I have witnessed, I believe, more than once, a test performed on children of about six or seven years old. The test is a sort of psychological experiment only much simpler and of no harm to the children, of course. The child is shown a series of cards each with a different corporate logo printed on it. It’s amazing how many most kids can name. I remember in one version of the test the child’s father, who was fearful the child was mirroring her mother’s consumerist lifestyle, mixed in among the printed cards photos of important political figures and other types of logos and symbols. The child, of course, stammered over the NASA logo, a portrait of the president or the British flag even though she could clearly pronounce “Yves Saint Laurent”.
Anyway, that’s all just anecdotal hearsay until you apply the same “test” to yourself. Be honest, how many corporate logos could you identify? Why do you think this information is so easy to learn? I’m not insinuating anything sinister or immoral about logos, symbols, corporations or business in general; in fact, I admire the gracefulness with which corporate logos and brands relay such a broad message. The longer a brand endures the more powerful it’s logo and other symbols seem to become.
Imagine you’ve been driving down a very rural highway out west somewhere and you realize it’s been quite a while since you’ve seen any signs of civilization. Your drive has now become one of those nightmare situations where the minutes feel like hours and every mile feels like fifty. How would you feel if suddenly, in the distance, you notice the bright yellow glow of golden arches? How much differently would you feel if instead of McDonald’s you happened upon a place called Hank’s Steak House?
Here’s a hypothetical scenario that I’m sure many of us have encountered. You are called out of town on business. Maybe you live in Paoli and you’re asked to travel to Baltimore; or maybe you live in Doylestown and you’re asked to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico. In either case it would be almost impossible to visit these locations without the need to eat something. When you are traveling what do you eat?
Bear with me while I play around with this idea for a bit. It’s one thing to simply ask someone, “what are you eating today?” or, “where are you going to eat.” The scenario I have indicated here removes you from the comfort of familiarity with your surroundings. What if you moved to a new town? You might spend some time cooking at home and spending your evenings unpacking and arranging. Eventually, you’re going to want to explore the area to find your new community’s best places to eat. If you go backward from here and just imagine spending a few months, a couple weeks, a day, a few hours… how will this effect your choices?
So, if you’re applying this hypothetical scenario to yourself I think you’ll find one common feature of your personal outcome to just about everyone else. If you are staying in a town for a shorter time you are much more likely to dine at a chain-branded corporate-controlled restaurant rather than a family-owned local restaurant. It is only after you have occupied a town for a certain amount of time that you will begin to explore new, unique, and more local establishment.
The only way you will find yourself in an unfamiliar restaurant is if someone local takes you there (or it happens to be a chain you’ve never tried and another traveler takes you there) and there is a good chance you won’t like it. That’s that danger of trying something new and, especially when you’re traveling, you long for the most reliable and comfortable thing you can find, even if it is a Big Mac.