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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Wearing your identity on your sleeve

Published: February 1, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

It is remarkable how a simple image printed on a logo, or an advertisement, can capture the attention of thousands of individuals daily.

A successful company, organization, university, et cetera, develops marketing and advertising tactics through the use of quick and memorable slogans and graphics. This form of marketing, also referred to as merchandising, is integral to companies, particularly those in the fashion industry.

For decades, designers in the fashion industry has been competing to market their merchandise through the use of special emblems, or logos which are unique to their brand. For example, Juicy Couture is associated with a crown shaped emblem, while Gucci apparel and accessories are each emblazoned with a large letter “G”. This particular marketing tactic employed by almost every successful fashion designer is more influential than it seems at face value!

Consumers of the fashion industry have always been keener on buying an item with a famous “label”. The “label” signifies a sense of a identity, which in this particular case is representative of an elite and high-end designer. Individuals who are unwilling to pay the outrageous prices for designer merchandise have the opportunity to spend as little as fifteen dollars on a “knock-off” version.

The streets of SoHo and Canal Street in New York City are lined with unlicensed individuals who sell “knock-off” versions of famous brand apparel and accessories. Consumers are surprisingly desperate to be seen with famous brand name merchandise. This further emphasizes the claim that consumers are not focusing on quality when purchasing merchandise, but rather on what type of public image they can create for themselves simply by wearing or carrying a particular product.

This sought-after status desired by consumers, particularly in the fashion industry, has created tension and cut-throat competition amongst fashion designers. Recently Guess?, a unique clothing and accessory line for both men and women released bags which copied the Louis Vuitton pattern. Illegal street vendors are no longer the only copiers of famous brand-name merchandise!

A new form of “labeling” has become popular among specific fashion designers. Lacoste first made the polo shirt fashionable by placing an alligator on the left breast in early twentieth century. However it was Ralph Lauren who made polo shirts an icon of luxury and preppiness when he substituted Lacoste’s alligator with the small emblem of a polo player. Today almost every clothing company has an established emblem, including stores such as Old Navy and Hollister, which have adopted the deer and the seagull as their respective representatives. Although each of the polo t-shirts appear identical, consumers will chose to purchase a specific shirt based on the small emblem on the left side of their shirt. This “polo insignia” appears to have taken the place of a name tag!

Various fashion designers and companies such as Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch, do not strictly depend on the use of logos to attract customers wishing to establish their individuality with “trendy” apparel. A majority of these companies advertise their merchandise by using photographs of what society perceives to be “beautiful people” dressed in often promiscuous attire.

This form of advertising is most successful, because it takes advantage of the consumer belief that purchasing such merchandise will help them fit into the category of what society deems “beautiful”! Companies imprint these photographs on their store fronts, in magazines, and their shopping bags. This advertising scheme is so successful that often time consumers reuse the store bags for other purposes simply because of the attractive image imprinted on the bag, and the bold, large font merchandise logo written across the photo. Simply carrying around a bag from a high end store gives a consumer a sense of identity by implying that they can afford to have this particular style.

The mere fact that an individual chooses to purchase a particular brand of apparel, and accessories demonstrates the human desire to portray a specific identity. Interestingly, this form of identity has been taken to such an extreme that it not only applies to choosing brand name clothing, but also extends to the food industry as well.

Hundreds of businessmen and woman purchase their daily cup of coffee at Starbucks. Aside from the fact that Starbucks offers quickly brewed rich tasting coffee, it has also become a “fashionable” way of beginning the day. Starbucks has successfully marketed their company by imprinting an easily recognizable logo on the front of each coffee cup. The logo has a more sophisticated and elegant appearance, which differentiates it from competitors like Dunkin Donuts.