Coffee & Underpants

Its Christmas day, 7pm. I’m cuddling my 5-year-old daughter on the couch and watching the movie Elf. The dwarf scene with Will Ferrell and Peter Dinklage has just come on.

Daughter: ‘Daddy is he real, really real? Not movie real.’

Me: ‘Who him?’ I ask, pointing at Peter Dinklage.

Daughter: ‘Yes, him. The little man. Is he really real?’

Me: ‘Yes Juliet, he’s really real, not movie real.’ I am smiling, stroking her hair and using my grown up, worldly wise, voice.

Daughter: ‘That’s sooo cool daddy.’

The scene progresses. She’s watching but deep in thought. After a while she looks up at me with a serious expression on her face.



‘Can I have one of those little men for next Christmas?’

Thankfully the movie moved on at that point and I didn’t have to bore her with a chat about societal prejudices, discrimination and why most dwarfs, or elves or hobbits for that matter, probably wouldn’t find her early next year’s Santa list appropriate.

Clearly my daughter isn’t heightist. She’s just five and using the leeway we afford little people as they stare or point at the disabled, answer honestly when asked about someone’s appearance and say loudly for all to hear in your favourite restaurant that ‘the fat lady is returning to the table with the drinks’.

She is following a thought process that if dwarfs are really real, not movie real and about the same height as her then they must be good fun to play with. The logic is flawed but I understand why she thinks that she wants a dwarf for Christmas. Her logic is as good as saying that because Roger Federer is the best tennis player to have ever played the sport then he must be an expert on coffee machines, or mobile phones, or underpants, or Audi cars.

This is the logic of a five-year-old.

My daughter assumes that height, or a lack of, is directly linked to a fun play mate. Us grown-ups assume that good tennis playing is linked to extensive knowledge on pretty much everything.

She will quickly grow to understand the flaws in her logic. She will learn soon enough that dwarfs can be narky wee fuckers, should be avoided at all costs and can’t be purchased. But we will continue to buy our Roger endorsed coffee machines.

In marketing its called the halo effect and no one has a halo as big or as shiny as Roger. Good looking, male, graceful on court, happily married to his childhood sweetheart, beautiful children, family man. No scandal or closet worth speaking of.

He’s a marketers dream.

Tiger woods was a marketers dream once as well and we all know how that ended up.

I doubt Roger will fall from grace in such a dramatic fashion though, but I can still hope. I say hope because I have a long standing bet with a close friend that it will happen.

Personally I can’t believe anyone can be as perfect as Roger, he’s only a human being like the rest of us. He’s not a saint. At least not yet he’s not.

I believe that some enterprising reporter will eventually find and open his Swiss closet currently held securely deep in a Geneva vault.

And when his deviant proclivities are revealed for all to see I will be the proud owner of a £500 bottle of malt whiskey.

But Swiss goat fiddling aside what is it that makes us gravitate towards products which are being used by the great and the good looking?

We all know the answer to this, it’s the lifestyle we are buying into. If George Clooney drinks Nespresso, and I drink Nespresso then I can capture just a little bit of George’s life. I might not have the villa on Lago de Como or the super-lawyer wife or the boat or the plane or everything else he might have but my morning expresso will taste the same as his.

I sometimes wonder if the celebrities actually use the products they are endorsing or do they stand there smile and take a sip or a shave, collect their paycheck and go home dropping the product in the bin on the way.

So even if I can’t actually be George Clooney or Roger Federer, will having just a soupçon of their lives make me happier? If I feel even just 1% like George?

No, of course it bloody well wont. I know this, you know this, so whats is the point of companies spending millions to pay superstars to drink, wear or use their products?

Because it works that’s why.

People still buy the coffee because George drinks it and they still wear Roger’s underpants. Not his actual underpants you understand, I would imagine those would command a substantial premium, but ones with his name printed on them.

So there, I’ve managed to contradicted myself and in doing so shown that I really don’t have any plan worth speaking of when I set out to write one of these.

On one hand I have said we all know what’s going on, we know the ploy and understand the trick, but on the other hand we all still fall for it. Every time.

In the comic strip Peanuts there is a long running gag where Lucy persuades Charlie Brown to kick a ball she is holding. He normally refuses at first, having fallen for it before, but eventually she says something to persuade him. When he goes to kick the ball she moves it and he flies into the air and falls. It always ends with Lucy laughing and pointing out that he should not have trusted her.

Well it appears we are all, myself included, Charlie Brown.

I drink Nespresso almost every single day and it makes me feel nothing like George Clooney but I still buy into the whole lifestyle trick they are playing on me. The coffee’s not bad, its not great, but certainly not the best I have tasted. Yet I still buy it.

I am writing this on a Mac, why? Well you probably guessed why.

I could go on listing everything I own from my socks up but this would be dull and unnecessarily weird.

Basically for the most part we don’t buy stuff for the utility it offers us. I would argue that utility comes very far down the list of reasons why we purchase something and if you step back and actually think about this, it’s a bit silly really.

Anyway, as it’s that time of year, my new year’s resolution will be to avoid the marketing tricks, sidestep the fake lifestyle toothpaste and ignore the six pack ab-building beer. My coffee will be the tastiest but not the prettiest and my clothes will most certainly be endorsement free.

I will maintain this bland Tesco unbranded stonewash life right up until the day I see Clooney’s Own™ brand of pet Elves.

Because at the end of the day, Juliet is worth it.

Bonne Annee!   Gutes Neues Jahr!   Happy New Year!