Beware of the Big Brand Brainwash

big brand brainwashThankfully, the big brand brainwash no longer has an effect on me. I can’t remember when I last went to Starbucks.

At first, it was the novelty and the dazzling selection of coffees – Latte, Americano, Macchiatto, Frescato, Schmuckato…. all in different sizes – regular, tall, grande…

But then I realised that a coffee at Starbucks is actually quite expensive, I mean REALLY expensive, and I started to wonder how they can make people spend a fortune on a cup of coffee.

It’s not just Starbucks, but also Costa Coffee, Pret-A-Manger and all the other high-profile chains that offer over-priced food and drink consumers are so willing to pay for without thinking twice.

But why?

What’s wrong with the independent coffee shop or tea room that offers your favourite hot beverage at half the Starbucks price?

Is it because they don’t offer a free Wi-Fi connection? Or are you worried about taste and quality?

Who says that the big brands’ products are of high quality anyway? Do you find yourself being sucked into the clever marketing without realising? Perhaps you have fallen for the big brand brainwash.

Granted, the drinks taste the same in every Starbucks or Costa Coffee, regardless where in the country (or even the world) their branches are. Taste is consistent, even the Rocky Road cake in the London Starbucks tastes exactly the same as in the Leeds branch.

We just know what we’re getting; it’s familiar and perhaps risk-free. But when we settle down for the well-known and usual routine, decay sets in. We are no longer prepared to explore new and often more exciting territory.

All these big brands love to hype their coffee and tea as fair trade and superior, but to be honest, fair trade is far more mainstream and widely on offer now than it used to be. Even most independents have jumped onto that bandwagon.

Superior product quality is always questionable, especially when it’s hyped in the company’s marketing campaign.  Often it’s just another big brand brainwash.

So why am I writing about this?

Well, next time you are thinking of heading to Starbucks or Costa again like a drone, I’d like to ask you to seek out that little independent place and give it a try – just for a change.

Independents struggle to keep going, because people have been manipulated by the big brand brainwash, yet there are some real gems amongst the independents.

I challenge you to seek them out in your area and support them instead of the big brand chain store.

As you know, the big brands cleverly avoid paying corporation tax in the UK, yet the independents are unable to pull this kind of creative accounting heist.

The big brands claim they create new jobs, but there are people employed in independent shops, too.

Many independents don’t survive for more than two years, but they are beginning to strike back with exciting niching like the London cat café, Seven Arts café in Leeds and Yorkshire’s own Betty’s Victorian style tea rooms.

I challenge you to seek out these gems and support their dedication, innovative ideas, personal service and artisan skills (often their patisserie and breads are far superior without costing more than the big brand products).

Let’s not create a world, where the only coffee shop you can go to is either a Starbucks or Costa, while independents have gone out of business.

Let’s aim to keep our high streets more colourful, quirky and exciting.

Do you have a favourite independent coffee shop you visit regularly? Please tell me all about that little gem you’ve found. I’d love to hear from you.

Warmest wishes,



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Why Buying Fair Trade Gifts DOES Make a Difference

Rajasthani PuppetsI love fair trade gifts; they are ethical, because they haven’t been produced in sweat shops or unsafe buildings.

The recent disaster in Bangladesh, in which over 800 people have been killed in a factory collapse, is a stark reminder to us all that someone will always pay the price for cheap clothes and merchandise. Sadly in this case so many people had to pay with their lives, whilst we can’t resist to endulge in bargain shopping.

When you spend your money, you have the power to make a difference to the world. With your buying choices you can either reinforce the status quo or support a better way of trading with artisans and producers in developing countries.

Fair Trade supports the ‘workforce’, which comprises of families and communities, and not the bosses and profit margins of big companies.

These smaller workforces tend to specialise in traditional craft techniques such as embroidery, block printing, jewellery making, or they may focus on working with a specific kind of material like wood, bamboo, stone or tin.

In recent times, using recycled materials in production has also become very popular; now we can choose not only gifts that have been fairly traded, but they are also eco-friendly.

Traditional crafts are being retained by families and communities that are passed down through each generation. Specialised embroidery techniques are still used in India today, which are applied to fair trade homeware such as cushions, throws and embellished bags or scarves. Women have the choice of doing this kind of work at home, while they can look after their young children.

When you buy Fair Trade certified products, you can rest assured that producers have been paid a fair wage, working conditions are safe and no children under the age of 16 are working. Money is also reinvested into the community to increase living standards, and emphasis is put on protecting the environment; the use of hazardous chemicals in production is greatly reduced or even avoided altogether.

The exceptional craftsmanship is another reason why I love fair trade. Since everything is made carefully by hand, it is in its own right a work of art. In addition, such a diverse range of products, materials and designs appeal to buyers, who also prefer paying reasonable prices compared with expensive celebrity designer products.

So not only is fair trade ethical, but because everything is handmade, it makes each item exclusive. And because producers are constantly modifying their designs, they retain the appeal and keep the range fresh and add innovative new products.

Not only is the character and charm of fair trade gifts appealing, but also the ethics supporting these communities, who have a fair chance to thrive and develop long-term economic stability.

Warmest wishes,



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