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Brand loyalty does not equal personality

Illustration: Alex Gomez · The Sentry

People are not who they wear

Walking across campus, it’s nearly impossible to go a block without seeing a walking billboard. Someone wearing their new Adidas and an Under Armor shirt or maybe someone with a skated-in pair of Vans accompanying a Fjallraven backpack. Brands can and do represent the wearer, but that doesn’t mean it’s where the conversation needs to end. The extent of personality isn’t restricted to the brands that can be afforded.

Each brand has a definite personality. Companies have found their niche and have figured out how to market effectively to each. Think of a favorite brand. What comes to mind first: what the company stands for? Their products? Or maybe just their logo? 

Take, for example, seeing anything Lululemon. An athletic girl wearing their $100 yoga pants? Or a party boy wearing their athletic shorts, logo out, of course, pairing perfectly with a pair of Sperrys? Or how about a Fjallraven backpack? That little red fox logo on an aesthetically pleasing rectangular bag can associate itself with some hipster typing away on their brand-new MacBook Pro, wearing a Carhartt beanie. 

Today, most brands feel as human as the people that wear them. Each brand conjures up a mental image of what the purchaser and wearer looks like. There’s nothing wrong with supporting a brand whose style matches a personal preference. But once it turns into that person being inseparable from the brand, a problem exposes itself.

Companies are able to take advantage of that brand loyalty to fatten their pockets and fleece their customers. According to Business Insider, one of Lululemon’s most popular pairs of pants had a jarring price increase nearly overnight. Production costs had not risen. The company had no need to raise the price. So why did they? Because people have continued to show their loyalty to them. Companies have learned that people recognize their brand to such an extent that they can charge as much as they want. 

But being able to afford that $100 pair of yoga pants isn’t an option for everyone. Someone who can only afford secondhand athletic clothes can be just as into working out. Someone can be just as excited about outdoorsy activities with a beat-up jacket as someone wearing a Patagonia vest. Brands can be representative of personality, but they shouldn’t define that individual. 

For a brand to be successful, they need to stand for something. Every single company is personified through those stances. People choose whether to support them based on those beliefs, like the recent turn away from Nike by some consumers. The choice to support a brand can reveal a characteristic of a person, but it cannot summarize their whole person. Beliefs need to have personal significance that a non-human entity cannot embody.

There are Patagonia people. There are Adidas people. There are Lululemon people—there’s no problem with that. But brands do not define people. People who wear Vans and Thrasher hoodies aren’t just people who skate. Personality cannot be expressed solely through something inhuman. 

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