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The Cult of Brand Belief

Every culture features its own brands—if you can even recognize them. I’ve rented a flat in Spain on Airbnb, and I need to buy a bottle of bleach. Problemo: no hablo español. I squint and scan the shelves looking for brands I recognize—Domestos? Clorox? Nope. I look for packaging that seems similar to bleach I’ve bought in the past—bottle shapes, colors. Useless. Finally, I pull out my iPhone, look up the Spanish word for bleach, and start reading labels. The whole process takes four times longer than merely grabbing what’s familiar. Guilt sets in. I probably shouldn’t even be using bleach, but a more environmentally sensible alternative. I end up buying the cheapest bottle and walk out feeling uneasy. Imagine every ...

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