In the book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, the author Rob Walker makes an important discovery as to why we buy (and buy into) brands.
For some morally anchorless souls, brands are something to believe in and evangelize with zeal. Some brands promise performance, like Honda motors. Other brands have a mythos (Apple). Brands can provide a community (Harley Davidson) and even boost your socioeconomic status (hmm, not sure, but they would know).
Most of us use brands to shape other people’s perceptions of us. When I bought the newly released iPhone 3G, I couldn’t help but conspicuously gaze into it when an attractive woman was within eyeshot. I thought I was broadcasting how “smart” and “trendy” I was. In reality, I was broadcasting I was a tool.
People also use brands to change the perception they have about themselves.
However, there’s a sea change going on. Walker’s book warns that wearing expensive brands like a badge, so as to broadcast to the world what kind of person you are, is becoming a played out tactic. In this fast moving world, most people aren’t keeping score.
So what’s the reason for this epoch-changing paradigm shift?
Walker points out that there’s not much consensus on the street anymore. There are so many niche consumer tribes and so much product regeneration, brand extensions, innovations, and “retro-vations” that it’s impossible to keep up.
Walker recalls how even a leading fashion expert admitted to a journalist he couldn’t recall the last time he saw someone who was “hopelessly out of style.”
This is good news. What this means is there is no reason why you can’t be the coolest you in the world. Because you are!
You already define your own style, and it’s perfect.