Let's Discuss: Does Your Perception of a Brand/the Person Behind it Affect Your Purchasing?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Time for another rambly post, and this topic is one I've been brewing on for a while now, so I'd really love for you to chime in.

That title is a bit of a disaster, but what I'm basically asking is whether or not the way we feel about a brand or company has an impact on how much we purchase from them--if at all.  I realize the problem with that topic description is the word perception. It could mean a million different things, but for the sake of this post, let's stick with what I hopefully emphasized in the title: the people behind these brands. Don't think about the way Chanel conjures up images of a darkly romantic rainy Parisian day--think about Karl. 

Which is an excellent place to begin. The man may be a fashion genius, but everything I know of him (admittedly, that tends to be the more controversial stuff) puts a bad taste in my mouth. It reminds me of all the worst, most distasteful parts of the fashion world and it definitely doesn't make me warm to Chanel as a brand. 

Not my picture

But Chanel is an enormous fashion house. They definitely don't need my paltry purchasing power of the occasional $28 nail polish, and their brand is wide enough to not reek of Karl. By that I mean, Karl is consistently associated with Chanel, but not all of Chanel is consistently associated with Karl.

What about a smaller brand? Take Alice + Olivia for example. They're not exactly a local indie brand anymore, but Stacey Bendet is unquestionably the woman behind it. I used to absolutely drool over the clothing, but ever since hearing pretty loud rumors about how their employees are treated and reading a few off-putting interviews with Stacey herself, I don't feel as inclined to drool. I might linger on a particularly beautiful piece or two, and that's where it ends. Weirdly enough, I feel compelled to report to other A+O fans what I've "discovered", and I tend to do it a mixture of a gossipy and condescending tone. 

Is that really fair?

Stacey Bendet's designs are no less beautiful just because of the way she (allegedly) treats her employees. But the brand is now tinged for me, and my opinion of the company changed in a matter of moments. Is it fair to have a negative feeling towards someone's work because of their business ethics, or their personality?

Since I can't afford to walk into Chanel or Alice + Olivia, let's take it to an even smaller business. I, like most other young women in need of a good crossbody bag have been debating between the Rebecca Minkoff Mini Mac and the Cambridge Satchel. I was perfectly torn, but then this feature on Refinery29 tipped me in favor of the Cambridge. In the interview, we learn about how the Cambridge Satchel Company founder Julie Deane started making the bags in her home as both a creative outlet and a way to pay her child's school tuition. She goes on to describe how important it is to treat employees well and be considerate of their family obligations--and the bags are produced locally!

Not my picture

I was sold on the Cambridge before I even finished the article slideshow. It is so much easier to enjoy expensive purchases (or any purchase, really) and take pleasure in the articles you buy when you support the face and brains behind the brand. 

Despite wrestling with this post, I'm still no closer to any ironclad opinions on this subject, but looking over at this, I get the impression that we're talking about two different things. When the person behind the brand is simply a person with a business who really doesn't have an angle or agenda (like Julie Deane, possibly) maybe it's not fair to judge what they produce. In that case, it feels more like whether or not we warm to that person is purely subjective--if we like the way they speak in interviews or smile or however it is that we judge.

But sometimes the "face" and the "person" behind the brand can feel like marketing shtick for the company as well.Karl's um, eccentricities, could likely be calculated to add to the whole exclusiveness of the Chanel brand. I'm tempted to say that this is more for larger companies, but Aerin Lauder has a very small makeup line, and her effortlessly fabulous self is what's really selling the lipsticks. 

In those cases, maybe it's acceptable to judge these people and factor that into whether or not we purchase, since it seems like that's what their marketing teams want us to do. 

Again, as my ideas here aren't quite solid, I'd really love some input!

Leave a comment and jump into the discussion!

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