The Problem with Photoshop, Facebook, Instagram, Brands and Human Irrationality

The Problem with Photoshop, Facebook, Instagram, Brands and Human Irrationality

May 22, 2013
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Over the last few days I had the privilege to learn a lot about branding when I shared the stage with brand experts Raymond Aaron and Jim Lafferty in the Success Summit. I also finished my online course on Behavioral Economics entitled A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior, attended the opening of SM Aura graced by no less than every girl’s style icon Sarah Jessica Parker, then listened to Suze Orman, America’s most prominent financial guru who tells you in your face “You are Denied!” when she thinks you can’t afford it, including having a baby. In between those were a couple of FQ Workshops in Balesin Island, Cebu and the elections.

What more? When we were back home on Sunday getting ready to hear evening mass, I chanced upon Ai-ai delas Alas crying her heart out to Boy Abunda saying that she already ended her month-long marriage officiated in Las Vegas. In so many words, she said that even if she felt there was something wrong with their relationship, she just went on with the wedding because she desperately wanted to get married, live a fairy tale life, have something nice to post on Facebook and Instagram! 

All of these heightened my awareness about the enormous power of branding and appearances, coupled with our not-so-rational decision-making process, that sometimes bring us to unfavorable situations.

Here are some points of reflection I wish to share with you.

1. In the ideal world the product quality should be the deciding factor whether consumers will buy it or not. In the real world the product brand is more powerful than quality. An example is Coca-Cola. Coke is the undisputed leader in the softdrinks industry for the longest time despite the fact that in blind taste tests, people prefer Pepsi. But because of the great Coke brand – the red can, the sexy bottle, etc. it enjoys an enormous lead over the blue Pepsi. Blue is associated with peace and tranquility while red is passion and sex. Someone who wants tranquility will definitely not drink cola but would rather take tea.

2. Your brand is not what you say about yourself. It’s what others say about you. The great example given by Aaron during the summit is this: Think of a being late. Who is the person that comes to your mind? Someone answered volunteering her friend’s name. So the brand of that person to her friend is “always late.” I’m hoping that the Filipino time will soon take a new brand. So let’s start by consistently showing up on time and if we have the power to influence, let’s require punctuality from everyone.

3. The recent elections displayed a lot about the power of branding and of course a great deal of human irrationality in decision making which affect other people’s lives. Among the most talked about senatorial candidates was Nancy Binay. She ran primarily on the brand of her father who currently enjoys a high approval rating. Despite her lack of credentials to be a good senator and the fact that she refused to take part in the debates (the venue for voters to see the abilities of the candidates), she ranked among the top both in surveys and actual elections.

4. The other recipient of her father’s popular brand is top senatorial winner Grace Poe. Both Grace and Nancy made sure they dropped their married names to capitalize on their branded maiden names.

5. Sarah Jessica Parker is known for her Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw, the epitome of the New York shopper who’s very daring in her style and doesn’t mind spending a lot of money on her Manolo Blahniks and other signature items. No wonder she’s the best personality to endorse the “Love to Shop” tagline of SM Aura, SM’s venture into high end malls. However, all the news I’ve gathered about her being so nice – refusing to ride the limo and preferring to ride in the van with her companions, and also refusing the best suite at the hotel for a regular one – may be an effort on her part to tell people about her real brand, not totally the Carrie Bradshaw we associate her with. She answered all the questions (despite being redundant) politely in her very kind voice with a girly tone that you feel she’s the kind of girl you’d want to hang out with.

Here’s a little background story. From Balesin Island Marvin and I were just supposed to go to Resorts World to attend the Suze Orman event. However, when I learned that he received an invite to the opening of SM Aura but wasn’t very keen on going to two events on the same day straight from the airport (he asked me to choose just one), I practically begged him to go to both. All’s well that ends well as we made it to both events. I was in total “fan mode” at SM Aura as there were so many people out there. When I felt that the chances of having a photo with SJP was nil, I was deciding whether to just leave for Resorts World or still wait for her to come out of the VIP lounge. But since we were still waiting for the car to pick us up after our sons were brought home, we just stayed on. When SM and BDO boss Tessie Sy-Coson saw Marvin and quickly said hi to him I wanted to ask her, “Ma’am may I join you in the lounge with SJP please?” but of course I didn’t want to embarrass The Honey so I didn’t. However, It was a comforting thought that the other people waiting for her to come out of the lounge were Gretchen Baretto, Georgina Wilson, Ben Chan, et al. When SJP finally came out of the lounge I called out her name and she waved and this fan was happy!

6. It was my second time to watch Suze Orman live in Manila. The last one was on February 25, 2012. (Click link to read article Suze Orman’s Talk in Manila). Her brand is “tough, honest, plain talk to help you get your finances in order.” She asked the people in the audience with credit debts to stand up, which she also did last year. Last year the event I attended was free seating at the Tent of The Fort and a lot of people stood up. But this time at the Performing Arts Theater of the Resorts World, the tickets were numbered and thanks to Tere Javier (BPI Trust Head) we were seated at the VIP section together with the top BPI officers and clients. So no one was standing up when she asked for the people with credit card debts. She was a bit surprised, maybe disappointed that nobody stood up, hinting that the audience was not being honest. The thing is the people occupying the front row seats should already know how to handle their money and I would actually be concerned if I see them stand up to admit that they have credit card debts that charge 36% p.a. interest rate! And maybe the rest of the crowd followed the lead of the front row people of sitting tight. Again, it goes back to Suze’s brand. She’s used to talking to people with financial woes so that was probably her big assumption.

The good thing about this BPI initiative is that Suze always tells the audience that she’s not being paid by BPI and that she’s here because she wants to help the Filipino people handle their finances well. She also did her research as she knows the spending habits of the Filipinos (always helping family members), the movements in the Philippine stock market, our recent investment grade ratings, etc. Of course, her rather bombastic style of answering questions and her success story of growing up poor, knowing nothing about investments and now a major financial guru in the world is always a hit enough to inspire everyone.

7. The problem with Photoshop is if we start believing our “Photoshoped image.” All cover photos are Photoshoped. And so with all the election posters. In an experiment discussed in my online course on Behavioral Economics they found out that when the subjects were shown two kinds of altered photos of themselves (one enhanced and the other one “uglified”) they never recognized the latter but easily spotted the former. I remember watching Teri Hatcher (one of the Desperate Housewives) being interviewed on the topic about aging beauties. And she said something like this, “The problem with all the photo tricks on glossy magazine pages is when we start to believe them. Then we wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and see someone else and we get depressed!”

My personal way of replying to compliments about looking young when I feel like being humble is this, “Only in thumbnail, if you zoom you will see some lines already!” My son once told me a story narrated to him by his femaie friend (who’s also my FB friend). She had another friend who just broke up with his girlfriend and the boys were trying to find a date for him so they started looking into her FB friends until someone said, “This one, is she the sister of Martin Fausto?” The female friend said, “No, she’s the mother!” No photoshop done there, but maybe they were fooled by the thumbnail!

8. Talking about FB, I was sad but not surprised to hear Ai-ai reveal her short-lived marriage. Boy Abunda should start sharing tips with his good friends Kris and Ai-ai how to keep a long and lasting relationship with your partner. Ai-ai admitted that all she wanted was to have a fairy tale life, have something nice to post on FB and Instagram. Although I don’t like posting negative things on FB (why bother your friends with your irritations, aches and pains, unless you need info on where to get help), there seems to be a danger in thinking that a friend’s life is just consist of his or her FB posts. The greater danger, of course, is if you yourself start believing so.

There’s a lot more to life than our posts on FB, Instagram and even the brand that we’re known for, both officially and the thing that comes to mind when our name is mentioned. Recently, I googled myself and found two youtube videos on my guesting in a show called WAGI (Women Are Great Inspirations) on CLTV (Central Luzon TV). This episode was recorded and aired a year ago but the you tube links were just posted recently. When I saw the second version (different from the CD version they sent me last year), I got goose bumps with the way I was portrayed. I believe I’m a good mother but I felt quite awkward being portrayed side by side with… drumroll please… Teodora Alonzo Rizal! To those who don’t remember their Social Studies/Araling Panlipunan, she’s the mother of our national hero Jose Rizal. Two of my sons’ have Jose and Joseph in their names but that’s about it. (Well, on second thoughts, my sons did start reading just as early as Rizal did but they were born centuries apart). I always share links to my tv guestings but I’m still hesitant to share this one, it gives me the heebie-jeebies!

As I get to meet people who have encountered my work – the book, the articles, my talk, I am honored with their compliments, especially when they share with me how it positively affected them. But I keep reminding myself that I’m still the same person, the Rose that my husband decided to love despite her hang ups, the mom, sister, daughter and friend with a good share of weaknesses, who continues to make irrational decisions.

There’s no need to post all our weaknesses, no need to obsess about each new wrinkle and new strand of white hair that greet us in the morning. Let’s embrace them and thank them for their purpose. Each weakness, each new wrinkle and new strand of white hair are there to remind us to strive to be better, to leave something good in this world because time is running out.

Enjoy the rest of your day!


(Rose Fres Fausto is the author of the book Raising Pinoy Boys. Click this link to download free book sample To read her other articles go to archive. Send your questions via email to or text to 0917-5395770.)

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Image Attribution: Images from,,,, the diaryqueen.wordpress,, logos from company websites, Doris Dumlao,, photos from my iphone put together by the author to deliver the message of the article.