Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hollow Brands

We had an interesting conversation on brands at this morning's coffee klatch. An unusual topic for us, we talked about men's clothing brands. It is clear from that conversation that consumers have gotten quite savvy about brands. One person who had previously been very brand conscious shared that a well-known upscale clothing brand had disappointed him on several occasions. When asked why, he said their $92 dress shirts last a year at best before they start to fray and fall apart. When he went back to the retail outlet to voice his concern, he was treated as if he was a persona non grata. When asked by his fellow coffee klatch members, he confirmed that the brand's shirts were not more stylish or fashion forward than any other brand's shirts and apparently their quality level was at or below that of other brands. So why then was he paying a premium for that brand of shirts? He indicated that wearing that brand of shirt had made him feel successful until he discovered its quality flaws. He no longer buys that brand of shirt because now it makes him feel like a sucker. 

On the other hand, we talked about brands whose quality and customer satisfaction guarantees are solid. One that we all agreed was rock solid is The North Face. One guy told the story of sending back a ten year old winter jacket whose zipper had broken. The North Face opted to give him a brand new jacket at no charge rather than replace the zipper. Another person recounted a similar story. I then told my The North Face story. I have three pair of The North Face cargo pants. The oldest pair has lasted 25 years so far. But the story gets better than that. That pair of pants had caught fire about fifteen years ago when a white gas camp stove exploded as I was lighting it in the Canadian back country. The lit fuel sprayed all over the pants and I had to roll on the ground to put the fire out. There is still not a hole or frayed thread in that pair of pants. 

So what is the point that I am trying to make? While strong brands can convey status or other self-expressive benefits, ultimately if they are not stylistically superior to other brands or more durable than other brands or of a higher quality than other brands, consumers eventually figure it out and they can go from brand advocates to brand detractors. 

Based on this morning's coffee klatch discussion, I have decided that I will stick with the North Face and Orvis brands of men's clothes (among many others) and avoid the unnamed brand of clothing (initials - B.B.).