WE have all heard people complimenting and asking each other about their favourite brands. Be it a wedding or a formal dinner or just an informal gathering of friends, one would find the conversation, especially – though not exclusively – among women, soon drifting towards fashion and brands. In fact, a comment about someone’s dress or jewellery is a great conversation starter.
It seems brand consciousness has taken our society by a storm. Whether buying clothes, shoes, bags, cosmetics or any other item, we tend to go for popular brands. Using items of famous brands gives a sense of satisfaction to a large section of our society.
When it comes to items of day-to-day use, this trend has given rise to competition not only among the youngsters but also middle-aged men and women; everyone tries to buy branded items whether they can afford it or not.
“When you are looking for quality stuff, brands are safe,” says Tarrannum. “You know what you are buying. With unbranded items there is a risk involved. Personally, I like to buy what looks good and is not very expensive just because it is branded. I can buy several things instead of one in the same amount.”
For her, brand is just a status symbol. She thinks that since a lot of people are buying the same thing, there is nothing unique about branded stuff. “Buying random things makes you unique and you stand apart,” opines Tarrannum.
Saadia Reza puts it in a different light. “With me, it is more to do with brand loyalty than brand consciousness,” she says. “I tend to stick to brands that have worked for me in the past. In terms of choosing a brand, it depends a lot on what I am buying.
“When it comes to products related to hygiene — for instance, toiletries and cosmetics — as well as food items, I would definitely trust a good mid to high-end brand because I like to believe that they are selling a quality product. However, for something like clothes, I just buy whatever suits my fancy, irrespective of the label.
Whether buying clothes, shoes, bags, cosmetics or just about anything, people tend to go for popular brands apparently because it gives them a sense of satisfaction, if not pride.
“Having said that, I will definitely not spend an unreasonable and exorbitant amount on something simply because it is branded. At the end of the day, the purchase, whether it is a bottle of shampoo or dinner at a fancy restaurant, has to be its money’s worth,” clarifies Saadia.
Agreeing with people who believe that media has played a major role in spreading brand awareness and brand consciousness, Erum Hafeez says, “People these days are getting highly brand conscious — thanks to social media, online shopping and marketing industry.
“Online shopping and advertising has made brands accessible to masses. Increasing materialism and show-off approach often entice status conscious people, making them brand conscious.”
It is true that online shopping has brought foreign brands within the reach of many people as now they can order online the things for which they had to wait for some family member or an acquaintance to agree to send or bring for them when visiting.
In the past those who were not frequent travellers used to ask their family and friends abroad to send certain items of their choice. But it was not always possible. However, now they can browse and order whatever they want.
Whether she goes for branded stuff or not, Erum says, “Personally, I buy what appeals to me — both to my aesthetics and my budget. Brand or no brand, it doesn’t matter much. I often find quality stuff in unbranded items in the open market, whether it is clothes or other stuff, though I do not mind opting for some good brands if they offer quality at a reasonable price.”
Afia is practical in this. She prefers buying whatever she feels like. “There are very few brands that have earned my loyalty. I usually stay away from brands because of the price which I cannot justify spending on a single item even if I can afford it.”
Her point of view is proven correct when a couple of months in the season most branded clothes are available as copies or are on sale at the end of the season.
The craze for branded clothes takes a new dimension every summer when various brands launch their summer collection. Women visit these launch exhibitions in such large numbers that they exceed the hall capacity — not to mention the videos that have gone viral of fights breaking out at these exhibitions. And it is not that the items are on discount; they are high-end brands.
“Perhaps it is only in our society that people want to update their entire wardrobe every year and that too with highly priced branded wear, along with shoes and accessories,” says Farah.
“Why do we think that only latest branded clothes and shoes can make us look attractive and stylish,” she questions, adding that this race for brands is giving rise to competition and results in discontent among those who cannot afford them.
Perhaps, it is because of this rat race for brands that the number of lawn brands has exceeded to above 50 which, a decade ago, could be counted on fingertips. Every year a couple of new brands are introduced.
And now most designers, who have lawn brands, are introducing cosmetics, bags and other accessories. They know they are an established name and anything in their name will sell.
“People believe that they will look attractive and stylish if they wear branded clothes or shoes or carry a branded bag,” says Farah. “They think that using branded items will earn them respect and position in society. However, this is not the case.
“There are several other things in one’s personality that one needs to take care of in order to make an impression. The way you talk and behave with others is more important than a branded outfit,” asserts Farah.
Even when shopping for grocery items, people’s choices tend to be tilted towards larger brands; they prefer to buy imported foreign products rather than locally manufactured ones. While one reason may be health and hygiene consciousness, not all people buy for these reasons.
Some just go for them because they saw the advertisements on TV or because their peers are using them. Young girls buy skincare products just because they have seen their ads on TV without thinking whether it is suitable for their skin type or not. They just know that it is a popular brand being advertised on TV.
A downside of brand-consciousness is that in their pursuit for branded stuff, and in order to keep up with the society and competing with peers, people, especially the young generation belonging to the middle class, overthrow caution to the wind and upset their budgets.
They spend unreasonable amounts of money to buy things just so they could carry a popular brand’s label. Under the impression that their fashion choices define them, they go for reputed brands.
Well aware of people’s obsession with brands, the manufacturers take advantage of this. They know their brand will sell no matter how high the cost is and they exploit the situation.
On special occasions, such as Mother’s Day and Independence Day, they announce a sale on their products and people rush to make the most of it only to realise later that they ended up spending more as they bought things they did not need.
Many local brands get hold of phone numbers and, at the launch and subsequent sales, send SMS alerts notifying them of the new arrivals and sales. It is a marketing gimmick to win the loyalty of the customers as well as to draw new customers.
Another example of how brands take advantage of consumers is when stores announce sales — up to 50 or 70 per cent. People only discover that the sale is on selected items and the claimed 50-70 per cent is only on a very few items whereas the rest of the items have a discount of only 20-25 per cent when they reach there.
Very often the items are not marked whether they are on sale and at how much discount and the customer remains under the impression that the entire stock is on sale.
Once the customer selects an item thinking that he/she got a good bargain on a branded item he/she learns that the particular item is not on sale. Now he/she is caught between saving face and buying an expensive product as most people do not want to show that they came not for the sale but for the brand or leave without buying the item of their choice. Most often people end up paying way more than they thought they would.
At the end of the day, there is no harm in being brand conscious but what is important is that one should neither lose one’s personality in the race for brands nor go overboard and spend more than one can easily afford.
Shopping gurus advise that when picking up a brand one should pick one that not only represents one’s personality but also fits in one’s budget. At the same time one should be aware of the product’s utility and not buy it just because it was at one’s favourite brand’s outlet.