Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, September 13, 2007

By Osama Rahman

Brand names have become a big deal and this has not been something recent. As far back as anyone remembers, brand names have prevailed, that with good reasons too. Many, however, are quick to attack brand names. The myriad of arguments against it does get tiresome at one stage, but no matter how much a person rants about brand names, s/he would be glad to own something with a popular label, so that is being hypocritical. Instead of wasting our lives cursing brand names, let's take time to think why they are the way they are and how it affects society as a whole.

The Name Value, The Prestige, The Outrageous Price
The heading pretty much gives the reason that separates brand names from the rest, in a nutshell. But then one might wonder where the name value arises. Simply put, brand names are globally marketed and thus it is highly important for them to maintain quality. Most products without a brand name provide really good quality things too, but the brand of a particular product, acts as a guarantee of the product's quality and also as a warranty. Other products without brand names cannot ensure this trust that a brand name instills in its customers. Also brand names are instantly recognized and in due time people become familiar with their choice of brands and its usage are comfortable for them.

The Prestige factor also plays a very vital role in the upsurge and the continuing trend of brand names. It is deemed to be more prestigious to own pair of Nikes than a pair of, say North Star shoes. The prestige factor is just there, because it is common knowledge that a modern-day pauper cannot afford a Rolex watch whereas a prince can and thus a non-prince person would purchase a Rolex to get the feel of being a prince. Well, something like that anyway. The concept is that, some objects can be owned by rich people only as a way to distinguish them from poor people, thus brand names are expensive and that in turn helps them cater to rich people only. This may seem cruel when put in words but this way of thinking works in almost all of us. Before you disagree with me, picture wearing the same clothes as your rickshaw puller. I bet you wouldn't want to be in that situation. Most of us wouldn't and though that's extreme discrimination, sadly it's the truth. Therefore, wearing or using a branded product adds to our prestige level and stands as a testament of our place in society.

The Outrageous Price- Many people grumble about the outrageous price that is prevalent when buying a branded good. This happens because branded goods put a lot of emphasis on advertisement and their whole “image” is created via extensive and expensive advertisement. Bata, though a globally-acclaimed brand, does not put as much emphasis on advertisement as it does on quality and though it is well-appreciated, it fails to create the “class” that shoes like Gucci and Reebok have. The class is created by bringing in classy and rich people to endorse the products of Gucci, Reebok, Armani etc. All the advertisement adds to the price of the product and thus the exorbitant rates.

Whatever Appeals To The Masses
“Now it's all about Versace, you copied my style.”
---------- Tupac Shakur, Hit Em' Up

A brand name cannot act as an identity for someone. For every Versace that you wear, there are millions who own the same thing, therefore there is no originality in brand names. However, people still continue to purchase brand names and this isn't a bad thing. Brand names are inclined to provide quality goods because if they fail, they would have to answer to a global force of consumers and usually the company's whereabouts are well-known, so there really isn't a place to hide. It doesn't matter that there are many people who wear the same thing as you, because this helps you to unite with a lot of Homo sapiens. It's a unity thing, like the one with our “Amar Desh” bands and the new generation “converse craze”. Plus, it helps you to feel less left out and that is a big thing in itself.

Brand names however don't end with products, it carries on in the tertiary sector too. Using well-known services is also a matter of pride such as going to a great hospital or staying in Sheraton instead of Mid-Night Sun.

The trend also continues in terms of education, where going to a reputed school like Green Herald or Sunbeams is better than going to a lesser-known school. Once more the question of prestige comes into place. The aforementioned schools would prefer taking students from a good background and also choose to admit the more intelligent child. So, is it fair to say that these schools are discriminating against the lesser intelligent? Teachers with better credentials are given preference, so is this a method of ensuring quality or stifling opportunities for the youth work-force? The schools also charge a good amount of tuition fees, so would a person be correct in saying that the school is discriminating against poor children, because everyone knows that many pupils never get a deserving scholarship?

It's really a topic that can carry on forever, but it is wise sometimes to let things be the way they are. Sometimes our cruelty is hidden and we try not to let it surface and if someone comes close to unearthing it, we speak against that person. This is the way things are, brand names don't only help us to distinguish but it also helps us to discriminate and we do it knowingly, pretending to be ignorant about the fact. It's about time to be less narrow minded and though appreciating quality is good for me but let us eliminate the whole concept of prestige when it comes to brand names. After that, everything will be simple and brand names can be appreciated for their true value.




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