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Brands treat us like the replicants in ‘Blade Runner’

The classic sci-fi film “Blade Runner” is set in 2019 Los Angeles. But one of the 1982 movie’s main characters, replicant Leon Kowalski, was created yesterday — April 10, 2017. Replicants like Kowalski were created by the fictional Tyrell Corporation, who imbued these machines with memories and a sense of personal history to better control them.

Now that we’ve reached Kowalski’s “inception day,” many brands have come to the same conclusion: by giving their products a past and a personality, they can increase their power of influence on the consumer.

In our year 2017, globalization and mass production have resulted in a race to the bottom as far as price is concerned. A watch on alibaba.com may cost less than a dollar. If all you need is a machine that tells time, why pay more?

To escape this trap, an increasing number of brands feel compelled to include an “our history” section in their websites.

Rolex, for instance, informs us about the “visionary spirit” of Hans Wildorf who in “1905 … founded a company in London specializing in the distribution of timepieces.” You may be spending tens of thousands of more dollars for the same information (telling time), but you are now buying a piece of history. Likewise, the Swiss watch company Blancpain traces its foundation as far back as 1735.

In the retail clothing industry consumers may buy several pairs of jeans directly from a factory in Asia. While “anyone can make a pair of blue jeans,” it is “Levi Strauss & Co. [that] made the first blue jean –– in 1873,” Levi’s website states.

For maximum effect, not only do brands need to point to a foundation moment, it is preferable for the subsequent narrative to include humble beginnings and the overcoming of adversity.

Nutella was an ingenious solution to “the shortage of cocoa supplies following World War Two,” while Hewlett-Packard emerged from “a rented garage” and worked “with limited resources”

QUIZ: Are you a sucker or an influence master?

And if you thought that Budweiser is just another beer, the Super Bowl commercial “Born the hard way” will suggest you revise your preconceptions.

Leon Kowalski may have met his end in the first Blade Runner film. But other replicants are back when the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, hits theaters in October.

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