Are You a Brand Worshipper?

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When I was a little boy, I loved playing with my toy cars and had a big collection of them. One day, I asked my dad which one of my toy cars was his favorite. He pointed to a white Cadillac DeVille convertible (the one Boss Hogg drove from the show Dukes of Hazzards). He asked me which one was my favorite. I pointed to an orangish-brown no-name station-wagon-looking car which was falling apart. “Really, why?” he asked. “Because it looks like your car!” I answered. (My dad drove a brown Chevy Malibu back in the 1980s) Ahh, such a young innocent mind, unpolluted by consumerism and the hypnotism of marketing ad execs.

Speaking of cars, a former neighbor of mine drove a Porsche 911. One day, I saw his wife get out of the car and she was visibly pregnant. My wife and I congratulated them as we just had a baby and remember what an exciting time it was. I also thought to myself: I guess he’ll have to get rid of that Porsche of his! I may or may not have had a smirk on my face when I thought this. I know, I know…I can be a little envious at times…I’m trying to work on it. Well after the birth of their baby, he did indeed get rid of the Porsche 911. No, he did not start driving a minivan. He started driving a Porsche Cayenne!

For all you Apple Fanboys and girls, you remember Apple’s Big Event this past September. It was a highly anticipated event as Apple was announcing new products and upgrades. There were lines popping up at Apple stores even before ANYTHING was announced! Before the event, there were rumors that Apple might be coming out with a line of watches. An iWatch perhaps? Jimmy Kimmel had one of his assistants go out to Hollywood to tell people that a Casio watch (with an Apple logo on it) was the upcoming iWatch. Watch the reactions of the Apple Brand Worshipers:

 

I found the clip pretty hilarious. It seems that Apple can do no wrong in the eyes of the consumers who worship the company and its products. I don’t want to bash Apple products. I have an iPhone so I shouldn’t be a hypocrite right? Apple products can be cool and intuitive to use. But with any product, sometimes we have to ask ourselves if we like it because of its functionality and what it helps us do, or if it’s because of the brand name.

So why are people so brand conscious? One reason seems to be that owning certain brands displays our status. Some see brands as a way to signal their individuality or demonstrate a degree of superiority. Having the same brands help consumers connect with each other and strengthen their sense of belonging to a social group. I’ve heard one too many Apple vs PC and Apple vs Samsung debates where the two groups are adamant that the product they support is superior. Those debates can get heated! Being part of a brand offers membership in a community with shared values and interests. It provides the consumer with a unique and satisfying personal identity.

Nick who blogs at Pretired.org wrote an interesting post related to this topic where he complains about Harley riders on their loud bikes:

The Harley brand is all about how it makes riders feel about themselves. They throw a leg over the bike, rev up their obnoxious machine and imagine that all the world is in awe.

Harley Davidson, Apple, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Manolo Blahnik, Hello Kitty, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Ikea, among others enjoy a cult-like following. Consumers can be extremely passionate about the products that they buy.

“We love brands. We feel attached and loyal to them. We put them on a pedestal and worship them. The textbook explanation is that there is an underlying, magical essence that only good brands share. A great deal of hard research and attention has focused on finding and explaining this slippery essence. But that approach has led us down a long, dead-end street,” says Joan Khoury in a Forbes’ article.

There are internet forums dedicated to many of the cult brands and organized meetings where fellow brand worshippers can meet up and talk about the latest things involving those brands.

“Brands are the new religion…They supply our modern metaphysics, imbuing the world with significance…. Brands function as complete meaning systems,” says Douglas Atkins, author of The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers.

I don’t understand the emotional connection and devotion to inanimate objects. Such strong loyalty to a brand doesn’t seem to make sense. Why the extreme enthusiasm or devotion to a brand? I like certain brands. If I’ve bought products from a certain company and find they have excellent customer service and make quality products, I’d probably mainly buy those products. But I wouldn’t just buy every product they make no questions asked, nor would I have undying devotion to the brand.

Do you worship at the altar of Brand name products or know others who do? Why do you think people feel so strongly about certain brands?

73 thoughts on “Are You a Brand Worshipper?

  1. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    I used to be a brand worshipper and I think it’s because I grew up in a time where commercials were an everyday part of my life. We didn’t have DVR or Netflix, so whenever we watched anything on television, we also sat through commercials. I think some serious brainwashing happened during that time, after all, I still feel compelled to buy Jif peanut butter and it’s probably because I know that “Choosy mom’s choose Jif.” Anywho, now I can’t think about a single brand that would compel me into a buying decision. I feel bad for those people who blindly worship brands, they definitely tend to overspend as a result.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…When the Student is ReadyMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I remember that Jif commercial! There are certain brands that I trust, but I usually read reviews and do research. If a more affordable option is available and the reviews are good, I’d probably consider it.

      Reply
  2. EL @ Moneywatch101

    It all boils down to being a follower. People can’t be bothered to do research on value, reliability or specifications of each brand. They just want to go with what’s cool, and continue taking selfies. I like certain brands that give me the best value for my dollar, and Apple products (besides original I-pod) has never come close in my eyes. Consumers already pay double the cost to manufacturer a product, with Apple people are probably paying 5 times the cost.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Best value for my dollar is pretty much what I always look for. I have an iPhone but I guess the price is heavily subsidized when you sign a cellphone contract.

      Reply
  3. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    It’s funny you should mention apple because I am pretty brand loyal to them simply because of their functionality. A mac is what I need to do the type of work I do, so the rest just followed in line, however, I won’t get the latest and greatest apple product. I hang on to what I have until I absolutely have to replace it. So with some things I am brand loyal, but try to alway remain as frugal about it as possible.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…I Admit It, Sometimes I Dislike Rich PeopleMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea I find many people who praise its functionality and it is intuitive to use. Nothing wrong with that…it’s probably the crazy brand worshipers who buy all Apple products all the time and upgrade every time one is available.

      Reply
  4. Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

    I definitely have brand loyalty, but I don’t blindly worship brands and buy every product they make either. If I like their brand, they certainly get my first look, but I do my homework and comparison shop too. Sometimes a great brand can make a dud or two. :) To me, when people go from brand loyalty to brand worship, it’s more of a keeping up thing. Marketing does such a good job at making brands/products seem irresistible and people hate being left behind.
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…Tips to Help Your Kids Embrace Setting GoalsMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I like LG too. I find they make a quality product and have a good price. Why don’t you like Apple products?

      Reply
    2. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea I do the same thing. I think that’s the best approach to take. That’s a good distinction. Brand loyalty is fine but when you take it to the extreme and become a brand worshiper than it can be a problem.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      But do you always have the latest Apple products? And Starbucks…you get the Pumpkin Spice Latte yet? =)

      Reply
  5. anna

    I do tend to get brand wh0rish with my clothes, though that has diminished somewhat with future life changes. For the most part, though, if a brand is pretty reliable (i.e., Honda), then I’m pretty loyal to it and become a ‘lifer.’ :)
    anna recently posted…Pregnancy Notes Round 2!My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Hey nothing wrong with being loyal to Honda…they are reliable and it’s not like to get a new car every few years!

      Reply
  6. Michelle

    I’ve never been a brand worshipper until recently, and it only applies to outdoors gear for me. I’d rather buy something that is known to be safe (such as a harness), then a brand that hasn’t been around long. Picking a well known climbing brand can save my life, so I have no problem with that. However, I don’t care about Apple, brand clothing, or anything like that.
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  7. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    LOL, we watched the Dukes of Hazzard faithfully when I was a kid. :-) I’m sure at one point I was brand loyal, but now, I couldn’t care less about name brands. I buy stuff for quality, value and usability, period. And I’d be really mad if my husband was making my pregnant tail get in and out of a Porsche. That’s when I learned to love pickup trucks, when I found they were much easier to hoist my pregnant stomach up into. :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…How to Deal with RejectionMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      It was one of my favorite shows growing up!! Even now I want to get into the car like Luke and Bo Duke did. Good point about the Porsche…I’m sure that wasn’t too comfortable for her!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea…middle school is a tough time. I hated brand names in high school…but I think it was a defense mechanism because I knew my parents weren’t going to get me name brand clothes. Kimmel is hilarious!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’m not sure the word loyal and political parties belong in the same sentence =)

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Apple and Starbucks…that seems like a lot of people! Price and functionality are my main considerations.

      Reply
  8. Kathy

    When I was growing up everyone was either a Ford or a Chevy person. My parents were Ford people and hubby’s parents were Chevy people, so we’re sort of like Romeo and Juliet. But we’ve been all over the spectrum with our cars so we’ve gotten beyond that. When reading the title to your article I thought you were going to go ballistic on those people who guy brand names instead of generic or store brand when grocery shopping. LOL! Anyway….I wonder how many of the Occupy Wall Streeters carried an I-pad or an Apple phone. Basically, I’m not really stuck on a particular brand, but I do love my Coach purses!

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I remember that was a pretty fierce rivalry. My dad was a Chevy guy! I definitely stick with generic brands for many products…especially when there’s no noticeable difference. But while most people just buy brand name products because they’re loyal or trust them…there are some brands where people are really extreme in their loyalty where it’s like they HAVE to have it and eat, sleep and think about that product. It’s almost like a cult.

      Reply
  9. Melanie @ My Alternate Life

    I am not a brand worshipper, though I do prefer Apple. I had a scare with my computer recently and thought about having to buy a mac vs. a PC. My budget says PC but I love Mac! Luckily, I had to just fix my current Macbook. It’s funny, I recently wrote an article on why branding works — effective branding forms a relationship with the consumer — a familiar quality that keeps you coming back time and time again. I think it is insane how much people love Apple everything, but I sort of get it. My budget still dictates the majority of things in my life though.
    Melanie @ My Alternate Life recently posted…This Weekend’s Declutter: The Office NookMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’ll have to check out that article…it does seem like these brands do a good job of forming relationships with consumers where it’s almost like a cult.

      Reply
  10. Abigail

    I’m a brand worshipper of certain hair products. Objectively, I pay too much for them. But I really like how they work.

    And yes I suppose I am more interested in some clothes if they have certain labels. Thoroughly midrange labels, of course. But I’m more likely to go to a section for a specific brand when I start shopping. Then again, I rarely shop anymore except when I need a new size. Even then, I go cheap because my weight keeps fluctuating.
    Abigail recently posted…Do you know your emergency budget?My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Hey…you got to go with what works sometimes, if there’s isn’t a more affordable alternative.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      That’s true…sometimes I’m willing to support a brand that because of what they stand for, even if it’s slightly more expensive. And eco-friendly has become more important to me because I’ve been reading about the different toxins/chemicals that some companies use.

      Reply
  11. Pretired Nick

    Awesome piece, and thanks for the shout out! Sorry it took so long to get over here. Been a hell of a week (again!)
    It is amazing how powerful brands can be to people. I’ve long avoided any kind of brand obsession, going so far as to cut labels off my clothes when I was in college because I didn’t want anything corporate on me.
    I do, however, appreciate quality and will spend more for well-made products. That does lead to some brand loyalty, but one must always keep a jaded eye toward that loyalty and never let it become blind trust.
    Funny you mentioned Trader Joe’s. We go there sometimes, but I notice that while they appear to be a low-cost store, the way they seem to get away with that is through small package size. Everything is around $3, even if you’re buying 8 pieces of asparagus. They have some good deals, but sometimes you’re just getting less.
    Pretired Nick recently posted…Harleys are dumbMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks! Wow…I avoided brand obsession back in high school/college too but never cut labels off. I kind of hated brands…but that may have been a defense mechanism because I couldn’t afford it like the cool kids. As for TJ…they have good deals on certain items but like you said, it sometimes just appears like a good deal.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Love it. That’s a good way of putting it. I’m loyal to my wallet and investments first and foremost!

      Reply
  12. Erin @ Journey to Saving

    I can’t think of a brand that I’m absolutely loyal to and would buy at any costs. I did buy a Macbook Air earlier this year, but that’s because I read many, many reviews of all sorts of laptops, and came to the conclusion that it would serve me best. I got it refurbished and ended up paying similar to what a Windows laptop would have cost me. I don’t have anything against Apple, but I always take price into consideration. I’m most loyal to my bank account, after all. =)
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, very true! I’m loyal to my bank account first and foremost. I’m willing to spend a little extra for quality and many people feel that Macbooks are superior.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I used to have a Columbia jacket…great quality. It’s not like Columbia has upgraded jackets that you MUST have every year so that’s fine!

      Reply
  13. Rob @ MoneyNomad

    It’s all about image. A brand allows us to feel like we are a part of a team, a society, a club. It’s really pretty ridiculous, but it’s why Abercrombie can sell torn up jeans for 3x what they cost at any other store.

    A believe a powerful lesson we can learn from this is to develop our own brand. If we do a good job of developing our brand, people will stick with us, hire us, and buy from us because they like who we are, what we represent, and what others think of us.
    Rob @ MoneyNomad recently posted…Three Steps to Save 17% on Every Hotel StayMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Exactly. It’s about image. It really is ridiculous when the same product costs 3 times more merely because of the name of it.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      That’s a good point. You’re wise beyond your age. Trusted brands used to mean quality but now it really is mainly about image.

      Reply
  14. Done by Forty

    Great topic. The love of brands is a natural result of a consumer culture. When we’re defined by what we buy, the best choices we can make are choosing the right products. Brands make that easy.
    Done by Forty recently posted…House LustMy Profile

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  15. John @ Frugal Rules

    Good post Andrew! This is an interesting one for myself personally since we run an advertising business. It’s mainly B2B, but we do have some consumer stuff going on. It’s definitely interesting to see how loyal many can get to their brands and think it really does come down to that status they feel they get from it. I know when I was younger I was definitely in the brand worshipper camp, but that really goes back to my poor handling of money. Now, I’m much more concerned about the value I’m receiving for what I spend. There might be a few products I find to have quality, but there ultimately has to be value there for me.
    John @ Frugal Rules recently posted…What Your Stock Broker Isn’t Telling YouMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea I think it’s fine to be loyal to a brand. Many times I like to stick to a trusted brand when I haven’t had a chance to do my research. Brand worship takes loyalty to a whole different level.

      Reply
  16. Mrs. Maroon

    In my younger years I was concerned about what label was on my clothes, purse, sunglasses, etc. As I’ve aged, started a family, and most importantly had some sense knocked into me by Mr. Maroon, I no longer care. I appreciate items that are made with quality, but the brand name doesn’t matter any more. It does pain me to watch family continue the obsession though. Sometimes I wish I could just shake them – particularly my 20-something sister. I wish she could embrace a more frugal lifestyle at a young age to see what her long term potential could be!!
    Mrs. Maroon recently posted…Daytime TelevisionMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I know what you mean. Sometimes I wish I could shake some frugal sense into others. But I guess they have to learn themselves. For you, it was starting a family and Mr. Maroon.

      Reply
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I know what you mean. I think Apple products are fine, but I think other brands can do the job for a fraction of the price.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      It’s funny when Apple fanboys try to argue their position and think they’re being unbiased.

      Reply
  19. Even Steven

    I’ve gotten away from brand loyalty in some areas, but there are many great examples of brand loyalty as they offer superior products and select items that fit a higher standard. Vanguard would be a great example. I choose to stick with Nike for all of my sporting needs, I preach Republic Wireless to anyone who will listen, sometimes the product is simply better.
    Even Steven recently posted…Part Time eBay Side Hustle ExpertMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      That’s true about Vanguard…I’m pretty loyal to them. Although for a lot of the brands you mentioned, it’s based on value and quality not because the “image” they exude. It’s not like Vanguard has a new product every year which they’re trying to sell you.

      Reply
  20. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini

    I am so guilty of being a past brand worshipper. It wasn’t until debt smacked me in the face that I woke up and realize, it’s not about the brand, but what I actually can afford. Now that I choose the other brand….I realized how much money I have wasted in the past. I don’t think after I finally become debt free I will ever be able to demand a certain brand. Looking back now….what was i thinking!
    Petrish @ Debt Free Martini recently posted…Evicting AnxietyMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Well at least you’ve learned from your past. The price difference is often big even when the quality/value is not.

      Reply
  21. Felix Money

    Hmmmm I guess I am a brand worshiper. It’s because I had positive experiences with some brands, and I stuck with them, thinking they’re better quality. All things Apple (iPhone, Mac and maybe soon Apple Watch :)), Toyota for cars, Bank of America and Costco (if those two can be considered in that category). Oh, and spouse swears by Starbucks. That’s about it. We don’t have any preferences when it comes to clothes, shoes, beverages (maybe Chopin and Van Gogh for vodka?) etc.
    Felix Money recently posted…January Financial StatementMy Profile

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  22. Steven

    There is a huge downside of brand loyalty.

    I’m a fan of comic book movies and will see ones of characters I have an interest in. In recent years Theres been a brand worship take over with those who enjoy Marvel Studios movies so much thst they’ll not only see anything the company makes but they’ll hate on and hound fans of the competing marvel movies made by other studios.
    At this moment there are scores of marvel studios brand worshippers calling for people to boycott the newest Fox-made fantastic four movie. Many of these hated the movie before it had a cast or director simply because it wasn’t made by their brand and as it became clear that there were some differences from the comics they tore into it hoping for it to flop so marvel studios could get the rights (even bough it flopping won’t result in that) as in their mind they’re the only ones who could “do it right”.
    The brand loyalty is so strong that when marvel studios changes things for the screen they accept it but when others change things they get insulted and hated on for it.

    They ruin the fun for others and hold Marvel as perfect above all others. Rather than just enjoying Marvel they have to go further and hate others and make it so the actual fans can’t talk positively about the movie.

    This isn’t just comic book movies. There’s Apple vs Microsoft, Playststion vs Xbox, IOS vs Android and tons of others where the brand worship is so strong that they wish the destruction of a competing brand and hound those who are fans of them.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I don’t understand why you have to hate on other brands just because you love your brand. Can’t we all just get along? Haha. I know in sports, there is a natural rivalry but even with that, I see some fanatics who take it way too far. Ultimately, it’s just a game.

      Reply
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  24. Clementine Isabella Sophie Florence Cecelia Marie Grace Emily Charlotte Smythe-Worthington

    I tend to go with quality rather than then brand recognition, I always use the best brands for ski/snowboard equipment or outdoor activity equipment, I am happy shelling out money for my safety. I love supporting eco-brands too, I convinced my hospital to use eco-friendly stationery. Eco-friendly stationery saves money (albeit in the long run). My daughter buys good quality sports clothing (Nike and other good brands).

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