Saturday, April 25, 2009

Name Brands vs. Generic

I've been thinking about brand names and marketing lately and think this will be a fun topic to discuss. I'm intrigued with the concept behind different brand names and the status they supposedly provide. Some names that come to mind are Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, Mercedes, and Apple. I have been wondering lately how much difference there really is between an expensive brand name product and a similar generic or cheaper brand.

Marketers and the media play a big role in creating the value for these products, and if you are going to keep up with the Jones' then you need to do it with the right brands. When I was a kid my parents would take me to Sears to get my school clothes. At an early age I realized that the rich kids had Izod Crocodiles on their shirts, others had the JC Penny Fox, I was at the bottom of the food chain with the Sears Braggin' Dragon brand shirt. I wonder if companies left their logos and tags on the inside of the clothes if anybody would know the difference between them.

In High School I'd only wear Converse basketball shoes. They were endorsed by players like Dr. J, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. When Jordan came around Nike was the cool shoe. Today I'll take nearly any brand if they are on sale. I even find myself buying $12 generic sneakers at Walmart for just wearing around the house. I'm turning into my Dad. I know there is a difference in quality between brands, but I wonder how much difference there really is. I would obviously never run a marathon in generic $12 shoes, and if you've read my blog you know how I feel about buying the cheapest brand of answering machine.

Is a Montblanc pen really 50 times nicer than a Parker pen? If you've looked into luxury watches you know that a Rolex is obviously worth more than a Timex due to the materials and craftsmanship that go into it but a Timex actually keeps better time. Accurate time keeping is obviously not the main concern of a Rolex consumer. The value is in the attention and status it gives the owner and what it represents. I'm not judging anyone here either, I'd love a James Bond Omega Seamaster watch. Even if it came without the laser and flamethrower options.

I remember the first time I saw food in generic packaging. The Macaroni and Cheese boxes were stark black and white and were nearly half the price as the brand names. They were supposedly made in some of the same facilities as the ones in the nicer packaging. To this day my wife will only eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. She claims it is superior to any other brand. Would you rather have Chips a Hoy or Best Yet brand Chip-a-Riffic cookies? Are you a Lucky Charms person or are you okay with the Malt O Meal knock off called Marshmallow Mateys? A & W or Shasta root beer?

It's obvious there are quality differences between some products. I'd like to get some feedback about which products you feel have very little difference and which brand names you think are well worth the extra money and why you would pay more for them. Let's hear what you have to say on this topic.


Mary Bergfeld said...

Chaka, I must admit I've never understood why people ever agreed to wear clothing with logos. As to other categories I'll buy generic if the product is as good as the brand. I must tell you that I'm not a thing person, so mine is probably the contrarian position.

Video Zeta One said...

I have never eaten chicken since buying a value no name brand bag of nuggets... cooked they were like a cross between chewing gum and raw oysters.

My parents bought me a pair of Bel-Mar shoes back when everyone had the giant Nike swoosh. I hated them. Sadly, I have never been able to find any reference to these horrible tennis shoes anwywhere, but they will forever haunt my dreams.

CSIowa said...

I recently had a conversation about just this topic. My friend and I agree that if you're eating the honey-nut flavor, Malt-O-Meal Scooters are just fine, but nothing compares to brand-name plain Cheerios. Since my younger two children have only known the Malt-O-Meal version, they get a little confused when I accidentally refer to their beloved Scooters as Cheerios. (I should probably point out that we do not have television beyond PBS, so we miss out on a lot of marketing.)

Given the sugar content, I have a hard time finding much of a difference between Marshmallow Mateys and Lucky Charms. There may be one, but it isn't worth the price for me.

Every now and again I do splurge on those good, old-fashioned Cheerios. With fresh banana slices on top.

Eric said...

I'm just going to throw this out there concerning foodstuffs... To me, peanut butter is one area that you really shouldn't gamble with.

It seems like the commodity items (salt, milk, eggs, etc.) don't matter that much, but the more processed something is, look out!

Oh yeah, chocolate too. Cote d'Or is so much better than say, waxy nasty carob-like generic alternatives...

Sorry, rambling...

Andrew Rodriguez said...

That whole clothing thing is a huge deal when you are a kid, ain't it, but when you grow up you could careless. (I can't imagine being mocked at the office for not wearing the "right" clothes) The thing is, you've got it right, we'll pay for quality when we need it. Stereo equipment, optical equipment, a good matress, something you are going to use the hell out of. That may also mean, buying 125 dollar for food, well, it is going inside you after all, it should be pretty good.

Jeanne Estridge said...

Gold Toe socks are waaaay better than any other brand (as in, they last about 5 times as long) and they come in cool patterns and colors.

MikkSolo said...

Mustard... Has to be Frenchs
Ketchup... Has to be Heinze

These are worth the extra $ for sure.

Montblanc would be upset. Not a "pen." "Writing instrument" made from "precious resin" this is why they ask $350 now for their starting price point. Frankly a parker writes just as well, or perhaps better.

Status...Status...Status !

I bet the "no-name" brands are doing very well right now in this recession.

Anna Lefler said...

I think it's worth paying extra for jeans that are made well...but only if they come with the flamethrower option.

:^) Anna

Kelly said...

Oh this brings back bad memories of my mother trying to take me school shopping at K-mart. She would only buy me the fox brand polo shirts and it really cut me deep!

Still at our 20 year reunion a classmate came up to me and told me how she always thought I was well dressed and she was jealous of me. So I guess that is a testimony to the fact that name brands don't always have to be the best to make an impression.

She also had long fingernail envy. Wacky!

Beckalita said...

I have to agree with CSlowa. It is so worth the extra $ for the real thing when it comes to cheerios. Those others aren't really in the same category. I also believe the macaroni and cheese thing shouldn't be messed with either. There is NO way that generic holds a candle to Kraft (although I must admit that Kraft was way better when I was a kid.)

MJenks said...

We buy nothing but the Malt-o-meal bags-o-cereal. Not only do you get twice as much, but it's a better bargain. And with two hungry monkeys to take care of every morning, we tear through the cereal fast. I don't cry tears of gold, so I seek out the best-tasting brand for the best value.

The Target brand (Archer Farms) is good enough for many side dishes and such. They make some seriously good granola bars and other snacky-type foods for the kids.

When I was a kid, we used to get this generic soda called Elf that would come in a variety of flavors. I was just thinking this weekend how much I would enjoy a Grape Elf soda. I don't know if they're even made anymore. Time to consult google!

Lisa Loo said...

My favorite is when they put the entire store name across the girls chest or behind and thats only if the clothing happenes to reach that far.

I'm with your wife on the mac and cheese--I've actually done a taste test where we didn't know the brand. EVERYONE who did the test picked Kraft except that skinny white kid with the fox on his shirt..

io saturnalia! said...

At the risk of getting a wedgie next time he passes me in the hall, I'll tell your second commenter Gilligan about one reference to the sneakers he mentions. When I was about 15 I created an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons character named Bell-Mar of the Talismanic Brotherhood. He was a gnome illusionist, as I recall.