I can’t remember the last time I ate at McDonald’s in London. I am sure that whenever it was I would have scuttled in and out with my scarf over my head for fear of anyone I knew seeing me there. Healthy eating is all the rage these days – sushi, superfoods, smoothies, organic rice cakes. Hardly anybody I know would admit to enjoying the odd Big Mac. In fact, I would go so far as to admit that my friends and I are out-and-out fast food snobs.
So nobody was more surprised than me, after two weeks of living in south China, at my reaction on first seeing those golden arches on the red background. I marched straight in, ordered “yi ge hanbao” with fries and a coke and then devoured the lot in about twenty seconds flat. Not my finest moment. It was only after I guiltily screwed up my Big Mac wrapper that I realised I hadn’t actually seen the word “McDonald’s” written anywhere. The brand recognition was so strong that I had not questioned where I was for a second.
After that I began to notice the power of branding all around me. In the supermarket the only way I can tell if I’m buying toothpaste or face cream is thanks to the familiar blue squiggle of Colgate. Activia’s green and white packaged yoghurts soon found their way into my shopping basket and we are washing our clothes in Ariel powder for no other reason than I recognised the colours and logos. If you had asked me a month ago what colour a tub of Knorr chicken stock was I don’t think I would have had any idea but now those green and yellow pots with the red and white writing jump right off the shelf at me.
It doesn’t always work of course – Dove produces shower gel, shampoo and body lotion so there were a couple of bad hair days until the trial and error period was over. Oh and one of my husband’s shirts is looking slightly worse for wear after what looked like spray starch turned out to be some sort of colour bleaching agent but apart from that it’s been quite a successful way to shop. My dad has said for years that the world is run by Coca-Cola and now I think he might just be right.
to scuttle = to walk very quickly
all the rage = very fashionable
out-and-out = absolute, outright
snob = person who thinks he or she is better than others
golden arches = nickname for the McDonald’s yellow logo
to devour = to eat greedily
squiggle = line or mark which is not straight
spray starch = product used to make clothes easier to iron