There are some brands that we all just know. Whenever I see the Nike swoosh, I instantly think of the slogan “Just Do It,” and I immediately remember what I like about the brand. Others are less concrete. I can look at the Apple logo and think of not only words like “different,” “sleek,” and “innovative,” but also words such as “repetitive,” “annoying,” “overpriced,” and “overrated.” A consumer’s perception of a company is not only based on the slogans and marketing techniques used to tell buyers why they should like the brand, but also by their own personal experience with the brand and the positive and negative aspects that come with that experience.
This idea of brand perception goes beyond just recognition and can affect the products we buy, the clothes we wear, and the people we hang out with. When a 50-year old dad goes out to buy a Lamborghini because he’s having a midlife crisis, it’s not the car he wants, but the brand image. He wants to be perceived in a different way, and has convinced himself that he can accomplish his goal by showing off his fancy new car brand. The problem is that buying items just for the brand can backfire. Spend five minutes with my car-loving roommate and he’ll tell you that Lamborghinis are trash and that anyone who buys one obviously didn’t do their homework. My roommate and the 50-year old dad have completely different ideas about a brand, just through personal experience. So is it even surprising that the same idea of branding is applied to people?
I’m not going to get too political because I know everyone is sick of talking about the election, but it did get me thinking of how powerful branding has become. I can walk past someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat or an “I’m With Her” shirt and instantly think I have an idea of what that person is like based on their branded attire, but I don’t and neither do you. Humans are more complex than brands. Brands do not have feelings, families, or lives of their own, and yet people are so easily branded by others. It goes back to the classic saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” which has become so oversaid (and thus overheard) that it bears repeating. It has become so easy for us to brand someone as “republican” or “liberal” or whatever and instantly know whether or not we will get along with them without even a word spoken. I know some very amazing and smart people who voted on both sides of the election who can still get along, mostly because they realize that just because someone has a differing opinion does not mean they’re not worth knowing.
This idea goes beyond political parties as well. Branding is done based on the way a person walks, talks, and tells a joke. Or, on what they wear, who they hang out with, how well they do in school, the color of their skin, and who they checked on a ballot. People do not get to choose the way they are branded, just as companies do not get to choose how their consumers see them. It’s about going out and experiencing things for yourself to choose your own opinions, and not simply taking things at face value.
This article was written by Alex Gurasich. Click here to see more of Alex’s work.