To be Branded or Not? : If you’re getting the same product, why not buy it for a little less money?

Photo credit: kalleboo via Flickr

CVS is my source for everything . Not only is it a quick walk from my dorm room, I know they will have the things I need to get me through my day.

Recently, I was faced with a dilemma. Boston weather is difficult for those who haven’t experienced it. My skin was dry and I needed lotion ASAP. Standing in front of the lotion bottles I was suddenly overcome with a feeling of doubt – do I buy the brand I know works, or should I get the generic CVS version of the product? Will it be the same thing?

This happens to me all the time. My income is mainly from a minimum wage job. Needless to say, I’m strapped for cash. I was always taught to buy things on sale and stretch every penny. As a result, I usually wind up buying generic versions of everyday items. Some people believe in buying only brand name items. I just can’t understand it. If you’re getting the same product, why not buy it for a little less money?

When it comes to Gen Y and brand loyalty, we care a lot about the social influence of a brand while at the same time, balancing a need for quality and a desire for low cost. Often times, as we are younger we care more about brands that will make us “look cool”. As we get older, there is still that desire to have that “cool” factor without it being the main focus. Our friends (hopefully) won’t judge us so much about where our clothes are bought from; they care more about our overall style.
Don’t go thinking that I don’t care about brands or have any brand loyalty. In fact, there are a few products where I won’t buy anything but the branded version. When it comes to making a brand Gen Y-friendly, it’s all about honesty, quality and a quirky personality. As a result, it makes complete sense that the most trusted brand by Millennials is Apple. Sometimes, it just isn’t worth compromising the quality of a brand for the less expensive generic counterpart.
Sometimes, you just can’t escape brands. Maybe, it’s something as simple as the product not having a generic duplicate, but no matter what, we will always be surrounded by branded items. For the most part, I will buy generic versions of products like shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper, but when it comes to something that matters like, like a new computer, I will always go a well-known brand.

So I guess the final question is: to buy generic or not? The answer: there’s a time and place for everything, including buying generic items. As for me, I try to buy generic whenever possible. For others, they’re willing to spend that extra $1.50 on a tube of Crest toothpaste. In terms of Gen Y, we look for a balance between quality and price. Sometimes, that can translate into going generic. Other times, we want nothing but the name-brand. It’s all about creating a product that Millennials want to buy, regardless of its price tag.

McKenzie Lawton McKenzie Lawton is a junior Marketing Communications major at Emerson College. She loves social media and all things pop-culture. McKenzie currently sells lotion at The Body Shop, and interns at the Museum of Science. She grew up in southeastern Massachusetts and has a deep love for the city of Boston. She spends most of her free time watching television. And no, she is not named after Mackenzie Phillips. Twitter: @mckenzielawton

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5 Responses to “To be Branded or Not? : If you’re getting the same product, why not buy it for a little less money?”

  1. Lauren Schumacher

    I go generic/store brands on a LOT of products; for things like pasta, chicken broth, tape, and kitty litter, I'm not going to shell extra money for a recognizable logo on the side. But Ian's right–there's a couple things that are worth the extra 26 cents–like real Oreos.

    It's the same with clothing, too. I work in a very snooty high-end industry where people definitely judge you based on appearance, and I love being sneaky with brands. Nobody knows my shirt was on sale for $6 at Old Navy if they see a Kate Spade purse next to it–and double points if it's a Chinatown knockoff. More often than not, I'll get more compliments on the shirt.

  2. satisfeye

    Well said about generic vs. big names!

    I think what gets us most about the big names is the “experience” promised. We hear this promise so we want to experience it. Like you wrote, Apple is an experience. Starbucks is another. We want this feeling of instant gratification (we like instant-anything) that can make us feeling like we are upsizing our status (going from Tall to Venti ;) ).

    Great post McKenzie!


  3. McKenzie Lawton

    Thanks everyone! I agree with everyones comments. Sometimes it's completely worth the extra money for something like real Oreos. When it comes to clothes, I'm not too big on name brands. Does it look good? If it does, then who cares?

  4. Angela Stefano

    There may be nothing worse than store-brand Oreos.

    When it comes down to it, I think a lot of it has to do with that “trust” in a brand, versus our trust in the generics. I trust my generic asprin to do the same thing as Tylenol…but (to use the Oreo thing again), I don't trust generic Oreos to be anywhere near as good as the real thing.


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