Quick, what’s the first thing you think of when you hear me say “Lange & Söhne Grande Lange 1”? How about “Keith Lloyd”? “Flora Danica”? Or “Kallista Archeo Copper?”
If you are a normal person, you don’t think anything. These things have no meaning to you. And why should they? If you wear a watch, you likely wear something that was either a gift to you, or something you bought for less than a year’s wages, a brand that you’ve heard of – Timex, Swatch – something like that.
You also would have no reason to know that Keith Lloyd makes bespoke suits for men, that Flora Danica is the world’s most expensive china, or that if you want a Kallista Archeo Copper tub, you’ll be shelling out $70k for it.
I had to look these names up. I don’t have any of these things, and I don’t know anyone who does. When writers put details like these into a work, they may think that they’re adhering to “show don’t tell,” but if what you’ve shown me is something I can’t comprehend, you’ve just failed.
I’ve railed about the laziness of using brand names as description before, but in the wake of the news that another Dan Brown potboiler is coming down the colon, I felt it time to mention it again.
Oh, Dan Brown does a lot of product placement?
Absolutely – as do Anne Rice, John Grisham, Steig Larsson – tons of writers do it. And in every case, it dates their work (Anne Rice wrote on one of her witch novels about a character having the very latest 386 computer, which sounds ridiculous now) in a way that’s not necessarily good, and reinforces this idea of consumer culture that bothers the shit out of me.
Oh no! Dan Brown, the talentless hack, is coming at us!
Don’t discount our agency. We have the power, nay, the OBLIGATION to not buy his work.