What happens if a brand no longer means quality?

I spotted an interesting bit of research carried out in the UK recently by PWC.

The study analysed the durability of clothes available on a typical UK high street. The study tested 10 pairs of jeans ranging in price from £7 (RM38) to £123 (RM680) and ten polo shirts ranging in price from £12 (RM66) to £85 (RM470).

PWC wouldn’t divulge the names of the ten retailers because, well they represent most of them but it did disclose that on the whole the cheaper versions of the jeans and polo shirts fared better than the designer brands.

The garments were put through 15 different trials to analyse the strength of their seams, if they shrank, and if so, by how much, their colour fastness and how they resisted abrasion. The study focussed on how well made the clothes were and the quality, not the fit, brand name or how fashionable the garments were.

The best performing jeans, in terms of cost were

1) Jeans priced at £9 (RM50)
2) Jeans priced at £18 (RM100)
3) Jeans priced at £9.50 (RM53)
4) Jeans priced at £123 (RM680)
9) Jeans priced at £40 (RM222)
10) Jeans priced at £25 (RM139)

It was a similar story with the polo shirts. The top two versions cost £12 (RM66). A polo shirt costing only £4.50 (RM25) came in an impressive 3rd. The £85 (RM471) came in fifth.

From a branding perspective, this study is interesting because consumers often justified paying a high price for a fashion brand because they felt that if it was expensive, it must be of good quality.

Does this mean that this is no longer the case?

If we can no longer trust brands to produce quality products, do we need brands?

Or are we able to get fashionability without the price tag?

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “What happens if a brand no longer means quality?

  1. Marcus,

    People justify emotional decisions with rational arguments. However, that doesn’t mean consumers don’t understand quality, but rather that it is defined within the context of their own perspective. Quality of fit may outweigh factors such as abrasion. Color fastness may not be a quality flaw, as consumers may view the fade as a benefit.

    Back in college I wrote a paper which compared and contrasted fashion and economic trends. I was able to show a correlation between consumers’ disposable income and the quality of materials and relative fit (tight vs. baggy). Basically, as disposable income goes down, clothes got tighter and used more synthetic materials. As disposable income goes up, fit gets more relaxed and materials get more expensive.

    I’d look for a copy of the paper for you, but I know I don’t have an electronic version and college was a long time ago!

    Mark Gallagher
    Brand Expressionist®
    Blackcoffee

  2. The first quality women look for in jeans is fit. So if they believe they are getting a better fit with the more expensive jeans (even if those jeans tend to fall apart quickly), that’s what they will buy, and pay a premium for.

    A lot of women believe the very expensive jeans look better on them, so they tend to associate higher price with something of quality. Would they abandon a designer brand for a cheaper brand if the cheaper brand had the more flattering fit? Yes, if there is a noticeable difference in how good they think they look.

    If two different brands are virtually identical other than the price, then it depends. Those who have the extra money will probably stick with the designer brand if that’s what impresses their friends. If they don’t have the money and can find a cheaper substitute, then will will likely gladly buy the lower priced brand.

  3. I agree with Mark, but on a totally different context as to his sentence “People justify emotional decisions with rational arguments. However, that doesn’t mean consumers don’t understand quality, but rather that it is defined within the context of their own perspective.”

    Just a while ago, I explained to comScore and Compete about differential demographics data in Malaysia alone – Where you have many different demographics profile by Race, for example. There are Chinese (english-speaking, lives in a small city like Penang) or Chinese (Chinese-speaking, lives in a city). Their behaviors on and offline are relatively different.

    While we all do not know the name of the retailers and type of people that responded to the jeans and polo t-shirts offer, I believe that Mark has a strong point – Price isn’t the only factor.

    I think if we take a step back and look at the whole picture, we may have a clearer picture on brands in 5 years to come.

    Overall, I’ve always loved your articles and writings. And this is another. Keep up the good work!

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