The morning of my oh-so-important SAT 2 Subject tests exam, I’m sitting at my computer writing the thoughts that popped into my head as I prepare to go for breakfast. It’s 05:41 am and I have to leave by 6 but I know I have to write this down or I’ll sit in the exam hall during maths thinking about how I must not forget it. What is it with us and brands? What is it with Nigerians and brands? Before you sign it off as one of those rants by people who can’t afford to buy brand names let me define the word ‘brand’ and then tell you that I also love brands. So what does ‘brand’ mean? In dictionary terms, a brand is a kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like but to me a brand is a set name that distinguishes a certain ‘item’ from the rest of the objects in its set (too much maths lol). So why are we obsessed with brands? Here in South Africa people buy things that are actually branded nameless! If that’s supposed to be a brand it can’t work in Nigeria. No one would ever buy it, me included. Everything in our lives is branded, even the schools we go to or the area we live in. I mean why else would I live in a tiny flat in Lekki and face the horrendous traffic every morning? Or why would I walk from ‘mallam’ to ‘mallam’ looking for peak milk? Since I’m currently in the college application phase I’m going to look at this from the point of view of the colleges we go to and the ones our parents want us to go to. I’ve been blessed to have an understanding mother who doesn’t mind ‘managing’ Columbia University and Swarthmore College. AHA! I knew it! You’re probably asking where those schools are. Have you ever thought about how many people do not know the precise location of Harvard University but if I mention it nobody asks ‘where is that?’ Most Ivy League schools in America are just another brand to Nigerians. The same way you would rather talk about your third IPod than imagine your parents buying you the Zune (I bet you don’t even know what that is),which parent doesn’t want to say ‘My son is in Harvard studying medicine’?
Let me tell you a funny story. Last year my Nokia 5310 got stolen in South Africa. I was relieved. I mean the phone was old and my friends were starting to get new phones. My darling mother was very sorrowful and promised to get me a new phone alas when I got back to Nigeria I couldn’t get a new phone quick enough. So I had to chill out with this old Motorola that looked like a toy. On the way to prom I looked around me, all my friends where sliding their phones and doing funny things and there I was with this phone that couldn’t even text properly. I never brought it out. What?! And totally disgrace myself? I shiver to think about it. My phone would probably have exploded under peer pressure when it saw the iphones and Blackberries hanging around. Anyway ‘brand’ is the reason why our parents harangue us into doing well in school. Who doesn’t know that dropping out of school doesn’t guaranty your failure in life? Kanye once said ‘the valedictorian is scared of the future while I hop into my Delorion’ (I think. I’m clueless about cars and stuff). Of course your chances of success if you went to an Ivy League college is higher (and that’s because people are blinded by name everywhere) but that is also in the same way your chances of marrying a very wealthy man increases exponentially as the price tag on your clothes increases. Note that this could also be a function of the amount of fabric used to make it, depending on the guy. Oh well until I understand why we like brands and how not to be obsessed I’ll stick to my Nokia 5800 and a dream to be the first alum of Princeton from mon famille.