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What’s in a Brand Name?

by Ian Doescher


What products do you buy the generic version of, and for which products do you insist on buying the brand name?

This is a question I’ve discussed with friends and family, and I find it fascinating. For me, I believe any shampoo will get my hair clean, generic acetaminophen works just as well as Tylenol, and don’t for one minute tell me my Nutty Nuggets from Kroger are any less tasty than brand name Grape Nuts from Post.

Pivot Group - Brand NamesThere are, however, some products for which I will always choose the brand name. He are some examples:

  • Band-Aids: generic adhesive bandages just don’t hold up as well as the real thing.
  • Cottonelle or Quilted Northern: toilet paper by any other name just isn’t as soft.
  • Kleenex: generic tissues are too brittle; Kleenex is stronger and softer.
  • Q-tips: don’t even get me started on the generic version…

Those are just a handful of the brand name products I will buy every time, and your list probably looks different. (“Generic shampoo?” I can almost hear you thinking, “Your poor hair!”) The point is, we all have our brand name preferences.

Your product or service may not have a brand name vs. generic equivalent. For instance, there’s really no such thing as a generic car or a generic real estate company. Nevertheless, there are certain things to be learned from brand name preference that apply to all companies, three qualities for which we can all strive:

  1. Excellence: browsing my list, the main factor that keeps me buying brand name is excellence, quality. These products simply work better than their generic equivalents, so I will happily pay more to buy brand name. Does your company display excellence? When your customers (or potential customers) think about your product or service, does excellence come to mind? If not, why not?
  2. Differentiation: sometimes, I buy brand name because I believe the brand name product offers me something the generic version can’t. This is the case for Cottonelle and Quilted Northern–although I don’t really care which of the two I buy, I will always by one of them because, to put it frankly, life is too short for anything but soft toilet paper. Cottonelle and Quilted Northern have differentiated themselves in my mind by giving me an experience other toilet papers don’t. (Too much information?)
  3. Connection: I am loyal to certain brand names because I feel a connection with them. From the list above, Band-Aids probably come closest. I grew up using name brand Band-Aids, I can sing the old Band-Aid jingle (written, by the way, by Barry Manilow), and I feel a certain sense of nostalgia for them. Simply put, I like Band-Aids. I like the brand, and I am a customer for life.

Excellence, differentiation and connection–it’s a good recipe for any company. What brand names do you insist on buying? I’d love to hear your list and why you love the brand names you do.

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