When you connect a specific product with an idea or an image using the name, slogan, design or logo of the person or company who owns it—you have created a brand. When you make that idea or image recognizable by people through marketing of some sort—that is branding. Branding is regarded as a vital part of commerce, allowing individuals and companies to build a reputation and broaden their consumer market, thus creating more revenue. While brands and branding are usually thought of in the context of mainstream business and marketing, it seems drug dealers have their hand in the marketing arena, as well.
According to one marketing expert, a brand should say what a product is…or does. And if the brand describes the product, it will more quickly meet with the understanding and acceptance of the customer. The right brand on a product or service will “fly into the mind” of the potential customer like an arrow.
Self-made millionaire, Warren Buffet, advises that a “premium brand” better deliver something special, or it is “not going to get the business.”
It seems the drug dealers have taken such advice to heart, and are honing their own marketing skills with brand-recognition of sorts; designed to increase their customer-base, increase sales—and ensure they have returning customers.
According to a recent online article, heroin dealers in New York are engaging in their own form of branding to influence their addict-customers, and increase the sales of their deadly wares. In the case of branding and marketing the highly addictive and deadly drug, heroin, we could go so far as to call it, “killer branding”.
Marketing Death in Baggie
Graham MacIndoe, a photographer and former heroin addict who kept many of the now empty heroin-filled baggies he purchased when still using heroin, included photographs of those baggies in his new book, All In.
With brand names such as Toxic, Undertaker and Kiss of Death, these different types of heroin can be bought on the streets of New York City. Were it not for the dark forces and ill-intent underlying such enterprising marketing, one might recognize the keen eye for branding. But as is too often the case, the brilliance which may give impetus to the criminal mind and its activity is extinguished by the suffering, misery, hardship and destruction it wreaks upon others, and upon society.
MacIndoe showcases 63 images in All In, each of a heroin baggie stamped with the drug-dealer’s brand name. While he has now been clean for four years, he recalls that word on the streets of Brooklyn that Diesel or High Life “was the bomb” kept the heroin market flowing. That is dealers marketing their brand.
He shares that on occasion, the drug dealers would put a batch of really strong heroin out on the streets to keep their customers coming back for more; but that when those dealers “had reeled you in”, they would once again dilute the drug. In this way, those dealers cultivated their regular clientele; leading them further down the road into the trap of addiction with the hollow promise that heroin would “change” the user’s life.
According to MacIndoe, dope dealers “are peddling a dream”; the means being used to do so no different than any other marketing.
The author of All In relates that it was strange to go through the heroin baggies for the book photography project; taking him back to times and places where he purchased “this bag or that bag.” While he says that his book looks minimal in appearance, it is a story, and one which changes how he now approaches photography—and how he looks at the world.
Chances are good that it will do the same for all of us who experience All In.