This Baby is Brought to You By General Electric
Isn't there anything that is sacred anymore? Ben Wilson, writer and founder of Philanthroper.com, was overjoyed as he received an ultrasound of his unborn child. But upon a closer look, there emblazoned on the upper right corner of the first sightings of the new member of Wilson's family was the GE logo.
Sure, a company has the right to brand the products they deliver. But lines should be drawn somewhere. To taint an experience that is as pure and as intimate as seeing your future child for the first time with psychological marketing strategies raises some ethical red flags.
In Wilson's article on Fast Company he said, "My child was but a bundle of organized cells just a few weeks in development, yet he or she had already been enlisted as a soldier in the $4.6 billion ultrasound market war. My baby had been branded before birth, and I'd never look at GE's microwaves, light bulbs, and wind turbines the same way again."
This is much more than your run-of-the-mill branding. Upon further digging, Wilson found there is a larger psychological discussion at play. He spoke to Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding, who told Wilson this was a perfect example of "primal branding." In his book, Van Praet wrote, "Self-reported data in market research surveys simply can't measure the implicit, non-declarative imperatives that constantly prime our brains' receptivity to brands and messages. These memories are a complex set of neurological associations that lie deep in the brains' emotional systems and become anchored to the brand …"
In Wilson's case, if he is exposed to the ultrasound enough he will begin associating the GE logo with that warm, fuzzy feeling he gets. Conveniently for Wilson, GE manufactures a lot of home and domestic products, so if he buys enough of them he can feel like that all the time. This, according to Dr. Patrali Chatterjee of Montclair State University, is the "halo effect." Wilson writes, "That halo effect can be so powerful … that someone in my situation could even pay more attention to GE commercials they see on TV."
A representative of GE's ultrasound department told Wilson that she wasn't sure that this "halo effect" was the primary incentive behind branding these once innocent images. Don't buy it. Maybe our perception of GE's brand marketing strategies are tainted by Jack Donaghy's running of the microwave division on 30 Rock, but it's all too convenient for GE, not to mention invasive.