What’s in a name? Sometimes a lot. And sometimes not a lot. It all depends on what name is at issue and what associations you have with that name. If someone calls you by your name, you will recognize it. If someone calls you by a friendly nickname or pet name, you will similarly recognize it. If someone mocks your name, you will take umbrage. Your name is clearly important to you.
What about my name? Before you respond (and you know that you were just about to answer that question aloud to your computer), do you even know my name? Don’t scroll back to the top of this column. I thought as much. Some of you know my name and others don’t. For most of you my name won’t matter. You come to Saving Advice to get ideas about money and savings. Whether I write the column each day or whether it is Jennifer, Maggie or Sadie, it probably does not matter to you unless one of us has somehow annoyed you so much that you won’t read that writer’s column on principal. (Of course, since I am the SA columnist most likely to give annoyance, those of you who don’t think highly probably have not read this far anyway.)
If I were to offer you two paintings — one a classic by an old master and one a forgery, you would want the old master’s work, not just because it would be more valuable but because the name associated with the painting would mean more to you than the name of the forger. Similarly, if I offered you a designer bag, you would similarly want it over a knock off. The name matters. Indeed, the example of the painting is documented and I am sure that none of us will find it surprising.
Consider now, however, your reaction to the example of the painting or the example of the bag if I change the story just a little. What if I tell you that you have to purchase the painting or the bag? How does your reaction change? Obviously, few Saving Advice readers can afford paintings by the old masters, but does the desire to purchase a painting make you think more favorably about a painting that is by an unknown painter or a bag by a designer that you do not know? If the painting looks good and you can afford it, will you buy it even if you have no idea who painted it? If the bag is functional and well made and looks attractive, will you buy it and show it off to your friends or be embarrassed to carry a bag that is not made by a known designer?
Obviously, we all have a degree of brand loyalty at times. We also have brands that we do not trust. For many things, especially the things that we know will wear out and eventually have no value or use, a brand only has value if it offers something more than a name. If there is no true quality associated with a brand, it really should not factor into our purchasing decisions. But still it does. Deep down, for reasons that I will never fully understand, we are programmed to appreciate certain names more than certain other names. Each of us has his or her particular buzz brands, but how often does our desire to own certain brands result in excessive spending?
What brands make you get out your wallet? How important is the name to you when you shop? When do you feel that brand loyalty is justified and even cost effective?
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