Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Brands as Social Status Signals

Most people feel more comfortable spending time with people with whom they have something in common. Often people can find like-minded others though organizational affiliation. Churches provide this function as do country clubs, alumni groups, political parties, hobby-related organizations and civic organizations. But product and other brands also serve as identifiers of like-minded people. For instance, someone who drives a Prius might assume that he or she would be more comfortable interacting with someone else who also drives a Prius versus, for instance, someone who drives a HUMMER.

I am fascinated by the brands that seem to provide coding for social status. And, within a given social strata, there are specific brands that highlight even more nuanced differences.

For fun, I will mention a series of brands associated with different individuals. These are fictional composite individuals. But, based on these brands, just notice how you react to each individual. Can you relate to him or her? Does he or she seem alien to you? Or perhaps, he or she turns you off. For some individuals, you may not be familiar with some or even all of the brands. You may be able to assign a label to one or more of the individuals. Can you guess whether the person lives in a city, a suburb or somewhere rural? Can you tell in what part of the country or the world he or she lives? Can you guess that person's eduction level? Is he or she working class, middle class, upper middle class, well to do or uber rich? Does he or she have a particular hobby or profession? To which individual or individuals can you best relate? Or can you not relate to any of them? What does that say about you? Now, compile a list of your own favorite or most used brands. What does that list say about you? I hope this has made clear that brands signal much about an individual. And it helps people quickly locate their "tribes." When developing your brand, consider if it could or is being used as a "badge" or self-expressive vehicle for those who use it.

PS - Congratulate yourself if you know most or all of these brands. It means that you have either participated in or interacted with many different socio-economic groups throughout your life or you are an advanced student of brands, including luxury brands. And, if you have personally used or been associated with many or all of these brands, I don't know what to say other than you have lived a very full life and should count your blessings.

Individual A:
  • Carhartt 
  • International Harvester
  • Winchester
  • Kent
  • Dekalb
  • Stihl

Individual B:
  • Walmart
  • Stanley
  • Irwin
  • Dickies
  • Ford F-150
  • Red Wing

Individual C:
  • Barneys
  • Vilebrequin
  • Jeffery Levinson
  • Hermes
  • Rolex
  • Christian Louboutin

Individual D:
  • Rosewood
  • Jumeriah
  • St. Moritz
  • Gulfstream
  • Lurssen
  • Patek Philippe

Individual E:
  • Cub Cadet
  • Subaru
  • Dockers
  • Kenmore
  • Applebee's
  • Macy's

Individual F:
  • Vespucci
  • John Whitaker
  • MUCK
  • Le Chameau
  • Blue Seal
  • Featherlite

Individual G:
  • BMW
  • Morton's The Steak House
  • Big Green Egg
  • The Greenbrier
  • Beaver Creek
  • TUMI

Individual H:
  • JC Penny
  • Kia
  • Wendy's 
  • Aldi
  • Frigidare 
  • Bridgestone 

Individual I:
  • Nautor's Swan
  • Harken
  • Lewmar
  • Westerbeke
  • Garmin
  • Gill

Individual J:
  • The Thatcher School
  • Porcellian Club
  • Bohemian Club
  • Mill Valley
  • Caymus
  • Tesla

Individual K:
  • Under Armour
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • Shakepheare
  • Eagle Claw
  • Sun Dolphin
  • Matador

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