The Rich and Brands

Fascinating piece in the NY Times about brands -- What We Talk About When We Talk About Brands. It seems that we regular people talk a lot about brands. Those busy little marketers can prove it, and they are finding new and innovative ways of listening in on our conversations to get at this intelligence. It's interesting how all these "word of mouth" marketeers are always trying to eavesdrop on their customers but they are much less inclined to actually get involved with their customers. Obnoxious. Anyway, that's not why I liked the article (though I did find that part as amusing as usual). What got me hooked was way at the end. Go down to the last paragraph and you'll find this little gem -- "It turned out that people with high incomes were not talking about the brand, but people who made less money were talking about it a lot." Fascinating. So, what do the rich people know that we don't?

Interesting article. Sick, if you ask me, but interesting in a "what's the best way to kill bunnies" way.

You see, I like my Old Navy clothes, they're great for running errands an going out with friends. I buy a pair of Levi's 501 jeans religiously each year at Mervyn's. I drive a Volkswagen Beetle to work and back, and my wife drives the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Our child got most of his stuff from Babies'R Us, but lately we're shopping at Target more often for his clothes, and I conveniently get my caffeine fix at the in-store Starbucks. Of course, my wife loves Target, and not a week goes by that we don't make the trip: she just loves the style. Speaking of style: She's all into Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and would not be caught dead in Macy's. We both shop for shoes at PayLess ShoeSource and they're cheap but crappy (oh well). When we're out shopping for furniture, we go to Ikea first. And we generally buy there. We go to Bed Bath & Beyond for sheets and pillowcases, as well as cutlery. Cups, glasses, plates and bowls have all come from Pier 1 Imports, but Target is looking better these days. Finally: I get gas at 76 stations, buy computer stuff at Fry's Electronics, and haven't used my Blockbuster card in two years.

See, that wasn't so hard. (Note: all I wrote above is entirely true. Of course, I could write a lot more about brands of stuff I use in everyday life, but I will refrain the interest of my sanity. Also, consider yourselves lucky I did not link these brands to the appropriate wikipedia articles; the paragraph would have looked a lot worse with all the blue underlined capitalized brand names. I also left out the <sup>TM</sup> because I don't want Jim to think I was honto baka.)

Now: it's interesting to note that rich people either got rich or stay rich by actually watching what they spend their money on. This means they are generally more savvy customers, and will not be Victims of Marketing and blindly follow the trends/brands with sparkly blinders on.

The article does make an interesting point, however: "Those who listen in on conversations should be willing to tolerate criticism. Many companies avoid hearing what customers are saying because they do not want to hear complaints"

What did you say? Ah, can't hear you! La-La-La! My hands are on my hears! You can say whatever you want to say, we'll keep mass-marketing to the Great Unwashed Masses like our advertising consultant tells us... Who are you? Just a voice in the wilderness... A foolish one at that: a housewife or retired plummer trying to influence a multi-BILLION dollar company? Who do you think you are, peon? We have armies of MBAs and lawyers, and you don't. You think you're smarter than us? Hum? Loser...

Well, you have it, folks: they want to know what we think and how we talk and how we relate with and communicate their precious little brands, just so they can fit them into their Microsoft Excel 2003 spreadsheets and sell a fancy report for thousands of dollars to an arrogant company who will then whip us up into a buying frenzy with their newfangled campaign aimed directly at our unsuspecting psychographic and behavioristic variables.

Well, maybe we are peons after all... Noticed how I slipped another brand in a the end? Slick, don't you think?

/me pukes and thinks to self: my sarcasm kills me sometimes.

Posted by Christopher Mahan on November 26, 2006 at 09:14 AM JST #

Christopher ... this is a classic response. Very nice. :) You write the best stuff on marketing. And I totally agree that the rich are probably much more savvy about marketing than most. And I think that's especially true of the self-made guys, too.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on November 26, 2006 at 01:48 PM JST #

it's interesting to note that rich people either got rich or stay rich by actually watching what they spend their money on

Only to the extent that it's better to invest it than spend on stuff you don't need. In terms of the brands under discussion (consumer goods), different choices aren't going to make you rich, they're only going to change the way your poverty is decorated. (Related "choices" that don't really change anything: voting. The status quo has powerful protectors :)

The fundamental insight about consumer culture - I guess Marx covered it(?) - is that you get rich by being on the selling side of the transaction, not by chasing discounts...

Posted by Toby on November 26, 2006 at 06:33 PM JST #

Yes, you get rich by selling, no question, but you can also get rich by saving/investing and not spending -- albeit slowely. The key, I think, is to simply not spend on anything the marketeers want you to spend on.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on November 27, 2006 at 02:04 AM JST #

Jim, Thanks for the compliment. On the rich: they just know how to ignore the hype. They follow the beating of their own drum. The rich lookalikes (big houses, fancy cars) just owe a lot of money to lending institutions.

Posted by Christopher Mahan on November 28, 2006 at 10:39 PM JST #

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