I was watching Saturday Kitchen on Saturday (yes) and I noticed that the presenter, James Martin, was wearing a polo shirt with that wee crocodile logo on it. One minute on Google tells me it’s Lacoste. As I write this I remember a television series he did where he drove around the UK visiting various kitchens. The thing is, he drove around in an Aston Martin. I noticed that in the credits to the programme, Aston Martin was thanked for providing the car. So it wasn’t James Martin’s car.
I’ve never really placed value on brands. I like to think that I prefer quality over brand value. If an item is high quality, I’ll have it, regardless of the brand. That’s why my favourite mp3 player is not Apple’s iPod.
The brand, if it has any value to me at all, is secondary. Isn’t everyone like me?
Apparently not, as new research from Tilberg University in the Netherlands shows (Economist – April 2nd).
Rob Nelissen and Marijn Meijers of said university examined people’s reactions to wearers of clothes made by Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger, two brands with perceived high value to some, apparently. Both display their logos prominently on their clothes.
In the first experiment, volunteers were shown pictures of a single person wearing a high perceived value branded shirt (Lacoste or Hilfiger) or a shirt with no logo or a shirt with a non-luxury brand, in this case Slazenger. The volunteers then rated the person on two scales – status and wealth. When the person in question was wearing the designer logo their status was rated as 3.5 (on a scale of 1 to 5), versus 2.91 when wearing no logo and 2.84 when wearing the bargain-basement Slazenger. The relative scoring was maintained when assessing wealth (3.94 for designer logo, 2.78 for no logo and 2.8 for sleazy Slazenger).
I guess it’s time to ditch the Dunlop golf shirts….
Hmmm…OK. But does this make any difference?
To see whether the logos had any effect on the guinea pigs’ real behaviour, another experiment was conducted. A woman went to a busy shopping centre and asked shoppers to complete a survey. When she was wearing a designer branded sweater, she got 52% of those she asked to complete the survey. When wearing no logo – 13% completion. Wow.
It also worked when the experimenters knocked on doors seeking charitable contributions – 70% more was collected per answered door when a luxury label was worn by the experimenter compared to no logo.
Drs Nelissen and Meijers believe that people react to designer labels as signals of underlying quality in the individual wearing them.
When similar experiments were conducted but the volunteers were told that the clothing with the designer label had been given to the wearer by the experimenters, all advantage to the wearer was lost. (Take note Mr Martin – careful credit readers like me are not impressed by your borrowed Aston).
This work confirms a wider phenomenon. A work of art’s value, for instance, varies wildly depending on who is believed to have created it, although the work itself is unchanged. And people will willingly buy fake goods, if they have the right label.
This behaviour is almost certainly an artefact of the “peacock’s tail” – we look for signs of health and good genes in our potential mates. The peacock cannot fake beautiful plumage. So maybe we are programmed to react to anything that has been imbued with value, real or perceived.
I guess I always knew this. But I did not realise it extended to such a trivial level as a crocodile on an otherwise undifferentiated polo shirt.
I’m about to shoot some sales videos for a forthcoming product on productivity. Although I find it hard to envisage, maybe I need to choose my labels accordingly and wear them on the outside.
It would be crazy not to if the guys from Tilburg University are right.