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Marketing, Branding, Communications, and PR Professional

...And Part Time Marathoner

Aspirations (and Aspirational Brands) Are Killing Me, And My Wallet

Posted on 15 Dec 2015 in General | 0 comments

Aspiration is the enemy of time management and my wallet, so why do I continue to pursue it?

Maybe it’s an American thing.  The “American Dream”.  The “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality.  From my earliest memories it has been drilled into my head that I can be anything that I want to be.  An astronaut.  A firefighter.  A business magnate.  An NBA All-Star.  Even President of the United States.  It was all, I was told, within reach if I just worked hard and gave it my best effort.

Well, I call BS.  Firstly, I was blessed with a genetic makeup that, while it provided me with my spectacular good looks, did not provide me with NBA-calibur height.  Secondly, despite my uncanny ability to be the self-diagnosed “smartest guy in the room,” I am still unable to rise to political power because my last name isn’t Kennedy, Clinton or Bush and I was not fortunate enough to grow up with a waiting campaign coffer the size of the GDP of some developing nations.

And this oft-repeated “American Aspiration” is killing my ability to manage time effectively and is, more importantly, doing real damage to my wallet.  How so?  Let’s take a closer look at the root of this entire problem.

Aspiration – A hope or ambition of achieving something

Synonyms – desire, dream, wish, longing, yearning

I know what you are thinking.  How can having a goal or a dream secretly be destroying me and my finances?  Well, let me tell you how.

For better, or worse, I have always been driven.  Always found a way to work for the things that I wanted.  Always been myopically laser focused on the next achievement.  I have even had the good fortune of aligning myself, and my career, with aspirational brands.

This seems like an interesting paradox, doesn’t it?  I spend my working life trying to ensure the future of aspirational brands yet, at the same time, bemoan the fact that aspirations are killing me.

Maybe someone actually did grow up thinking about driving a Nissan.  But I sure didn't.

Maybe someone actually did grow up thinking about driving a Nissan. But I sure didn’t.

I take full responsibility for that because – and if you know me, you know this is true – I can’t turn my own aspiration off.  And let’s not get this confused with the medical definition of aspiration because I am not comfortable with the thought of no longer drawing breath.

Just to make sure we are on the same page, an aspirational brand is a product or service that a large percentage of people want to own, but for economic reasons cannot. However, despite that large group of people that desire that product/service being unable to afford it, that same group thinks of itself as having a better than average chance of being able to own it in the future.

Aspirational brands convey certain positive characteristics to a potential customer.  Quality.  Positive image. Status. The list goes on and on.  They can even inspire envy in those who are unable to attain them.  This is in stark contrast to commodity brands which, by their very definition, are fungible.

For me, the easiest articulation of aspirational brands lies in the automotive industry.  While many would argue that a car is a commodity purchase, aspirational brands would beg to differ.  All cars do the same thing, right?  They carry us from point A to point B.  If that is the case, then why is there such a disparity in pricing between brands?  Aspiration, that’s why.

No one I know has ever woken up in the morning and said, “You know what I want to do today? Buy a Subaru.”  Now this is not a knock on Subaru.  I am certain that they make great vehicles, and because I am a huge dog lover, I really enjoy their commercials.  It’s just that Subaru isn’t exactly an aspirational brand, unless you are a rally car driver.  And if you are a rally car driver and are reading this blog, then I stand corrected.

Now back to the topic at hand…How aspiration is killing me.  I spend so much time trying to drive my career achievements that other areas of my life outside of work tend to suffer.  The opportunity cost of chasing the next achievement has sometimes made me a terrible time manager.  Work life balance?  How about work-work balance?  Is it possible to put a murphy bed in my office?  I know you get my drift.  I know it’s not healthy.  Let’s just say I am trying to work on it.

Aspirational brands can command a price premium over commodity brands and that is killing my wallet.  I think that the only brands that I like are aspirational in nature.  My car.  My laptop.  My work clothes.  My workout clothes.  Hell, even my hobbies outside of work are aspirational (read: expensive).  My gym membership(s).  My distance running.  I might as well just give them my credit card.

I can’t get away from it.  Maybe I don’t want to.  If I stop trying to achieve, then what is left?

If I stop trying to be the best I can be and stop trying to have the best of everything then what is there?  Just enjoy the present?  No thanks.  I think I will keep driving.  I just hope to be driving a Porsche 911 and not a Nissan.  Nothing against Nissan (or Subaru) – really.

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