Being manipulated and loving it

James Procter

Here in Australia, on the tippy-top of the 1st world, we are apex consumers.

We all consume. We are consumers. And here in Australia, on the tippy-top of the 1st world where we sit, we are apex consumers. We can choose to buy any product or service from pretty much any place in the world.

But sometimes, all this choice makes it hard to make a decision. We need to sift through marketing and ‘fact-based’ communication delivered by companies and their agencies. We must look at reviews and comments to find out what real people think… then we need to review the reviews to work out if they are legitimate. If you are a decision maximiser like me (someone that needs to see all the options before making a decision), this all gets tiring rather quickly.

It’s probably a combination of a lot of these factors that makes me really appreciate a good lock-up. Brands have been doing it for years and when it works, it’s an amazing thing to behold.

Around 20 years ago, Twinings cemented themselves in the market with the huge, market share grabbing idea of displaying their teas in a high-end wooden ‘tea chest’ for food service (predominantly 4-5 star hotels). Not only did it display the products well, in the right environment but who is going to put a competitor or cheaper tea bag in a Twinings tea chest? The flow on effect, from this into people wanting the fancy tea at home in their pantry, was immediate.


Other brands also look at really interesting ways to get us to brand specify. They bring ‘rituals’ that become known to belong to their brand. Hoegaarden beer introduces us to glass rinsing and head scraping to go alongside a fancy glass – apparently, it’s how people that aren’t philistines drink beer. Ok, so this might not just belong to Hoegaarden but they were definitely at the front of the wave here in Australia. Even before that, those clever Mexicans at Corona have us rushing for a wedge of lime anytime someone mentions cervesa.



Food products are also littered with brand rituals. Ask any American you know what to do with an Oreo and they will invariably tell you – Twist it, Lick it and then Dunk it. It’s part ritual, part serving suggestion.



To be fair, not all lock ups are good. You only have to look at cheap coffee machines and expensive pods, or remarkably good value printers that suddenly need an ‘original brand’ ink refill after one page of printing.


Today though, there is another version of the lock up emerging that is super powerful. We just had these soap dispensers installed in our bathrooms at work. They are made by the thankyou brand that give 100% of profits to various charities. This ticks a lot of mental boxes:

  • The brand of thankyou is designed well and fits with our agency (tick).
  • They make us feel good that we are choosing a brand that does good – Armchair altruism still counts! (tick).
  • They also have the Twinings effect in that you really couldn’t put any other brand refill in there (tick).
  • Choosing this brand reflects well on our brand (tick).
  • And finally, it’s just easy and it’s done* (tick).



Thank you THANKYOU.

*for the record, I don’t spend a huge amount of time thinking about liquid soap.