surrounded their license plate as long as the car ran.
The final guy I talked with was the most interesting. He answered that he worked for the dealership and thought it was his corporate duty to keep his advertisement plastered under his rear bumper. But after some conversation he admitted that he had actually bought the car from another car lot than where he worked because he got a better price on the vehicle. He only put the frame on because he wanted to sooth nerves at work over the decision he had made.
Not much of a survey I will admit, but then I guess this selection of a subject for my column is not one of the hot topics in the National Enquirer either. But it does make you wonder. And it brings up one question only you can answer.
What's around your rear license plate and why?