Changing gears #1: Practice brand disloyalty

As we get older, our routines become hardened habits. Some recent data suggests mental stimulation (through new behaviors, brain-teasing exercises, and different patterns of behavior) has important benefits (for example, in fighting Alzheimer’s).

In poker, when you get predictable, you lose. If you’re always bluffing or always playing tight, the other players pick up on that and can easily use that pattern against you. When you change your strategy mid-game, the poker term for that is “changing gears.”

So, this week, I want to change the gears of my life a bit. Each weekday I’ll post what I’m doing to “think different” — please join me, or suggest some additional ideas.

For the first gear change, I will practice some brand disloyalty. The idea of “brand loyalty” has always been a bit repellent to me, since it implies that you will slavishly use a particular product (a victim of brain-washing from its advertising, perhaps?), no matter if a better quality or cheaper alternative is available.

(Nota bena: It’s perfectly acceptable to have brand loyalty to TiVo over all other DVRs. That can be an exception to today’s exercise.)

Here are some ways I’ve thought of to be disloyal to the brands normally used:

  • If you drink Coke, try Pepsi. Or vice versa. Or drink a Calistoga instead. Hell, try a V-8. But just once, because that stuff’s disgusting.
  • Skip your usual chain restaurant for lunch, and try a mom & pop place.
  • Mix up the words to a jingle. “Why ask why? Drink Miller Lite.” “My baloney has a first name, it’s T-Y-S-O-N.”
  • Next time you’re in the grocery store, eschew a few of your regular brands and get a few products that are on sale, or better packaged, or healthier, or from a different country, compared to the ones you normally buy. Especially good for cereal, jam, bread, and snacks.
  • Wear a t-shirt promoting the competition.
  • If you’re a PC user, go up to a co-worker with a Mac and get them to spend 10 minutes showing you why they prefer their computer over yours. And more importantly, vice versa.

If you try this and really miss the brand you swear by, have someone help you perform a blind taste test. For example, have someone secretly pour two different brands of ketchup on your plate, then try them both with your fries and see which one you prefer. You may be surprised. Or try this blind taste test challenge on someone else in your life.

(I was interested to find via Freakonomics a study that showed that almost no one can tell the difference between a cheap wine and an expensive wine in a blind taste test.)

Did you try it? What did you find?

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