The Key of Life
by Yolandi Hands
They hand me the “Key of Life” – an adolescent with stars in my eyes – I am being handed the key that unlocks the door to my future – in the “grown-up” world.
“This is it!” I think to myself, as I enter this imaginary door, using my very own silver key with the 21-shaped end.
As with many before me, I now stand on the other side of this imaginary open door, bombarded by flashing lights, images and confusing messages, all vying for the attention of my inexperienced youth. Choices around every corner, what do I choose? Now, holding my very own key, it is up to me to decide – Who am I? What will I become? How will I spend the rest of my (now) adult life?
This describes just a little of how scary the world of branding felt to me that day. The day had come, when it was finally up to me. The choices are now mine! What do I want? Where and how will I spend my money? How will I become a happy, independent adult? My own choices! My decisions! No longer dependent on parental choices and decisions.
My mother realised she no longer had a say about the style of clothing I chose, when she found me with the kitchen scissors, cutting holes in my jeans! She had been unable to take me to the “cool” shops in search of clothing to fit my individuality. Once I had identified a store that appealed to me, I wasn’t even looking for quality or loyalty to the brands, but rather just clothing that reflected how I felt, and how I saw myself.
At the tender age of 21, I had to now be sure that the brand decisions I made spoke to the idea of, “Is this what I truly want? Does this feel right? What is in it for me?”
This started me on a journey of self-discovery. Who am I now? How will I make my branding decisions in the future?
As a child, choosing a friend is easy, you see another little girl in the playground alone, she looks clean and trustworthy, and you feel it is safe to approach her. She reciprocates with a smile, and that simple question, “Would you like to play with me?” bonds you for life. Soon after, you realise that it feels as if you were separated at birth, her favourite colour is also pink, she also loves playing on the swings and having tea parties. The point is, she speaks your language and soon you trust her, building the foundations of a loyal friendship.
Now that I am all grown up, and there are many brands sitting alone on the swings in the playground, waiting for me to become their friend, I find that I have learned to be discerning and cautious about the friends I choose. This also applies to the brands which I now choose to honour with my loyalty.
We could spend hours debating brands that have stood the test of time, trends and economic changes but, let me assure you, you will always turn back to what you know, trust, and to the ones who have made a positive impression throughout your young life. Choosing a brand, for me, should be just as serious as choosing my best friend – as they say, “You are what you eat”, and so, “You are who you hang with”.
In this consumer-centric era, I choose to not end up with the friend who has only their own best interests at heart, but the friend who listens, the one who has my back and the one who asks how they can make it better for me!! This decision should not be any different to my personal choice of brands that are deserving of my loyalty.
Today, I am proud to stand on the other side of that imaginary door, with friends and family who have my back, and the brands I choose which, I know, have my best interests at heart.