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Youth Branding: The Danger of Influence
By: Emory Brown
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I watched a TED video the other day on TED youth by a great poet named Lemon Andersen. His piece was called “Please Don’t Take My Jordans.” He exploded on stage with his story of how a young man planned to hunt down and rob another young person for his Jordans because he didn’t have the money to buy a pair. The performance was riveting. Yet, what stood out the most for me in the story was that when the young man that was on the prowl for the Jordans found his victim, he shot his victim because the victim attempted to run in an effort to save his shoes. As the poor victim lay on the ground bleeding to death, he asked the man that had shot him and robbed him not to take his shoes. This is a disturbing thought. He didn’t ask for his life. He asked for his shoes. He didn’t cry out for help. He asked for his shoes not to be taken as his blood drew a mural on the concrete of his innocence.  

Sad to say, this is the culture our children are growing up in; a world in which movies and advertising are glorifying products as objects of necessity for a young person’s life. Everyone is competing to be in the “In Crowd” so hard that they are willing to pay any cost to be in. This dilemma doesn’t just stop with clothing; it even goes as far as young men taking steroids and muscle enhancers to live up to the standards of masculinity that is displayed in advertising by pop culture brands. It’s so crazy that one kid attacked a woman in her home claiming to be a 1,000-year-old vampire sick with blood lust. Entertainment, fashion, and sports brands are having an incredible impact on our youth. They’re building their entire lives around brand images that are depicted as the ultimate cool. Kids that are underprivileged are doing ungodly things to get those precious prizes of pop culture to bring a false sense of fulfillment to their lives. 

As branders, how do we offset this trend? Did the guy who shot up the movie theater during the Batman premiere go crazy or was he reacting to a brand fantasy? If you can remember way back to the ‘90s, this also happened in Chicago during the playing of the movie New Jack City starring Wesley Snipes as the infamous gangster Nino Brown. Gangsters, vampires, and robbers were all created and are all acting in the name of having or being a part of the all-mighty brand image that is created through mass media and branding. We have influence. We have power. We create profits. Yet what we haven’t mastered is the art of helping unaware youth understand that a brand is not worth selling your soul for nor the premise in which you bring another person to their demise. Because, let the truth be told, it probably costs Nike only about five bucks to make a pair of Jordans. And our youth are being influenced to think that without certain products, they are worthless.
Remember the kid who had friends help him murder his parents for $30,000? I wonder what brands he was going to buy to feel good about his life.


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About the Author
Emory Brown is an award-winning creative director/writer whose mission is to spread the gospel of what great marketers can do when they put their heads together and work together for the greater good and not the bottom line. Working with many esteemed clients, his portfolio of work ranges in genre from conservative to ultra-modern including American Family Insurance, United Airlines, Mazda 6 and RX-8, Illinois Lottery, Tyson, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike Air Force 1, and Mercedes Benz, to name a few.  
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