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Label Love

We all know people (or we are those people) with fierce label loyalty. You simply won’t drink Pepsi if there is no Coke available. If you’re going to gobble down a pint of ice cream, why choose anything else but Ben & Jerry’s? But is this label loyalty really worth it?

“A number of studies have tested popular brand names next to inexpensive store brands. Some even enlist people who claim to be 100% loyal to a brand, such as Frito-Lay, and then give them a number of different chips to taste and rate. Despite what they say, most people can’t pick their brand once it’s out of the package and into the bowl.”

(Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating)

So what brings us back repeatedly to those labels we love, even though our taste buds don’t know any better? Well, first there’s a status factor that comes into play. No matter what our budget, we want to believe we can afford the label, whether it’s a cola or a candy bar. Generic just makes us feel a little…poor.

But more than keeping up with the Joneses, we are culturally saturated into believing that well-known labels mean a higher level of quality. Again, the power of suggestion. In addition, the packaging and pricing imprint on our minds. We see a label. We recognize it. We have a history with it. We believe it to be a superior product, whether it really is or isn’t.

Nowhere will you see more label loyalty than with booze. Beer lovers will stick to their favorite beer at all costs, believing there is no replacement.

“In a classic study, college students who claimed to be ‘brand loyal’ beer drinkers were asked to taste and rate a number of unlabeled beers. Once the labels were removed from the beers, or once the beer was poured into a glass, all bets were off.’”

(Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating)

Many label loyalties are misguided but advertisers rely on them heavily. It’s important to be aware that “mindlessness” not only applies to a way of eating, but a way of shopping and choosing our food as well. Label loyalties may not be quite worth it.