February 27th, 2005

wish, hope, life

Now this is service....

My heater conked out on me Friday, we called the apartment agency yesterday, and there's now a guy installing a new one.

It's almost too bad I didn't get to try out the Japanese explaination for the problem that I'd carefully written down on notepaper. I looked up the right words for "broke down" and "breaker" and "made a rattling noise" ("garagara shita," which I, amazingly enough, figured out before I even looked it up). And the guy hasn't asked me one question. Just pressed a few buttons, looked around, and said, "Replace okay?"

Fantastic. And it isn't costing me a single yen.

In addition - you know how, in the US, when you call a service rep, they tell you that they'll be there sometime between eight and five, and show up at 4:30? Not this guy. They said he'd be here between seven and eight o'clock, and I'll be damned if he wasn't here at 7:05....
wish, hope, life

Your brain is branded....

There's an article from the LA Times about the effects of marketing on the physical makeup of the brain. Researchers used an MRI to record the reactions of people's brains upon seeing images of popular images and celebrities. The result of a Pepsi/Coke test showed:

"When the researchers analyzed the brain scans, they discovered that the Coke label appeared to activate a memory region called the hippocampus, along with structures in the midbrain known to compute the likelihood of rewards.

A brain region linked to the sense of self - the ventral putamen and the medial prefrontal cortex - also lighted up.

The Pepsi label prompted no such response."

In another test, the image of a "desirable product" caused the neurons responsible for moving the hand to fire up.

This is equal parts fascinating and disturbing. Not so much on the whole "OMG, marketing is despoiling our BRAINS!" way, since it's pretty obvious that, without the outside world to provide information, the brain wouldn't really amount to much. We live in an advertising-saturated world, so to expect our brains to discard that information is pretty naive.

What's fascinating/disturbing is the unconsciousness of it all. The way we take it all in, not knowing what we're doing, and without any real indications of its work, the brain is using every bit of information to reshape itself to deal with the world. And we have no idea it's doing it. Linking cola brands to the sense of self, designer handbags to anxiety and pain... It's a horrendously complex wiring job that wouldn't occur to us to undertake, if we had to do it ourselves. I hope our brains know what they're doing.

Slightly more disturbing is the eventual target of this research, intended or otherwise - more effective marketing strategies. Once they're able to narrow down what branding techniques are most effective, in a neurochemical sense, advertising can play to that. Then it becomes a question of choice - if Starbucks stumbles across the secret Snow Crash barcode advertising that makes us unable to NOT buy their products, what kind of ethical/legal responsibility do they have?

Lots to think about....