Near my home in Austin, Texas, there’s an old refurbished motel with a keep-it-real attitude that is expressed right on its iconic marquee: “No additives, No preservatives, Corporate-free since 1938.”
The good news is that more and more businesses across the country are adopting this attitude, providing a buy-local, un-corporate, anti-chain alternative for customers. Food shoppers and restaurant goers, for example, have made a huge shift in recent years away from the likes of McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Taco Bell, preferring upstart, independent outfits with names like “The Corner,” “Caleb’s Kola,” and “US Taco Co.”
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But, uh-oh, guess who owns those little alternatives? Right – McDonald’s, PepsiCo, and Taco Bell. Leave it to ethically-challenged, profiteering monopolists to grab such value-laden terms as “genuine” and “honest,” empty them of any authenticity, then hurl them back at consumers as shamefully-deceptive marketing scams.
In Huntington Beach, California, US Taco Co. poses as a hip surfer haunt, with a colorful “Day of the Dead” Mexican skull as its logo. The airy place peddles lobster tacos and other fancifuls at $3 or $4 each – very un-fast-foody. Nowhere is it whispered that this is a Big Chain outlet, created by a group of Taco Bell insiders. They even usurped the enterprising word “entrepreneur,” stripped it of its outsider connotation, and twisted it into a corporate vanity, calling themselves “intrapreneurs.”
The problem with these fabricators of “corporatized authenticity” is that reality will out. Small and local has a genuine feel and flavor that the imitators can’t sustain as they sprawl out into 1,000 and then 10,000 stores. And as they do that, it becomes obvious to customers that they’ve been duped – and that’s not a good marketing strategy.
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