Right or wrong, we tend to define ourselves by the products we consume. Buy a pair of red bottomed shoes, and you’ve just bought success. Brand images are the thoughts, feelings, and attributes, etc., one associates with a brand, such as power, wealth, sophistication, and are powerful purchasing influencers. Companies spend billions of dollars a year creating and developing brands—researching markets, developing strategies, and delivering messages—based on their status-symbolism appeal.
Likewise, through calculated consumption, we can accurately depict the image that we would like others to have of us. The image of a single brand may vary among consumers; brands oftentimes have multiple images. And, not all brand images are positive. Take American manufacturer,wholesaler, and retailer, American Apparel, for example. Known primarily for its cotton basics, sexually charged advertising campaigns, pubescent, plain-looking models, and political stance on U.S. immigration laws, one person may wear a pair of sparkly blue American Apparel leggings proudly to demonstrate patriotism, while another wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them for fearof being perceived by society as provocative.
Wearing counterfeit (“knock-off”) goods also makes a statement. It says either that you want to feel like or be seen as something you’re not. Or, that you admire fine things, but refuse to live beyond your means. Either way, label-conscious consumer groups such as the Darling, I can tell by the Rest of Your Outfit Your Louis Vuitton is Fake Facebook group, make fun of people who wear fake designer merchandise. And, research suggests that people who try to pass off fake goods for the real thing are immoral, particularly, dishonest. However, even buying from high street retailers, such as Forever 21 and Topshop could carry a stigma, as both have been sued for selling look-alike garments that infringed on the intellectual property rights of designer labels.
Luckily, designer secondary labels have emerged, such as the late Alexander McQueen’s McQ label, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and See by Chloe, and main street, bargain-priced retailers, such as Target and Payless, have launched innovative, collaborative programs with these same world renowned designers, providing no copy, no fake, affordable alternatives to luxury fashion.
Like it or not, we all have images to maintain, and we must be careful to develop, shape, and control our personal brand images. Most people think that branding is just for companies or celebrities. But, the same techniques that make celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others (or, not appeal to others. Remember how quick brands were to disassociate with the likenesses of Tiger Woods and Chris Brown?) can be used to market ourselves. Think about the messages you want to deliver to the world. Select products and brands that best represent you. Research the various images behind brands you buy, because they reflect who you are. You know you are sending the right messages when how you perceive yourself is exactly how other people perceive you.