Why and under what conditions are people more likely to buy brand names rather than their generic counterparts?

Essay by vanessab May 2004

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You think you are having Kellogg's for breakfast, catching the news on CNN, driving to Texaco to fill up your Ford while listening to Kiss 100. You ponder changing to diet Pepsi like Madonna. You arrive at work and curse Microsoft for the blue screen. But that was not what really happened. You were actually buying a life, getting deeply connected to cars and cold drink. Your experiences took place on an elevated plane, one made of dreams and wishes. Warner Brothers creates your reality, Adidas promotes it, and Picasso illustrates it.

'The mind of which we are unaware is aware of us.' R.D. Laing

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

To better understand the phenomena of branding, I have explored Abraham Maslow's (1954) popular theory of human motivation. Maslow's hierarchy of human needs include deficiency and growth needs. Within the deficiency needs, each lower need must be met before moving to the next level and if in future a deficiency is detected, the individual will act to remove the deficiency.

Deficiency needs in order of power are physiological, safety, love and self-esteem, followed by growth needs, cognitive, aesthetic and self-actualization. Branding implies that buying the brand will satisfy a subconscious desire. A psychological appeal is a visual or aural influence on your subconscious mind and emotions. These psychological appeals take advantage of the effect of millions of years of evolution on our minds and behavior, and that behavior is to buy. I have classified this essay according to Maslow's hierarchy, but only as a framework to expand other related psychological aspects, as it been criticized for being socio-politically insensitive. (Bulhan 1993)


Brands unconsciously advocate that buying the brand can improve your chance at meeting physiological needs, concurred by Dichter's (1960) motivation research. Physiological needs are instinctive and they...