The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!
Yesterday’s Non-Consumer Mish-Mash column received a thought provoking reply to my mention that the 50¢ tank top I picked up at a garage sale was Old Navy brand.
“Why can’t it just be a great black tank top? Why does it have to be Old Navy?”
The reader went to on to write that:
“Because it sounds like we are buying these by BRAND and not because we like them. How does OLD NAVY black tank top describe a tank top any better? How does describing coffee mugs or underwear change how it looks by mentioning the brand name?”
This comment did not surprise me because the same commenter had earlier questioned why the brand of my garbage picked Crate and Barrel Christmas mugs mattered? I had not addressed the question at the time, (lord knows what what going on in my day when I published that piece) but the question had certainly been ruminating with me.
Does brand matter, or is it a completely irrelevant detail?
I think the answer is both yes and no. Brand is not important in terms of status. But some brands are better made than others, and certain brands are more cleverly designed. In the best case scenario, these two occurrences collide.
Take for example Garnet Hill, which one of my favorite brands. Garnet Hill is a mostly catalog based business that sells expensive clothing, housewares and kid stuff; but their star products is their bedding. Oh my God, the bedding! It’s extremely high quality and the graphics are fantastic. When I garbage picked a flannel duvet cover in their classic clouds pattern I was over the moon. Had that same duvet cover been a Target brand, I would have been less likely to bring it home and put the work into mending all the tears.
So yes, brand mattered in this case.
When I picked up the 50¢ Old Navy tank top at a garage sale, my thinking was not along the lines of “Wowie-zowie, it’s Old Navy!” but more along the lines of “This tank top looks functional. I already have a blue one that I also bought for 50¢ at a garage sale last summer, so I know it’ll work for me.”
And no, brand did not matter in this case.
In an ideal world, all consumer goods would be high quality and equally worthy, but such is not the case. Some brands are simply better than others, while stores like Target run the gamut from poor to fantastic quality. (My mother swears by their towels for her rental cottages.)
I describe myself as a “Non-Consumer” but that doesn’t mean that I am immune to brand awareness. It is simply more satisfying to score a $2 pair of Goodwill Levi’s instead of Wal Mart brand. I am not looking to fill my home with designer goods, instead I look for high quality goods that will not fall apart before they should. And if I can get three of four seasons out of that tank top, then I’ll feel pretty good.
How do you weigh in on this issue? Is favoring some brands more than others bowing down to Madison Avenue? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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