Expatica news

Brand your way to the top

Researchers at Tilburg University have found that clothes with a clearly visible designer brand – such as Lacroix, Lacoste, or Tommy Hilfiger – really are the way to make friends and influence people. Cheap brand logos don’t work, but whether they have an adverse effect remains to be seen.

Behavioural scientists Marijn Meijers and Rob Nelissen can’t be accused of rushing into their research. For years, and with the help of hundreds of test subjects, they’ve been trying to find out whether designer clothing really makes a fundamental difference to people’s lives.

For example, they came up with a behaviour lab in which they told subjects that they would have to work with the man or woman featured in a photograph that had been doctored.

When asked to give a first impression, the subjects commented more favourably on the people who appeared to have an expensive brand logo on their clothes, the assumption being they had more money, greater influence and a better job.

Hard cash
The Tilburg scientists then took to the streets to test their results in practice. Marijn Meijers explains their approach:

“Our subjects went out collecting money for the Heart Foundation. Some wore a Lacoste polo shirt, others an ordinary polo shirt. By the end of the evening, the Lacoste subjects had collected more money than their non-branded counterparts. It only averaged out at 20 cents more a time but, when you do the sums, that’s 25 heart transplants a year! The differences seem small, but they can really add up.”

The prestigious brands have the most effect, Marijn Meijers discovered.

“They are the ones seen to have a touch of class: your Tommy Hilfigers or Ralph Laurens. A brand like Slazenger has a good name, but if it doesn’t have that extra hint of prestige, it won’t have the same effect.”

Bargain-basement brands needn’t have the opposite effect. That’s logical really, since they wisely tend not to feature a prominent logo. “A polo shirt from a discount store needn’t be a bad product, but no one really wants a visible logo on their chest that identifies their shirt as coming from the cheapest store in town.

That would make an interesting follow-up to our study,” says Marijn Meijers. “In any case, I can’t give you the names of any ‘disastrous’ brands. You’d have to consult the fashionistas for that kind of info.”

And what about a fake logo? Would that work as well?

“We tried to research that topic in Bolivia. But almost everything on sale there is imitation. People just assumed all of our test material was fake, even the designer polo shirt we’d brought with us.”

RNW/ Thijs Westerbeek van Eerten