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Breaking Up With a Brand

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Remember the old Mac vs. PC commercials featuring John Hodgman and Justin Long? Hodgman’s PC was old, stodgy, and a little overweight while Justin Long’s Mac sported a sort of detached, ironic cool.

The commercials did a nice job of summing up the divide -- or at least Apple’s ideal divide -- between Mac and PC users. Apple (AAPL) was cool; Microsoft (MSFT) was not. And, as most people are probably aware of, that is still the general consensus today. Even Apple grows bigger -- and possibly less trendy -- many users still think of themselves as the hip, underground counterparts to PC owners.

Of course, people don’t only express themselves with their computer choices. Clothes are also important. On that end, the New York Times ran a story yesterday on the difficulty many people have in changing clothes brand.

For example, one woman quoted in the article describes her protracted breakup with J. Crew (JCG). Apparently, her split with the company was: “As devastating as a romantic breakup.” She even went as far as to tell store managers that they were going to lose her as a customer. First she was angry, then she was depressed.

Extreme as this may seem, it makes a degree of sense. Clothes are one of the main ways that people identify themselves, and moving away from a brand can seem like ending a years long relationship. Beyond that, giving up a certain style can feel like giving up an identity. A person who no longer wears flip flops is no longer care free, a person who no longer wears Ed Hardy is no longer an idiot, etc.

Of course, some splits are less fraught than others. For many people, moving away from a particular brand is just a part of growing up.

What these anecdotes really speak to is the amazing power of brand identification. Just as many Mac users would never be caught dead with a PC, denizens of certain brands won’t wear anything else. Just something to keep in mind when marketing a product.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.
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