“Shoes make me happy. I’m superficial. Whatever” – Taline
This quote represents the concluding words iterated by my friend after an interesting discussion regarding branding & labels.
A discussion about brands? Why not? Taline & I both share a passion for luxurious brands. As consumers of more luxurious brands it definitely is a topic which we both truly enjoy. (Taline’s luxury consumption > my luxury consumption). Thus, the purpose behind the following is not only to give the reader a brief & detailed presentation of our discussion but to present this interesting subject based on her experience as a consumer, complimented with my academic background in psychology & my current graduate studies in Marketing. Before proceeding with a short review of our talk, allow me to briefly present my 8 years long friend Taline to you.
About her: Taline is an account executive for Se Ce apparel for nearly 5 years. Se Ce apparel is ”the exclusive Canadian distributor of high-end fashion brands for men, women and children, including UGG® Australia, 7 For All Mankind®, Splendid®, House of Harlow, Belle Noel” & many more brands (Se Ce apparel Website, 2012). Her role consists of long hours of paperwork, working in collaboration with colleagues & travelling. Indeed, Taline has very frequent business trips across Canada & to the United States. When I asked her if she enjoyed the business traveling opportunity, she replied: ” at first I did! But it’s not at all as it seems. It’s not as glamorous”. Regardless, she still enjoys the network of people in her business surrounding & is a firmly motivated accomplishment seeker. Below, you will find some of the questions that i asked her concerning our shared passion for branding/labels, April 20th 2012.
How do you define your relationship with brands/labels?
“I’m all about labels & love; no label, no love. It is a sad reality but it really comes down to that. Taline then provides me with an example: “this shirt that I am wearing (in the picture) cost me 300$. It makes me feel better. It’s not for anyone, it’ for me. I really feel much better when I buy such things. It’s the business that I am in that made me into this monster”.
What’s your most expansive purchase?
Louboutin Shoes for 900$! (Picture of the shoes in question, taken by Taline after our discussion)
Why did you make this purchase?
“They are beautiful but also the most uncomfortable”.
So why is it that you wear them? How do they make you feel?
“I wear them because they are Louboutin’s & they just make me feel fabulous”.
Are you considering repurchasing another pair?
Labels and Love: Afterthoughts & final remarks
As presented at the beginning of this article, Taline concluded by saying: “shoes make me happy. I’m superficial. Whatever“. How did I respond to this? “Just don’t forget!”, I replied, “products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind” (Waltor Landor).
We both simultaneously looked at each other with an “I agree & can’t believe it” smile. This brings us to my afterthought reflections.
Ambivalence is one intriguing & largely interesting state of mind or feeling. As defined by the free online dictionary:
Ambivalence (n): The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea.
“Beautiful but also the most uncomfortable” & “they just make me feel fabulous” - Taline
Beauty & fabulous feelings at the expense of comfort? Indeed, through this dialogue, we can really see how mental satisfaction is winning in a battle against physical satisfaction. But Taline is fully conscious of this mental force at work. In fact, she hereself labels this as a ”sad reality”. She is fully aware of this phenomenon, and it seems to be contributing or feeding into her negative attitude or feelings towards brands. In turn, this creates a state of cognitive dissonance in her mind. It’s similar to a love and hate relationship experience, driving or driven by this feeling of ambivalence. In addition, she goes further into stating that the fashion business has turned her into a “monster”. A very strong choice of word!
But do such negative attitudes have a negative impact on Taline’s consumption habits? No, seems to be the answer. Regardless of this sad reality & even if she is not comfortable wearing Louboutin shoes, Taline is nevertheless planning on purchasing another pair! Surprising? Obvious? Really? Why not! Shoes make her happy! Her pereived value of positive feelings such as happiness, fabulous & beauty outweighs her feelings of comfort. Remember that there is no clear cut definition of the term happiness. Each person is free to define it & experience it his or her own way. But keep in mind that she is doing it for herself & not for others. In fact, Taline is a person who enjoys wearing brand products without visible logo/name. She is very discreet in her luxurious apparel. This leads me to believe her statement: “it makes me feel better. It’s not for anyone, it’ for me”. In sum, our dialogue really portrays the coexistence of opposing attitudes regarding her perception on brands/labels. I use the word perception since the evaluation of a brand may be subjective & thus may vary from one person to the another.
Labels & Love?
Our gaze & smile at the end said it all: Although we are both luxury brand addicts, (her to a higher degree as compared to me) we acknowledge the potential presence of “brand wash”. But since “brands are created in the mind”, wouldn’t this mean, to some extent, that we are agreeing to some kind of “brain wash”? Can we exagerate by saying that brand or label wash is synonymous to brain wash, especially in a materialistic 21st century? Regardless of whether the answer to the question is yes or no, consumers like Taline will downplay the negative feelings they have towards brands by reinforcing the positive prestigious feelings it provides to them. After all, luxury loyals may be indifferent in the face of ambivalence. Aware of the negative & positive & yet agreeing to be in a love and hate relationship, positively and negatively impacting the sense of self, self identity & personality traits? Taline couldn’t have said it through a better quote: “shoes make me happy. I’m superficial. Whatever”!
Do other luxury consumers also feel fabulous when wearing such shoes? Could it be that this brand or any other type of higher end label is selling feelings and personality of love & happiness? If so, what are its’ characteristics driving and influencing the perception, personality and identity of self? Or inversly, what type of personality characteristics are more likely to motivate person to even purchase products from this brand? Does congruency reign between the personality, identity & ideal self of the consumer & that of the brand? What do you think? Comments, questions? Ideas? Feel free to share!
*Taline is one amongst millions of luxury consumers around the world. This article’s objective is not to generalize to the entire population of luxurious consumers. Rather, it aims to highlight few themes from an interesting conversation over a mutually fascinating subject with my lovely 8 years long friendship with this girl <3 Thank you hun for allowing me to write & publish your words & pictures!