Tom did something shocking the other day. He came home from the store with a few things I’d asked him to pick up before the forecasted snow began. As I unloaded the shopping bags, I stopped short. I picked up one of the packages, turned it around in my hands in disbelief and then held it up to Tom, as if he’d accidentally brought home toxic waste.
“What is THIS?” I asked.
“It’s toilet paper,” he said, as if I’d somehow mistaken it for a Crock Pot.
“I know it’s toilet paper, but it’s not OUR toilet paper. Since when do we get this kind of toilet paper?” I asked.
“Listen, the store was crowded and this brand was on the end of the aisle and it was on sale, so I just grabbed it,” he explained, as if any willy-nilly explanation could be good enough for switching toilet paper brands. “I’m sure it’s fine,” he added.
He walked out of the room to tend to more important things while I glared a hole in the back of his head. You can’t go switching toilet paper brands on a person with no advance notice. Some things are just too personal.
By the next day, there was snow in the driveway, so I had to make peace with Tom’s brand selection. I did not like it, mind you, but I tried not to complain since we were stuck with it. A few days later, the snow had melted and so had Tom’s theory about impulsive brand substitutions. As we stood in the bathroom brushing our teeth, he said “You know, I don’t like that toilet paper. Next time we go to the store, let’s go back to our old brand.”
I smiled and nodded, but on the inside I was thinking “Yes, and next time let’s not grab the wrong brand just because it’s within arm’s reach. Some things are worth looking for.” (When you’re married for a long time, you learn which things are best said internally and not out loud.)
What those three days with the wrong toilet paper taught me is that most of us are a lot more brand dependent than we’d like to admit. Sure, we may buy generics on a few things and pat ourselves on the back for saving money, but, for the most part, we love our brands. We grow up with them. And sometimes brands become our buddies.
I once read an article about a study on brand attachment that was done last year at the USC Marshall School of Business. The results showed that people can be so attached to brands that we suffer separation anxiety when our favorite brands are replaced. (Snippy comments made to husbands are also a common side effect.)
Brand attachments explain why some people panic at the thought of being away from their iPhone for too long. It explains why Pepsi people scoff at the thought of having a Coke. It explains why some teenagers would consider selling a kidney just to have the “right” pair of jeans. Successful brand managers are like business wizards who cast a powerful spell over an unsuspecting public.
But I, for one, am not ashamed of my brand attachments. I know what I like and I stick to it. Give me a quality product, and I’m as loyal as a Labrador, consistent as a clock. So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I offer this poetic vow of consumer devotion to what, for many of us, have become our “love brands”.
“I, average consumer, do take you, preferred brand, to be my constant shopping cart companion. You are the Apple® of my eye, and my Gain® is a generic brand’s loss. The purity of my commitment is like a Dove® taking flight at Dawn®, soaring across the Quilted Northern® plains. Despite the great Bounty® of brand variety, I will not Bounce® from one name to another, for I am Glad® to forsake all knock-offs and imitations. While others get swept away by the Tide® of change, I enjoy the gentle Febreze® of familiarity. I hold steadfast to my favorites and Nestle® my beloved brands safely into my shopping bags. Truly, I love you All®.”
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. This column originally published in 2011. Her book can be found on Amazon.