Do You Have an Emotional Bond with Brand Names?

Consumers are forming strong emotional bonds with brands to the point of suffering separation anxiety if they cannot purchase those brands.

A study from the USC Marshall School of Business indicates that the bond can be so strong that consumers will sacrifice time, money, energy, and reputation to secure that brand attachment. The greater the attachment, the greater the sacrifices. The study even suggests that some consumers see brands as an extension of themselves. Study authors also suggest that managers have much to gain by targeting consumer brand attachment.

A 2001 issue of the Gallup Management Journal (GMJ) also showed that customers develop “emotional, even passionate, ties to an extremely broad range of the products and services they use… suggesting that companies in almost any industry can attract life-long customers.”

Humans are emotional creatures. It is perfectly natural to have passion for something we find pleasing, but it is important that we ask ourselves why we are bonding with brands.

Media Awareness Network (MNet) is a Canadian-based non-profit organization that promotes media literacy and digital literacy programs. MNet focuses efforts on equipping adults with information and tools to help young people understand how the media work and how their lifestyle choices are affected by media.

Young people today are the most marketed-to generation in history and brand loyalty can be established early on. That’s why it is important that we — and they — understand the extent to which they are being well-informed.

According to MNet, North Americans are exposed to an average of 3,000 ads per day. Think about it — television, radio, Internet, airports, gas pumps, movies, magazines, newspapers, wireless media, video games… the list goes on and on. Finding a public, or even a private space free of advertising is becoming increasingly difficult as marketers find new ways to infiltrate our eyes, ears, and thoughts:

Ambient Advertising: These are the ads in public places that cannot be avoided. They appear on public transportation, elevators, park benches, etc. Ads are even appearing on school property and in educational materials.

Stealth Endorsers: This is when celebrities wear or use products in public appearances, or promote them in the media without making it clear that they are paid spokespeople.

Naming Rights: When corporations purchase naming rights to public venues, providing municipalities with cash revenue without raising taxes.

Targeted Advertising: Through data collecting technologies, websites take personal information and preferences to tailor ads to that individual user.

Cross Merchandising: That’s when products or artists are cross-promoted through big conglomerates to reach massive audiences.

Product Placement: When a product is highlighted within films or television programs.

Digital Advertising: Ads are digitally placed on playing surfaces during sporting events, for example. Such ads can be placed in television scenes after the scenes are shot, and can be altered to create new advertising for syndication.

Buzz Marketing: Cool kids have clout and have always set the trends. Marketers target the coolest kids to use or wear their product to create word-of-mouth advertising.

There is nothing wrong with advertising, as long as we guard ourselves — and especially our children — against marketing that plays to insecurity, materialism, and the desire to fit in. Casting a critical eye on ads and understanding why we are prone to purchase particular brands is an important step in that direction.

Pulling the Plug on Marketing Junk Food to Kids
TV Temptations

Writer Ann Pietrangelo is a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Author’s Guild. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Past Member
Lucien B.4 years ago

Many shoppers are bent on buying "name brand" products and usually end up paying more. Are they really better?
How to Choose The Best Foods: Name or Store Brand

Shirley E.
Shirley E.4 years ago

We are such suckers, aren't we! On the plus side I guess when we get good results from a particular brand at a price that seems right, it saves a lot of hunting and trying out to just keep buying that thing. But how did we ever fall for those oven cleaner adds that say they cut through the grease with the whoosh of a cloth? Yeah, right!

jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago


Walter G.
Walter g.4 years ago

One negative factor in becoming psychologically attached to a brand is if the brand is sold to someone who uses the name to sell an inferior form of the product, living on the former's reputation. One method i sometimes find successful is to demand to scan the instruction manual, if it has been successfully translated. I always read labels which is a game of secondary misrepresentation in itself. If I am able, i ask someone else about the product or service, and BTW, services are hard to pin down until you're the victim of the lie. I can think of a dozen brand names which i have left over the years, including cars, when they had been obviously cheapened. that stopped when I stopped owning cars, and insisted on living where viable public transportation is available.

Ever watch an oil company ad? They are usually very entertaining, but say absolutely nothing, about like a political campaign speech. Lying by omission.

Modern advertising is, by my observation, lying without becoming legally liable for it.

Jan B.
Jan B.4 years ago

There was a time when you could remove garment tags. Now manufacturers are hot-stamping scratchy details inside of clothing. With each laundering the stamp becomes scratchier. How's that for bullying the hand that feeds them?

Sue H.
Sue H.4 years ago

I think in some ways we all have an
emotional tie with brand names, especially with foods. If your mom fed
it to you and you liked it, that
carries through to adulthood.
Other than that, I'm no big fan of
"chic" brand name stuff. Having a
beemer or gucci shoes always screamed
"look at me, I'm showing off my wealth". It's not important to me.

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Lee Jones
Freda Lee J.4 years ago

If a brand works and it is decent value for money then it suits me. Would NEVER consider buying a brand because it's "chic" or in fashion or EVER because it is advertised.

Paraskevi A.
Voula Angelakis4 years ago

Do You Have an Emotional Bond with Brand Names?


Jharna Vikas
Jharna Vikas4 years ago