Two summers ago I worked at a store called Charming Charlie. Essentially this store was a glorified Claire’s, designed with women ages 25+ in mind. I absolutely hated working there for a lot of reasons, but one of them was that I didn’t like what the company sold. The jewelry looked cheap and was cheaply made. I almost felt bad selling it to unsuspecting women knowing that they would probably break their new jewelry within a month. Albeit, this jewelry was mostly priced under $20, so these people were not making much of an investment, but still, the jewelry was horrible quality.
So you can imagine my surprise when I am unloading the shipment boxes in the back room, unwrapping each individual bracelet, ring and necklace from its impossible plastic packaging, and stumble upon a bracelet with a tag pronouncing it to be, not a Charming Charlie product, but a famous designer brand, Guess.
The bracelet was identical to the others that I was unwrapping, all except for the Brand name emblazoning the tag and something else quite telling: the price. The bracelet was significantly more expensive than the others, by about $7-$10 if I can recall correctly.
I felt betrayed! I was under the impression that Guess was a luxury brand, I mean a pair of Guess jeans would cost me around $150. I thought that the price point meant that the products were of the highest quality. But what I was made aware of by my discovery is that I was paying for the brand name, obviously not for the quality.
A similar thing happened to me again at my job at the GAP recently. I thought, how often are the luxury brands we buy the identical products to cheaper brands?
Of course, I am not so naïve as to not know this happens, I just didn’t think about it as much until it personally happened to me. In an article from Mashable, it is described how this same concept of brand power influences cola sales. Although (they claim) there is no serious taste difference between brands such as RC Cola and Coca-Cola, consumers consistently prefer Coca-Cola. In fact, Coca-Cola’s name accounts for a whopping 80% of its value.
They describe the concept of brand value as a grand illusion. When Coca-Cola introduced “New Coke” with different ingredients, ingredients that were extensively studied and proven to taste better, the public reaction was almost violent. People wanted the old look and even the old, possibly worse, taste, so it was rebranded to Coke Classic. People took to the name, the brand is what they wanted and cared about. Not the taste. Applied to other products this means people are more concerned with the brand name than with the inherent quality of the item.
A local Arizona news station put this theory to the test:
So my question for you is this: Do you ever consciously buy more expensive brand name or designer products that you know are the same quality as the cheaper or off brand? Why?
Swallow, E. (2010, November 5). What’s the Value in a Brand Name? Retrieved September 17, 2014.