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Do Brand Names Matter?

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

How much influence do brand names play in your buying decisions? Are there specific products from which you won’t deviate? Do you buy the cheaper generic store brand bread then load it up with Jif? Or do you pull Wheat Montana 7 grain off the shelf and spread on the store brand peanut butter?

My First Motorcycle

Young men go through a “toy phase.” There doesn’t seem to be any cure for desiring hot cars, loud stereo equipment, and other macho gear that proves our manhood to the world. Men think women love this; please learn this life lesson. They think it’s dumb.

When buying a motorcycle you might think that I got a wild hair one day, decided to buy a motorcycle, checked out all the brands, assembled all the specs, considered future resale values, got the best price and made a logical intelligent choice. Not in my world.

I decided to buy a motorcycle when I read a story in Sports Illustrated that one of my professional football heroes, feared Chicago Bears linebacker, Dick Butkus had one. Dick had chosen Kawasaki v1000 cc model. Probably given to him for doing a commercial. How ever Dick got the Kawasaki was not important. The important part was, at last there was a way that I could be like my idol. For a few dollars, I could, “be like Dick.”

So did I go through all the logical items I listed above? Of course not, I went Kawasaki v1000cc shopping. I never looked at or even considered another brand, didn’t shop around for the best price and bought the first one I found. This was in 1976 and it cost about $2,500. I’m just thankful that there was not a picture of Dick’s bike or the color in the article or I would have had to do more running to get an exact duplicate of his bike. I hopped on that bad boy, pulled on the helmet, and headed down the boulevard — a force to be reckoned with.

How Much Are Referrals Worth?

After buying my motorcycle I wondered how many other people had done what I’d done. I guess there’s no way to really know because who would be dumb enough to admit to doing something like that? The bottom line is that I’m not sure I’d even heard of Kawasaki Motorcycles before reading that article.

Kawasaki would not have made a sale with me using “Mean Joe Green” of the Pittsburg Steelers as their spokesman. Do I base all my buying decisions on some celebrity hocking the benefits? No, I don’t. I might buy Hanes underwear but not because of Michael Jordon. I don’t pick my automobiles based on what brand is winning NSCAR races.

But obviously some people do. Politicians are always on the lookout for celebrity endorsements. Celebrities and important people bring a certain kind of credibility to a product. Even though it says right on the screen, “Celebrity compensated.” We all know they are paid to read the words, but our conscious mind dismisses little things like that.

Sometimes it’s not who says it, but what they say that’s remembered. You probably don’t have any idea who 81 year old Clara Peller is, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard her deliver one of the most remembered phrases in all of commercial advertising — “Where’s the BEEF?”

Some people have become famous for using a product. Jared Fogle lost weight walking to Subway and eating their sandwiches. After confirming his weight loss claims with employees he became a national spokesman for the Subway sandwich chain.

Some Final Thoughts

People buy all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. Or, so they say. The truth is — virtually everyone buys the product because of how the product makes us feel. We buy the clothes we wear because of how we feel wearing them. Whether it’s a tuxedo, or comfortable pair of old jeans, products and the people who sell them are selling emotion — not products.

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