I’m truly curious about something: if all brand identifiers were removed from all products, would you still buy the same things?
For example, if there were no logos on clothes, would you wear what you’re currently wearing? What if Nike, Adidas, and Puma were forced to remove their ticks, stripes and symbols? Would you be drawn to their products in the same way? Similarly, if car brands became indistinguishable, would the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Lexus be as popular as they are today?
I was walking through the airport the other day and I decided to take a moment to people-watch. However, instead of observing the human beings all around me, I found myself focusing on a sea of two-legged billboards: people plastered in brand names from Gucci and Louis Vuitton to Ferrari and Rolex, to name a few. Each and every one of them was serving as a walking advertisement, offering free marketing to some of the world’s biggest and most powerful brands. I’m guessing that many of the people were wearing knockoffs of the original brands, yet they still strutted their stuff through Departures, displaying a range of iconic logos with pride.
The whole spectacle made me wonder: Why do people buy the brands that they do? Does it come from a love for the product or an emotional connection with the brand? Or, do they want to be identified with the label and recognized by others because of what they are wearing?
My questions made me take stock of my own consumer behavior. As I pondered the topic, I considered what I was wearing, and why. I happened to have on a 10-year-old pair of Ralph Lauren chinos with tiny crests printed all over them, and a pair of retro Nike high-tops.
The question is, why was I wearing those particular items? Well, I’m certain that I bought the chinos because they were cool, though many would disagree – especially my wife. As for my basketball shoes, they were the re-release of my very first pair and hold great sentimental value. What’s more, though notably different to each other, both brands also happen to be my two favorites. So, the odds are high that on any given day I’ll be wearing Ralph Lauren, unless I’m working out. Then, I’ll be dressed head to toe in Nike.
Personally, I have clear rationale for my limited and particular brand loyalty, but I’m still curious about why other people wear the brands they do. Maybe you like a brand, or maybe you want to impress others by wearing it. Either way, I don’t think there is a good or bad rationale – but there has to be one.
Now, this is a grave oversimplification, but before you push back and fight me on it, ask yourself this: Should people choose their clothes based on how they think others will perceive them? Maybe the perceived prestige that can come with wearing an expensive or well-known brand means nothing to you, but the same cannot be said for everyone. For many people, dressing in big brands gives them self-confidence, status and satisfaction.
Here, there is a big distinction to be made: merited prestige is very different from manipulated prestige. Wearing a Rolex watch in order to influence someone’s opinion of you is fundamentally different to wearing the watch because you really like it, and your achievements in life enabled you to treat yourself.
This is a very intriguing topic, as it cuts to the core of your self-image. While there is no need to defend the choice to wrap yourself in brands, you should be wary of allowing what you wear to define you and shape the way you act. There’s nothing wrong with identifying with a brand, as long as that identification is authentic and you retain the courage to act on your convictions. So, whether you’re decked out in designer luxury or dressed by the high street, don’t let the way others perceive you cloud your judgment.