Would you buy a Hyundai? Or a Kia? Or a Buick? I don’t think of our crew down at WORK as being terribly brand-conscious, but when talk went to cars and identity, some deep-seated biases reared their heads. “Branding” seems to be all the rage these days, and for good reason. Humans very often make decisions based on feelings rather than facts, and brand identity plays off that tendency.
WORK has a brand. The orange gear logo, the hip wallpaper, and my welcoming smile all contribute to the image we wish to portray. We may be authentically practical, alternative, and friendly at WORK, but it’s not by accident. For us, our function, aesthetic, and vibe are all important parts of our brand.
Even the most logical thinkers at our Coffee Social had a hard time separating image from function. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that deserves some examination. When I was shopping for a new car eight years ago, I really wanted to make a decision based on environmental impact, safety, and reliability. At the time, my Consumer Reports and Union of Concerned Scientists research led me to the Prius…but I really didn’t want a Prius – it just seemed way too trendy for the independent thinker in me. Luckily, I got over my fear of a strong brand image, bought the Prius, and have loved it ever since.
One coWORKer recounted the story of taking the Consumer Reports survey, only to find that their “perfect car” was too ugly to buy. Practicality is all well and good, as long as it stays “on brand”…our own personal brand, that is.
And then there is the power of reviews. Which do you trust more, the independent research of Consumer Reports, the ratings of the masses online, or the opinion of your best friend? Statistically, you should probably go with Consumer Reports, but emotionally you’re likely to respond to personal opinions. Consumer Reports recently rated the Scion xB as the most reliable small car, but if your neighbor had one that turned out to be a lemon, would you still buy that vehicle? The Scion also has an odd, boxy shape and an association with youth marketing that might further influence your decision. It has a strong brand, but is it your brand? Unfortunately, Consumer Reports seems to have left out aesthetics and identity as factors in their calculations.
The scariest realization is that, despite our open and educated discussion of these influences, we all recognized and even accepted that we fall prey to these biases. It appears that logic is an important basis for making decisions, but emotion will prevail.
Written and photographed by Natasha Juliana. Edited by Linda Jay.
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Like this topic? Check out my thoughts on Being Your Own Brand.