I was digging around for photos for an upcoming blog post when I stumbled upon this picture of Brussels, taken in 2010. At first glance, the photo doesn’t look too exciting. Just some standard storefronts. But I remember exactly why this photo was taken that day, and its meaning goes beyond what you seem to see. This isn’t just a portrait of a couple of stores: it’s a window into my consumer mentality.
You see, I ate some awesome chocolate while in Belgium. Not too surprising- they’re kind of known for their skill with cocoa. But I specifically went out of my way to find local shops, small producers, etc- basically, brands I couldn’t find in the U.S. So when I saw this Godiva store, strategically located near one of Brussel’s key tourist attractions (the Manneken Pis statue), I think I literally giggled out loud. I asked myself: “why would tourists buy Godiva chocolate here in Belgium when they could buy it ALL over the world? There’s so many more interesting brands out here!” I actually LOVE Godiva chocolate and am usually more than happy to consume it- but when I was strolling around Belgium that day, it just didn’t pique my curiosity in the same way as the shops with unfamiliar names.
So. Let’s dissect that: I essentially ignored Godiva as a candidate for my chocolate dollars because it’s just too familiar. Yes, it’s actually Belgian (no fauxscaling here!), so it’s rather legit but still, I see it at my local mall all the time. It’s a foreign brand that’s had great success expanding internationally- and as a result, I had zero interest in buying it in its home country. I was looking for something I couldn’t find at home. So even though Godiva was technically a local brand, it was too familiar to feel foreign. And because of that perception, I chose to patronize one of its competitors. To delicious results… but still, made me think a bit about how I act as a consumer. I realized that when I travel, I have completely different attitudes toward brands depending on their product category. For example, I’d be much more likely to buy a Tylenol product while traveling because I know the brand and trust its quality- that feels smart to me. But I’m less likely to buy food, clothes, etc. if they’re manufactured in the U.S. or widely available here. It just doesn’t feel as “interesting” to me, for better or for worse.
Here’s some more photos of my trip to Belgium- because now I’m getting nostalgic and want to go back!