Superbrands: Why They’ve Got You Hooked

by Arash Mazinani on May 31, 2011

I was recently watching a programme on BBC3 about super brands in fashion and why so many people were hooked on them. It was a really interesting programme to watch so I thought I would turn it into a post for those of you that missed it or don’t have access to BBC3. The series had been focusing on other super brands such as technology, which was also really interesting I may add. But the fashion one was the show that caught my eye. Mainly because it was closer to home and I could definitely relate to what he was discussing.

The programme focused on the large designer brands first then looked into the sportswear giants. I’m only going to be talking about the designer brands as the same theory applies to all brands in essence.

So you’re probably wondering why whenever you see that Chanel handbag your heart skips a beat? Well they did a test on someone where they scanned the ladie’s brain while showing her different pictures of bags. When she was shown pictures of designer handbags her brain started registering in the participant’s pleasure centre; the part of the brain associated with reward, craving and addiction. When they were shown pictures of bags from Primark and Asda no such brain activity was recorded.

The reason we lust after luxury goods is that it’s a representation that we are ‘genetically fit’. It illustrates that we have accumulated the resources to be able to afford to spend thousands of pounds on an everyday item like a handbag. Such value is perceived highly when trying to find a mate.

So how do brands keep us interested?

I’m pretty sure none of you reading this blog could afford a couture Christian Dior dress, in fact big name designers often loose money on such extremely exclusive items such as couture dresses. If you have the money Louis Vuitton will make you whatever your want in their print, but that’s only available to society’s upper echelons. But this doesn’t really make them much money. What keeps the business afloat are the accessible pieces like the £150 key rings or £200 belts. Most of your average consumers can buy a piece of that exclusivity of a brand like Louis Vuitton or Christian Dior. But Dior will continue to put out a high end line to drive that exclusive image in order for the public to buy into it and make them money on the entry level pieces.

I’d love to hear what you think of the article? Do you lust after designer labels on a daily basis?

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim May 31, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Sounds like an interesting documentary! Although, it’s not surprising that this is their strategy.. it’s actually kind of sad that we fall for it if you think about it. Damn marketing strategies! :)


Arash Mazinani June 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Indeed it’s not necessarily a marketing strategy per say it’s what makes them money. Everyone want’s to be a part of something exclusive or own something exclusive that’s what starts the attraction in the first place.


Cynthia May 31, 2011 at 11:00 pm

That’s interesting, but I don’t really lust after designer items.

However, they could study why retailers that have invested heavily in developing a particular aesthetic are so successful. For instance, I walk into Anthropologie and my resistance to spending money is definitely lowered, because somehow the aesthetic of the store is like an amped-up version of my home (which is definitely aesthetically similar to my parents’ home and my sister’s home showing some kind of coherent cultural influence) with lots of color and wood floors and decorative art inspired by other cultures (only in Anthropologie, it’s not really, it just looks that way, so effectively). I’m sure other shoppers have similar “this is what my world should look like” experiences in totally different stores.
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Arash Mazinani June 3, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Yeah… that probably in a nutshell why Abercrombie and Fitch have the models and the loud music… it’s to pump up your state and adrenaline so you’re more likely to buy something.


Cynthia June 3, 2011 at 8:49 pm

What, you mean they don’t do that to keep my kind of people out of their stores? :)
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Arash Mazinani June 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Ha Ha I have actually never been into Abercrombie & Fitch… I take it your not a fan?


Cynthia June 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Haha, I’m a little too old and a little too female for them I think.
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Lili @ Relatable Style June 1, 2011 at 12:44 am

That was pretty interesting! It seems as if I got the recessive gene here, as I’m frequently puzzled at how easily other women throw out their money for, say, high-end cosmetics from Chanel or the likes. 50€ for a blush, I beg your pardon?? That is something I get even LESS than shelling out the big bucks for clothing, which I don’t do either. Well, I already know that it’s not the actual value the people are willing to pay for, they are buying the feeling, too! So, if that cen be shown on a physiological level, that makes sense. Although I sometimes wonder if it’s the same mechanism that made me wonder if I looked more like Winona Ryder when I put on a brown millefleur dress when I was F*CKING 12 YEARS OLD. If it is, I’m glad I’ve outgrown it :-)
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Arash Mazinani June 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Yeah I’m glad I’m not female and have the added cost of shelling out for cosmetics, even mid market cosmetics are expensive to me!


Krystle June 1, 2011 at 4:15 am

Hmmm… interesting! I would love to see that documentary! Thanks for the recap! I can say for myself, that I do lust after designer goods. Probably not on a daily basis, but I am a designer jeans fanatic!! I love them!! Not all of the brands but definitely 7 for all Mankind and Citizens of Humanity. As for higher end designer labels, I lust after Christian Louboutin and Chanel quite a bit!!

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Arash Mazinani June 3, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Yeah…I think we all do and those that don’t are lying. I mean what’s not to love about some of the amazing clothes coming down the catwalk?


Fashion Limbo June 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm

They do play with our minds, don’t they? I did a course on Branding last year and of the many concepts we talked about one was the “aspirational” one, aspiring to a certain lifestyle that is reflected in a certain brand.

I don’t think I long for designer labels, but I guess if they did that test you mention on me, and showed me a Black Caviar classic Chanel bag it would have some “lusting” effects in my brain.

Media is all around us, from an early age, billboards, tv ads, celebrities… it trickles down to everyone and brands know this. The fact that they make so much money from selling minor articles such as belts or scarves says a lot. This is a really interesting topic, Arash, I could go on for hours talking about it, great that you wrote about it and directed us to that bbc3 show xxx
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Arash Mazinani June 3, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Yeah I think the key thing is that it taps into something at a very primal level. In today’s culture luxury brands are associated with having resources. The more resources you have the more you’re valued by the other sex as a worthy mate.


vik9 June 5, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Love this post Arash! the whole subject of consumer psychology really interests me and buying in to brands by jumping on the cash cows, must admit personally im not in to the designer branding but more for the fit and the feel……………. unless the soles are painted red :)


Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Ha ha whatevs.. I’ve seen all the designer heels on your blog lol It is a really interesting subject. I missed the programme they did on food my friend said that one was really good as well.


chouchou June 9, 2011 at 10:56 am

honestly, i’m not a big fan of all the big brands. as you said, we could afford a louis vuitton bag or a dior heel, but i can’t identify myself whit those brans. many girls wear tory burch ballerinas – why? just because it’s tory burch? I prefer more independent brands – of course not all the time, but most of the time…but i wouldn’t say no to a haute couture dress ;))
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Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Ha ha… yeah while you may like independent brands there a hell of a lot that lust have the designer labels.


heather June 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Of course I love designer names like Marc Jacbos, Dior, Chanel, etc. but can I afford them all the time..hell no! But I have learned though that sometimes putting more money into something is well worth it. If you want a good handbag (a bag that you will always use) then why not put the money into it (if you have it). I mean that H&M bag is only going to last a few months then you’ll just have to buy a new one, if you have the money NOW to invest on a $300 bag then go for it. Esp since it’ll last much longer then your typical “cheap” bag. Same goes for shoes I have learned that it’s not worth spending $40 to $60 on shoes at Payless. I would rather save the money that I’d spend at Payless (or any other cheap shoe company) and put it towards a good pair of heels like my favorite Jeffrey Campbell. Like right now I’m on the hunt for a wallet since my coach wallet that I had for 3 years has now finally fallen apart, I’m willing to drop a $100 or a lil more on a good wallet that will last me another three years. Not to say that I don’t love smaller designers and those that are just starting out but even then they are expensive too sometimes. So really its not always about the name but about the quality. Also if you want designer wear but don’t want the price tag go to a sample sale. Its a great way of getting designer names but for much less. Even stores like Filenes Basement and Loehman’s are starting to carry high end name stuff like Missoni.
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Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm

You raise a really good point and that’s something I completely agree with. For example I saved up and bought a Bottega Venetta wallet which cost me a few hundred pounds but it’s all beautiful leather and I’m pretty sure I won’t have to buy another wallet for at least another 10 years.


Em K June 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Ahhh BBC, delivering thought provoking content always :)

In regards to lusting after designer goods, personally I pine for the higher-end, creative, most-people-can-never have items that are beautiful works of art. I find I dislike logo wear for 2 reasons: 1)There are so many knock off it takes away from the exclusivity and 2)owning something like a keychain simply for the logo it bears doesn’t appeal to me. Unless it’s a band t-shirt I tend not to overtly advertise through my apparel. Don’t get me wrong, I love designer purses, just the owns without logos.

Really like your blog,
~Em K


Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Yeah I’m the same that’s why I like Bottega bags and wallets etc because it doesn’t have any logos.


Stella June 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Hmm. I’m not going to say that I don’t have luxury items, because I do. Or maybe Marc Jacobs isn’t considered luxury? I don’t know. But I digress. I have a couple of bags, shoes, and maybe one or two clothing items. I do have some Fendi and LV belts that were handed down to me by a relative, but those are things I would never buy myself. I’ll pay the money for the bag and the shoes, and even then I buy them from eBay or from the outlets. But I think I splurge on the bags and shoes because, when taken care of, will last longer. Why would I want to blow so much money on a keychain?

I don’t feel that It items define anyone as genetically fit. Maybe I’m a hippie, but I’d rather spend that money on good food or a good trip. Or a good camera so I can build memories with my friends and family. Great post Arash!
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Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for commenting Stella, I’d say Marc Jacobs is definitely luxury.


kavery June 10, 2011 at 1:21 am

Hi there I followed the link from the IFB Links a la Mode. That documentry would have made interesting viewing. Now I see why most big brands sell small accessories everywhere even if they don’t sell couture in those places.


Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for commenting Kavery nice to see you :-).


A June 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I saw that programme. When I read your post title, I wondered if that was what you were basing it on. I thought it was really interesting hearing about how a designer brand actually makes its money – an here I always assumed the couture and high-end ready-to-wear was where the cash came in. Show how much I know!
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Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Yeah it was really interesting, like others have said brand psychology is always fascinating to hear about.


poet June 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Since I don’t follow high fashion and make or refashion a lot of my clothes myself (including accessories), I don’t know if this brain trick would apply to me – I might not even recognize the designer pieces well-known to everyone else. I get why the idea that “being able to afford stuff = being genetically fit and good to mate with” would work, but I don’t see why the obvious fact that most rich people aren’t rich because they worked hard, but because a few generations worked hard before them or because they happened to be lucky and know the right people, doesn’t work to counteract this idea. I’m much prouder of skills I have (i.e. making myself a bag or a dress that look like couture items) than of money I somehow accumulate.
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Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Thanks for commenting :-)


Heather Fonseca June 14, 2011 at 5:38 am

What an excellent post! I’ve been thinking a lot about exclusive designer handbags and why we as a society find them so fabulous. I think you’ve really hit on something here. The idea that having an expensive purse makes us more “genetically fit” or desirable, is really fascinating!
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Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Certainly is I tried to go a little more in depth with my explanation but I couldn’t find the words to explain what I wanted to say… I may do a part 2 to this post in the future.


Arash Mazinani June 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for commenting :-).


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