Is it my imagination or are brands not nearly as big a deal today as they were thirty years ago? When I was growing up, there were endless discussions of Coke versus Pepsi, McDonalds versus Burger King, and Haagen Dazs versus Ben and Jerry’s. Over the past few years, however, I think that debates of that nature have all but disappeared.
Now, the issue seems to be not what is best, but what is both acceptable and affordable. As my wife pointed out today, her purchasing decisions are not brand driven as much as they are performance driven. I agree completely.
If a brand is good, it falls into the category of “brands that I will buy.” If a brand does not measure up, at least somewhat consistently, it falls into the category of “brands that I won’t buy.” After I filter out the brands that I won’t buy, my purchasing decisions are then motivated almost solely by price.
I think part of the reason that things have changed is that quality control has improved among all brands. As a result, there really is little difference among most brands. Sometimes the packaging on a generic product might be inferior to the packaging on a name-brand product, but usually the packaging deficiency does not make that much of a difference. Indeed, sometimes a generic product can be an improvement on a name-brand, especially where opinions can be subjective. My elder son, for example, will not eat Honey Nut Cheerios, but he will eat the Publix version by the box.
Interestingly enough, I have slowly begun to see a slight resurgence in brand loyalty over the past several months as some entrepreneurial minded business owners begin to develop their small brands on via social media. Big City Coffee, for example, has a very active Facebook community which I believe to be very much loyal to Big City Coffee’s coffee. Among relatively small groups, such personal interaction with a consumer base may go a long way towards re-instilling a brand loyalty but it remains to be seen how that will work with a larger consumer base.
Are you loyal to any brands? Do you find that you have become less brand-loyal and more value-oriented during the current economic downturn? Are there any status-brands that you still buy just so that you can be seen buying them? Are there any brands that you really believe are consistently better than their competitors?