In a Freakanomics podcast entitled, “How to Save $1 Billion Without Even Trying”, a group of individuals were given a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich taste test. The taste-testers were given two sandwiches; one was made with Skippy peanut butter and the other with a generic store brand. They were then asked to identify which sandwich was made with the name brand, Skippy peanut butter, and which was not.
The testers began to describe the differences between the two sandwiches. They described the Skippy peanut butter as being nuttier, having less sugar, and more delicious; and the generic peanut butter did not have the same level of excellence. After they had all shared their perspectives, the testers were then told that all of the sandwiches had been made with the same generic store brand.
Consumer behaviors and the relationships we create with certain brands is a complex enigma. Companies spend countless dollars promoting their brands and indoctrinating consumers with the ideology that their product is far superior to the competition, but is it really?
My wife and I have arguments about certain products we purchase in our home. For example, if I am going to the drug store to purchase headache medicine, I will select Tylenol. My wife on the other hand will always purchase the store brand. She is a R.N. and she knows that the active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen. I, on the other hand, have no idea what acetaminophen is. I recognize the Tylenol bottle; I know what it does—end of story. My decision is based upon familiarity, rather than knowledge of the products.
There are a variety of other factors that affect our consumer behaviors. As the podcast points out, many of our purchasing habits are completely irrational. Our decision making process is often influenced by external factors. As a child, my mother would only purchase the generic cereal in a bag. You know, the cereal found on the bottom shelf of the cereal isle. I now find myself purchasing only name brand cereal in a box. I hope I’m not the only one with such a traumatic childhood.