Breaking the Brand Bank

It’s just a watch right? Wrong. It’s a representation of who you are as a person, an insight into your success and a statement of your style and character. It’s a Rolex and it costs a ridiculous amount of money.

What do customers look for when shopping for a product? Quality? Price? For most people, this depends on the product. I am sure everyone can think of at least one consumer good in which you are loyal to a single brand. For me, this is my shampoo. Why pay twice as much for a bottle of John Frieda when I can easily get the knock off and save a buck? Because I have developed a brand loyalty; an unwavering devotion to John Frieda hair products and I don’t care if it’s on sale or not. I’m choosing this brand. For most other things in my life, I am content with generics or off brands that generally work as well as the name brands they imitate but when it comes to my hair care I never compromise.

What phenomenon is it that gets us to pay exponentially more for something that works just marginally more effectively? Does the $8000 Louis Vuitton suitcase really do the job better than your army issue canvas duffel bag? Do the $400 True Religion jeans really make your hips look smaller? The truth is it doesn’t matter. What matters is how we feel. Like the feeling that results from when out of the corner of your eye you notice someone taking an appreciative glance at your checked bag or the “Nice Trues!” from the guy at The Dirty Martini when you come off the dance floor…it’s all about feelings…and feelings matter…to the tune of over 4 trillion dollars domestically in 2009 alone.

The theories behind brand loyalty run far and wide with arguably one of the more interesting being religion.  An article from shares that Prof. Ron Shachar of Tel Aviv University’s Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration says that a consumer’s religiosity has a large impact on his likelihood for choosing particular brands. Consumers who are deeply religious are less likely to display an explicit preference for a particular brand, while more secular populations are more prone to define their self-worth through loyalty to corporate brands instead of religious denominations.  Whether it’s religion, feelings, need or just plain greed motivating us, Americans consume labels and brands voraciously.  Perhaps we could all use a little less of both.