Understanding Our Addiction to Brands

With recessionary woes on thes mind these days, sound advise says, its time to cut back on those frivolous expenses. That means fewer morning lattes, less dry cleaning, more packed lunches, etc…

Or at least that’s the trend as the New York Times reports this weekend. Even though the savings might add up to a couple hundred or even a thousand dollars, the real benefit comes from feeling like you are taking control in the face of much economic uncertainty around you.

The problem is, as the article goes on to describe – we are quite simply addicted to many of the Brands that make up our discretionary spending. These creature comforts are now wrapped into our identity and self-worth – they are bonds that are hard to break, even if that means spending more than you can afford. Apparently, a cup of coffee means more than just a cup of coffee.

P.S. Of course, you could decide to go cold turkey, like Neil Boorman did, documenting the experience in his book Bonfire of the Brands – a sort of self-help manifesto for the brand-obsessed seeking the monastic response to brands.

From the New York Times article: Tightning the Alligator Belt

Joe Priester, an associate professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and the president of the Society for Consumer Psychology, is not surprised people scale back instead of abandon certain habits. “In a way, a lot of these brands have become safe harbors for us,” he said. “People build attachments to brands over time, and those are very much like friendships or buffering devices in our world. You don’t hear people saying, ‘I’m not going to Starbucks.’ It would be like saying ‘I’m going to cut off this friend.’ ”

In a working paper under peer review, Mr. Priester and colleagues write that “consumers see brands as part of themselves” and the greater the attachment to the brand, “the more difficult the behavior the consumer is willing to enact in order to maintain the brand relationship.”

Additionally, Jeff Greenberg, the director of the social psychology program at the University of Arizona, explained in an e-mail message that frugality “will generally be with regard to products and services that don’t undermine the individual’s material bases of self-worth and prestige. If a person’s self-worth is invested in his/her car, wardrobe, apartment, ability to send their kids to private school, etc., they will cut corners in relatively invisible ways that don’t affect their self-worth to preserve those things.”

2 thoughts on “Understanding Our Addiction to Brands”

  1. Hi Michael!This is a most interesting phenomena and one that has me reflecting on something…What would happen if we spent the same amount of energy discovering our own "inner brand" and our own "inner story" instead of spending it on someone else’s "external brand" to strengthen our self-worth?Perhaps that expensive cup of coffee really won’t get us to Nirvana?Just a thought :-)Thanks for a most inspirational post!

  2. Hi Michael!

    This is a most interesting phenomena and one that has me reflecting on something…

    What would happen if we spent the same amount of energy discovering our own "inner brand" and our own "inner story" instead of spending it on someone else’s "external brand" to strengthen our self-worth?

    Perhaps that expensive cup of coffee really won’t get us to Nirvana?

    Just a thought 🙂

    Thanks for a most inspirational post!

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