iObsession and Swoosh Addiction: How Apple and Nike Conquer Minds

Consumers often go out of their way to select specific brands over others, even when the products are essentially the same. This behavior has puzzled economists, who would expect rational consumers to choose the least expensive option.

But the power of brands extends far beyond the point of sale. Brands can influence behavior and shape identity, creating a relationship between the consumer and the brand that can deepen to the point where the consumer identifies with the brand, like family.

According to Americus Reed, a marketing and identity expert at the University of Pennsylvania, consumers choose brands to create an identity. When they wear a certain shirt, shoes, or hat, they want others to form an impression of who they are. 

Key Takeaways

  • Brands have the power to influence behavior and shape identity.
  • Consumers choose brands to create an identity and express affiliation with a certain group or pathway.
  • Consumers must be aware of brands’ influence to make informed choices.

The Power of Brands

power of brands

Michael Platt, a professor of neuroscience, marketing, and psychology, demonstrated how our perception of brands influences our decisions. In a study, Platt and his team observed the brains of iPhone and Samsung Galaxy users with an MRI machine while they heard good, bad, and neutral news about Apple and Samsung.

Apple customers showed a brain empathy response toward Apple, similar to how they would respond to somebody in their own family. On the other hand, Samsung users didn’t have any positive or negative responses when good or bad news was released about their brand.

The only evidence that Samsung users showed was reverse empathy for Apple news. If the Apple headline was negative, their brain reflected a positive response.

Unconscious Brand Choices

The demonstration showed that Apple has completely defined the market and that Samsung customers are only buying Samsung because they hate Apple.

Most people subconsciously choose brands because those brands have some self-expressive value. Brands are pillars of our identity, and they are not going anywhere.

Understanding the power of brands and the ethical, legal, and societal implications of their influence on our behavior is important as consumers.

Brand Influence on Identity

nike shoe

The true power of brands lies in their ability to influence our identity and shape our behavior. When consumers choose a brand, they are creating an identity. For example, choosing Nike over Under Armour expresses a different affiliation with sport.

Nike is about performance, while Under Armour is about the underdog. Consumers choose the conceptual pathway that is most consistent with their lives.

Once a consumer identifies with a brand, their relationship with it can deepen to the point where they identify with it, like family. An attack on the brand is an attack on themselves, and they will be the first to defend it.

This is because our perception of brands influences our decisions in the same way that we relate to people.

Making Informed Choices

Brands have significant power in shaping consumers’ decisions.

As we learn more about the power of brands, we must think more deeply about their influence and ethical, legal, and societal implications. As consumers, the best thing is to be aware of brands’ influence.

To make informed choices, we must know and consider why we buy a particular product. Pause and think about why a specific product from a particular brand is essential to you.

While some consumers may push back and say they are not into brands, they still affiliate with an anti-brand brand. Brands have become pillars of our identity, and it’s essential to see this positively.

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