The brand of you.

We are the brands we buy

By Tom Dougherty

Anthropology in Marketing

the brands we buyAt Stealing Share, we pride ourselves on being anthropological brand strategists. Our anthropological goal? To investigate human behavior and determine why it is that we choose to act in a particular manner in all aspects of our lives. (Read more about brand anthropology here). Turns out that is why we buy the brands we by too.

 One crucial aspect that aids our understanding of human behavior is by noticing the patterns that we consciously and unconsciously partake in. These patterns can be as simple as the reason why we comb our hair in a particular way each morning to the reason we buy a specific brand of cereal. No stone is too small to be left unturned. And it is this thirst for human knowledge that drives our business.

One of our recent findings focuses on the placement of logos and how a prominent logo can urge us to make immediate decisions as a consumer. Moreover, we looked at why consumers would avoid making a purchase until they knew that a particular brand is associated with the product they wish to purchase.

An example of the brands we buy

First, let’s consider the annual furniture market convention in North Carolina. Market is just around the corner from our Greensboro, North Carolina office. Several of our strategists at Stealing Share were lucky enough to attend the prestigious event this year and interview a handful of the most distinguished furniture suppliers.

the brands we buyDuring an interview, the supplier of the Ralph Lauren showcase shared with us the immediate benefit of selling with the Ralph Lauren brand name. He mentioned that he could feature the very same furniture (and has) without the Ralph Lauren brand name attached but it would take him twice as long as when the Ralph Lauren brand is associated with the furniture. For him, Ralph Lauren represents immediate success.

The anthropological marketing benefit of this? Having a recognizable and dependable brand name can directly (and sometimes indirectly) steer the preference of consumers. It can, and normally does, motivate their decision to buy a product. We are creatures who crave stability and seek comfort. We want to know we are making the wisest choice with our money. Here, the promise of the brand Ralph Lauren symbolizes does just that.


An additional example came from another Stealing Share strategist. He noticed this same truth while buying his groceries at the local Costco.

His experience: “As on most Saturdays, I found my way at Costco seeking an excuse to buy either electronics, load up on food for home or get my hands on a little bit of both. This particular visit to Costco led to a loaded basket with large quantities of food for the upcoming week. I picked the usual, making sure my basket hit all the food stations along the way, until I made it to the cereal aisle.

I first had Honey Bunches of Oats in my hands until I thought that I would like to eat a little healthier. I looked over a few more options and found the double sized box of Kirkland’s Brand, Raisin Bran cereal. While I noticed the Kirkland brand (the Costco generic), I considered the box but put it back down on the shelf. It was then that I noticed the Post logo on the box. I said to myself, ‘Wow, this has got to be really good because it is a Post product’ and I went ahead and added it to my cart. My realization was that the Post logo drove my buying decision, and that the Kirkland brand alone did not aid in my buying commitment.”the brands we buy

Here, the reassurance of a brand symbolized dependability — in this instance, Post — and reaffirmed our previous example. We are people who desire the best and want to feel like our decisions are the best.

At Stealing Share, we recognize this truth — the brands we buy are a representation of “who we are.”  They become a mask for us as, whenever we purchase a product, we are telling the world that we are that brand. We wish to be the best, and so we purchase those products that we wish to symbolize who we believe we are. Just as at furniture market with Ralph Lauren and at Costco with Post, each has become our brand’s face.