What’s with brands being something that people actually identify with? I totally understand that brands are useful and even important to how we consume things. I myself make purchase decisions based on brand names all of the time, and that seems totally normal to me. But I really don’t get why people wear brands on their t-shirts and stick brand-logo stickers on their laptops. Why are they giving these companies free advertising? What’s the point of identifying yourself based on the things that you consume?
No doubt about it: brands are powerful things. They’re everywhere, and--as you rightly point out--they’re so deeply ingrained in our culture that we ourselves sometimes choose to incorporate them into our identities.
The point of a brand, of course, is to help a company make money. Studies show that we take brands into account when we shop, and that having a familiar brand (with a good reputation, of course) can really help a company make more money.
But you’re right that brands stay in our brains even when we’re not shopping. Die-cut stickers advertise small businesses and huge brands alike and adorn our laptops, cars, and guitar cases, to name just a few things. Brands of beverages, trucks, and even restaurants decorate our t-shirts. To many of us, brands are a part of our identities and personalities--not just our shopping habits. They’re a part of our history and our world, and studies prove it: children as young as preschoolers can recognize brands.
This isn’t necessarily just a matter of useless loyalty or self-identification, though. Studies indicate that many of us have an affinity for brands that we feel share our values. In the case of important issues like environmental impact and charity work, perhaps it’s not so silly to embrace the brands after all. And when companies understand this, it can even make the world a better place.
Some critics may feel that our society has become too focused on consumerism, companies, and brands, but others don’t feel that way. The act of identifying with a brand could be about promoting a value system (or, less dramatically, about loving a certain hobby or a style of design). It’s true enough that brands benefit from the free exposure that comes with this behavior, but plenty of brands have also seen the flip side of this scenario, weathering bad PR after making mistakes. Perhaps our loyalty is not quite so blind as it seems, and our brand obsession not quite so one-sided as you may fear.
“Don’t overact the story of your name. Overact the story of your work.” -- Karl Lagerfeld