Everybody loves a brand

A question we get asked often by friends, what is the big deal with brands? Why is it that I dream of Ferrari’s or my wife loves Prada?

Well, that level of depth is often hard to interpret, but the reasoning of why people love brands and why it matters to us is relatively straightforward. The simple answer is that it is a way to separate us; by class, taste, wealth, and desire.

How brand has evolved

Imagine sixty years back, not everyone had a TV, in 1956 just over 1 in 3 homes owned one, now almost every household has at least one. Same with almost anything, whether it be cars, toasters, digital cameras, or computers, rich or poor, we all pretty much have these consumables. Back in the day, the way to distinguish ourselves from our neighbours was by the functional things we owned, not everyone could afford a TV or a car. As we became more affluent as a nation and the price of these goods dropped, suddenly almost every Tom, Dick and Harry could afford these goods. Nowadays we can walk into a Tesco’s and pick up a toaster for less than a fiver.

Brand distinguishes you

So this is where brand comes in. If we all can own a toaster, it isn’t that special, but suddenly if your toaster is worth £150, and it looks funky, and it is cool, well then you can distinguish yourself from your peers. Even though all it does is make toast, and it’s not like the toast from an expensive toaster tastes better. Functionally it is doing the same job.

Look at the snobbery that goes on with cars, they all functionally do the same thing, but the form and the price attached to a particular brand separate us, makes us stand out. Suddenly, it is not about what we own, but the brands we possess.

A brand says something about you

Brands can become the symbols of our own self-concept. We are what we have. We have progressed up Maslow’s hierarchy, from the level of physiological and safety needs, of having shelter, food, transport etc which are all functional, to the level of esteem needs, those which garner the respect of our peers and are emotionally driven. Businesses which operate at the level of function are missing the real action; the emotional and symbolic game is where the bucks are at.

Today, we all pretty much have similar items which do similar things; there is not much room for improvement at this level. Where the difference lies between someone living in a council flat in East Ham and a manor house in Hertfordshire, is the brands they consume. From what they use for hand wash in the bathroom, to the type of knickers they wear. A brand is what separates us and arguably positively or negatively defines us.