We consumers are a strange lot when it comes to brand loyalty.
Consider this: If Nike wants to put its name on a billboard, the side of the bus or a television screen, the sports apparel giant will pay thousands of dollars — if not hundreds of thousands or millions — to do so.
But through consumers, Nike gets free advertising. Better than that, Nike has us advertise for it.
A quality white t-shirt at Goody’s, for example, might cost $10, tops. But a white t-shirt with the Nike swoosh across the front of it? More like $25.
Obviously that same t-shirt didn’t cost an additional $15 to manufacture simply because a swoosh was stitched or screen-printed across the front. So Nike is pocketing extra profits while we carry the brand around the world.
It isn’t clear which clothing manufacturer made the ingenious decision to delve into this practice — it may very well have been Nike, since it has carved out a decided niche in branded clothing — but we have become walking billboards, providing these corporations more advertising than they could ever receive from Lamar or cable TV while paying them to do so. Even more of a head-scratcher? Kids are subject to bullying for not using their chest to advertise certain brands like Nike or A&F or Hollister.
We’re all guilty of it. I’ll walk to the opposite end of the mall to avoid buying Nike clothes; I’m not a Nike fan and wearing a swoosh across my chest is akin to manufacturer treason for me. But I am partial to Adidas, and I’ll pay a few dollars extra for t-shirts or track pants that have the Adidas logo emblazoned on them.
I once considered myself immune to branding wars, until one day I looked down at my desk. I was typing on my iMac with my Macbook Air on standby. An iPad had a statistical recap of a high school football game pulled up, and I was getting text messages on my iPhone.
Yes, I’m an admitted Apple fanboy . . . would be a card-carrying member of the Apple fan club, in fact, if there was such a thing. And I’ll argue the worthiness of Apple products over Microsoft products, and the reliability of OS X over Windows all day long. Any given day may find me in a spirited debate with my buddy Steve Salter, who works for Microsoft, on the subject of Mac OS vs. Windows; or with Stuart Jones, who manages Cellular Communications in Oneida, about whether Apple’s iOS mobile operating system has a leg up on Google’s Android system.
We all “ride for the brand” in one way or another. Some will argue they aren’t, but I beg to differ. My friends who wear clothing made by manufacturers that haven’t been considered cool for 20 years or more, and couldn’t care less what kind of setup is powering their flip-phone, will be the first to argue that Ford is better than Chevy, or vice-versa.
In fact, in the South the only fighting words that rank above “your momma” jokes in terms of their incendiary nature are wisecracks about Ford (Found On the Road Dead) or Chevrolet (Cracked Head Every Valve Rattles Oil Leak Every Time).
It is about this time every year that my circle of hunting buddies will pull out a years-old argument and dust it off. Turkey season is just around the corner, and with it comes a tireless debate about whether Remington or Mossberg makes a better shotgun. A Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 properly equipped in a 12 gauge load will both kill a turkey dead as a hammer, but don’t tell turkey hunters that. Remington users — Team Green, they like to call themselves — laugh at the Mossberg 500’s rattly forearm and say the Mossberg (“Mossturd,” if they’re feeling especially froggy and want to stir up a fight) is better used as a boat paddle. Mossberg users, on the other hand, are fond of saying Remingtons (“Jamingtons”) are best used in the garden to stake tomatoes.
I suppose there’s an innate part of our human nature that makes us embarrassed to be perceived as using inferior products. So we place almost as much pride and loyalty in our clothing manufacturer and carmaker of choice as we do in our home church.
Much as I would like to say I’m above all that, how much of a travesty would it be if I died of a heart attack during a pickup basketball game and paramedics carted me off to the undertaker in a pair of Russell shorts? If the Good Lord calls me home to that great hardwood in the sky, it’s gonna be with the Adidas insignia proudly displayed across my chest. And if I fall and break a leg in the turkey woods this spring, I’ll use my Remington 870 as a crutch to get myself out . . . I’d rather lay out there and become coyote bait as to have to limp home on a Mossturd.
And I’ll gladly pay extra money to do so. Because I’m an American consumer, and that’s how I roll.
• Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.