The Secret to Product Badging

In the post titled, “A Revealing Behind-the-Scenes Look at Product Attractiveness“,  we talked about product attractiveness in terms of either displaying a feeling of belonging or standing out from the crowd based on the type of buyer. Today I’d like to dig a little deeper into how a product’s badging is often applied based on the type of buyer.

When it comes to a person’s net worth, how much money you have in the bank is private. There is no way to know if the person you are standing next to at Wal Mart is worth millions or dirt poor. Sure, some would say if he wears a Rolex and an Armani suit that he must be rich. Yet, I think you would agree the world is full of posers who own knock-off luxury products to present a false image in an effort to enhance their economic status to others. Enter the concept of items designed for conspicuous consumption.

Conspicuous consumption is when someone spends money on goods or services in an effort to either convey a higher social status or invoke envy in others to gain their respect.

Badging in the form of a logo is a symbol that is there to convey the prestige level of the product. Products come in three levels that I’ll call budget, status, and premium.

Budget

When it comes to products in the budget category, most consumers do not want to flaunt the fact they do not own a higher status or premium level brand. No one wants to show off the fact that they buy the Walmart brands so many of these products do not display any badging at all.

Ford FiestaManufactures of budget products know that their products are not purchased to convey any form of prestige by the owner. While manufacturers want some level of brand awareness, the owners do not want to advertise the fact that they own a budget level brand. In the car market, a new Ford Fiesta priced at under $14k would be considered a budget brand, and as such, has a logo that is relatively small.

Status

When it comes to products in the status category, most consumers buy them to publicly display their economic power in the form of conscious consumption. Consumers want everyone to know that they buy status level products.

MercedesFor manufactures of status brands to be effective, they must appeal to buyers who pursue conspicuous consumption as a way to publicly display their economic status. As such, the product’s badging for status products must be readily observable by others. In the car market, Mercedes might be considered a status brand, and as such, they have logos that are relatively large when compared to budget brands.

Premium

When it comes to products in the premium category, badging takes on a whole new meaning.

Status items designed for conspicuous consumption are what sociologists would call an “acquired status.” Anyone with a few bucks can acquire status products, which cheapens the brand over time. In fact, many consumers of status brands look for shortcuts by buying knock-offs of luxury items that cost much less, but to the untrained eye, appear to be the genuine article.

My wife used to be a big fan of coach purses, which would qualify as a status item. Their purses were badged with the coach logo prominently repeated throughout the fabric for anyone to see. You could spot a coach purse from across the store. As more and more people flocked to the brand, knock-offs began to appear and the world became full of imitation coach purses driving down the coach brand as a status item.

When it comes to premium brands, manufacturers prefer to default to what sociologists would call earned status vs. acquired status. To achieve a great physique, a person has to work for it. There are no shortcuts. Acquired vs. earned status is what separates the products designed for the working class vs. the affluent class. Earned status requires knowledge to accurately discern the true value of a brand. Moreover, the consumer of premium brands are not interested in conspicuous consumption and are motivated to buy items that are unique to allow them to stand out and not be copied by others.

Recently, I was looking at sunglasses and stumbled on the Oakley website. When I sorted the glasses from low to high, I noticed on all the lower priced models that the Oakley badging was large and printed in a complementary color to make it stand out.

Cheap Oakley SunglassesHere is an example of one of their cheapest designs priced at $103.

However, when I sorted the list from high to low, I noticed that most glasses sported either a very subtle logo, such as black on black, or no had no observable badging at all.

Expensive Oakley SunglassesHere is an example of one of their most expensive designs priced at $393.

To an Oakley connoisseur, the more subtle design features of the higher priced sunglasses would identify them as Oakley’s premium models. When it comes to premium versions, insiders can recognize the subtle design clues of the premium version, which is an earned knowledge. Oakley aficionados look upon the designs to attract conspicuous consumption as products to attract the posers or amateurs. Amongst the aficionados of the brand, they can spot other aficionados of the brand and appreciate each other for their earned knowledge.

Oakley aficionados look upon the designs to attract conspicuous consumption as products to attract the posers or amateurs. Amongst the aficionados of the brand, they can spot other aficionados of the brand and appreciate each other for their earned knowledge.

In conclusion, what I have observed is that some buyers simply want a product to do a job and are not concerned about what others think. They are budget level buyers and are motivated by price and value. Badging is not important to them but is somewhat important to the manufacturer so they can achieve some level of brand awareness. As a result, any badging is relatively small.

When it comes to purchases made by the working class, they tend to desire products that convey status as part of their practice of conspicuous consumption. These products prominently display their badging for all to see.

Finally, when it comes to premium level products purchased by more affluent buyers, badging is again undesirable to assuage knock-offs and appeal to their earned status.

How can you use the knowledge of badging and acquired vs. earned status to better brand your product?


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