How powerful are the brand labels?

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

armaniAll else being equal, the display of a brand logo commands more benefits in the form of status and financial reward than the same clothes without the logo.

The Economist writes about a study that shows the power of the label not the clothes:

For instance, one of their female assistants asked people in a shopping mall to stop and answer survey questions. One day she wore a sweater with a designer logo; the next, an identical sweater with no logo. Some 52% of people agreed to take the survey when faced with the Tommy Hilfiger label, compared with only 13% who saw no logo.


In another experiment, volunteers watched one of two videos of the same man being interviewed for a job. In one, his shirt had a logo; in the other, it did not. The logo led observers to rate the man as more suitable for the job, and even earned him a 9% higher salary recommendation.

Not gigantic effects, but you have to think about this applied over a population; 9% more could be millions of dollars to a company in overpaid salary to those who happen to wear a brand (or, if you want to flip it, millions of dollars in underpaid salary to unlabeled folks.)

The focus of this article for most people will be how they can use the label in their own life. Should I wear it out to bars? To interviews?

But the more interesting part is in the study: when wearing a brand label won’t work.

we predicted that any factor that affects or undercuts the reliability of consumption as a signal, such as the availability of counterfeits and limitations, the possibility of buying on credit

which is where we’re at now. Learning that the shirt is a knock-off most assuredly destroys its power to the perceiver (and likely the wearer). But the possibility- the probability– that its a knock off is just as bad. And a guy who is wearing an Armanai suit but doesn’t really look like he could afford it will also diminish its power.

In other words, in as much as a brand conveys a message about the user, deliberately faking the brand may convey the opposite message.

See also: If Blankfein wants a bigger bonus, he should stock up on Ed Hardy. 

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8 Responses to How powerful are the brand labels?

  1. CubaLibre says:

    This shouldn’t come as a big surprise – clearly labels are a proxy for other things (wealth, taste); no one actually cares intensively about the labels themselves, except for maybe fashion fetishists. So faking the label gets you no points, because the fake label doesn’t act as a proxy for those other desirable traits.

    I think the “taste” proxy is worth unpacking. The wealth one is obvious and it’s the one people most often point out, but I think the taste one is actually the most affecting. People say, “He is a man who recognizes quality. That makes him a quality man.” Wearing an Armani suit “incorrectly” (such that it codes as “fake” to viewers) doesn’t result from wearing it while being poor, but wearing it while revealing your tastelessness – most easily in accessories, but almost as easily in behavior. An Armani man could eat in a low-budget diner (coded “poor”) IF that diner has some cultural cachet (coded “classy”), but he couldn’t be seen eating in a fast food joint priced similarly to that diner.

  2. Guy Fox says:

    Yes, but deliberately faked logos also often work as Hipster tattoos, in which case they would send some sort of meta-signal (“I know the logo game, and I’m not playing it…” (“…thereby implicitly branding myself as something else, yes, a hipster”)). A little bit of humor tangentially related:

  3. foxfire says:

    What is interesting is that I have intentionally coded myself opposite. I like showing up to shop for a new car in warm ups and an old T-shirt. i usually get the low salesman on the totem pole, who tries hard, but feels that he is being led down a dead end. It is really funny how quickly the tone of the conversation changes when they pull my credit scores.

    • operator says:

      Thank you for revealing your puzzling ways to us – we will, of course, use this information against you at every opportunity.

    • Artlife says:

      That just goes to show how snobby people are. I lived in NYC right out of high school and had my mother’s Bonwit Teller card. I almost never bought anything, as I felt it was all too expensive. But, I would go eat in the little restaurant, where I was generally ignored and treated like I wasn’t worth the time of day until I pulled out the card to pay for my sandwich. By way of explanation, I didn’t “dress up” to go shopping.
      Also reminds me of a discussion of snobbery by Koestler in “The Act of Creation”, when he compares the display placement of a painting before and after the owner learns it was done by an artist of note.

  4. octo says:

    did the wearer know they were wearing the label? I feel like this definitely changes the results, especially if the wearer was in on the purpose of the study: they expected it to work, which is 90% of the battle anyway.

  5. vandal says:

    “You want to pay for brand, go ahead; but the people in the know aren’t fooled by your fancy car and windshield sticker and the people who aren’t in the know can only praise or envy you, but they’re in no position to help you attain your goals.”

    Always did like that from TLP. Really, that 9% are just average people. If you’re the kind of person to hire someone by a brand they wear, well you aren’t the kind of person qualified to be hiring. This study done based on people hiring, HR and interviewers, would mean more than random people.

    I couldn’t read the article linked though, not past the abstract without a log in. I don’t wanna create one, so there’s that. But really I question this statistic because I question the bias. Maybe the logo brought attention to the womans breast. Maybe that’s a 40% increase of mostly male. Maybe breasts make men more likely to talk to a woman about some survey no one cares about.

    The thing is that the questions are brought to rise like you said. I think that was the purpose, to not make people question whether or not to buy brands, but when and how to buy it. Brand already assuming to be bought. This is just selling and justifying brands. Wear brands, otherwise you’re likely fucked, so says the Economist.

    People are nicer when they think you have money (does that need a study? I don’t think so because there’s no need to sell money like there is to sell brands), but that can be shown in ways besides brand names. Brand names are a lazy way of showing it, actually mostly done by the young. Younger rich kids wearing brands to school. Parents are less inclined to do so. They’ll donate money or do something extravagent to show their wealth. Brands become cheap as you get older I think. Sure there are cars and neighborhoods but those are too impress strangers. To impress peers, as an adult, you have to do something besides a brand clothing because, like TLP says, those people are in the know. Teens are hardly in the know, the teen friends are impressed by brands, so are the strangers answering questions on some video for probably $20.

    Also, I found the opening of the Economist bit hilarious: “DESIGNERS of fancy apparel would like their customers to believe that wearing their creations lends an air of wealth, sophistication and high status. And it does—but not, perhaps, for the reason those designers might like to believe, namely their inherent creative genius.” Bahaha, designers do mostly know a good amount of what gives their stuff it’s status is the name, so long as it doesn’t look too ridiculous they’re aware people would buy it for the name and it would look good for the name.

  6. Res_Ipsa_Loquitur says:

    You must read, or at least skim “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster.” by Dana Thomas. The luxury goods industry is in decline, couture is nearly dead, and fashion houses have become “behemoths that churn out perfume like Kraft makes cheese” (sic. probably). We all know that paying thousands of dollars for a purse or a pair of shoes is totally bullshit, but I’m sure that will never stop a majority of us from doing it at least once. (To the men who could care less for fashion/my wife buys my clothes: see latest techno gadget thingie etc.)

    Still, many young ladies that can ill-afford it, tote around the ubiquitous Louis Vuitton “Speedy” bags, wear the Jimmy Choos, et. al. At times I have been among them…

    Self-actualization is a bitch.