Why do people put YETI bumper stickers on their cars? Why did Apple include little Apple logos for people to put on everything? That oblong “O” you see on trucks and cars everywhere, for Oakley, how did the brand get so big, and so powerful that people are essentially putting ads on their vehicles for free? And then on Facebook and other social networks, people are endorsing their BRANDS by LIKING their pages and sharing their social/digital/visual content.
What about “brands” do consumers enjoy so much? Why do some of us love Nike and some of us hate Nike? Was the whole “Black Lives Matter” thing with the NFL and the kneeling players more about race or about the brand of the NFL vs the brand of some individual players? [This is not going to be a political post, so don’t worry.]
I had an interesting brand experience this weekend in a small Texas town, about 40 minutes from Austin, Texas where I live. I would guess the population demographic here is 70% Hispanic, 20% white, 10% all others. I was chatting with a friend when I mentioned Lululemon and my daughter’s undying affinity and belief in their brand. This person had never heard of Lululemon. I was stunned.
“What?” I asked. “It’s like the one of the biggest brands of our current culture.”
Turns out no one in this entire town knows what Lululemon is. We were in a clothing store later in the afternoon and I asked the female employee, “So you know what Lululemon is, don’t you?” She looked at me strangely. “Lululemon?”
Was I living in some alternative universe. Was small-town Texas that far from Austin, Texas that no one understood or had even heard of Lululemon? I was stumped. In one final burst of optimisim about the power of brand, even in a remote Texas town, I asked a dredlocked guy on the street as we came out of the store. I mean, if anybody looked like they were part of a Lululemon yoga-instructor branding image, it was this guy. I think he was carrying his skateboard.
“Do you know what Lululemon is?” I asked, as we walked by.
“No,” he said, smiling at us. “Is it tasty?”
Well, obviously brands and big digital brands are tasty in Austin, Texas. Middle-America, not so much. My friend was wearing yoga pants. Walmart/Target/Academy yoga pants in the $20 variety, colors and fabric patterns to match the latest in fashion. The idea of a $120 pair of yoga pants did not compute for either my friend or the owner of the clothing store.
“But here’s the thing,” I said. “My daughter loves Lululemon. And she will buy 20 pairs of Lululemons over the next 3 years. Here’s the thing. If a pair of her Lulu’s rips, falls apart or begins to show wear, she can take the pants back to Lululemon, without a receipt, and get a new pair for free.” My friend and the shopkeeper seemed impressed. “And that’s fine and interesting until you realize that my daughter, because of the power of the Lululemon brand, will have paid for those “free replacement” pants 10-times over, by the time one of her Lulu’s fail.
What are the brands you follow online? What are the brands you believe in?
Take the Yeti cooler phenomenon. Why would someone put the brand of a cooler on the back of their pickup truck? Does it mean that money is no object when it comes to their party weekend plans? Does it mean that Yeti does great things for the environment? Does it mean they value cold ice more than many of the other things they do not have bumper stickers for?
Yeti is a lifestyle brand. Much like BMW or Apple. People are buying Yeti because they can, because they value the quality and prestige that comes with paying for a premium brand. But is the Yeti cooler that much better than all the knock-offs that have launched in their wake? Is the $45 stainless Yeti cup better than the $20 stainless generic Academy Sports and Outdoors cup?
For many of you, the answer is yes. I don’t get it. But I do drive a BMW, my daughter swears by Lululemons, and our entire family uses Apple iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. It’s a brand world. Maybe out here in BFE, Texas, the price at Walmart is more important than what label is on the collar. But even the low-cost leaders have become branding machines. Note Target’s internal brands, either purchased or created, Massimo, Merona, etc. And note that you won’t see UnderArmor or Adidas in Target. Actually, you can find Adidas in Target. Here is the entire selection of Adidas at Target.
What are your go-to brands? Mine are ASCIS, New Balance, Head Tennis, BMW, Oakley, and Apple. I bet you have a lot more brands, and a lot more loyalty to brands than you think you do. It reminds me of the cigarette campaign for Tareton that was featured (mocked) in MadMen. “I’d rather fight than switch.”
I’d love you to weigh in on this digital branding discussion in here the comments or on Facebook.
Take Care Out There,
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