Wharton Research Adds to the Evolving Brand Story

by Diana Drake

On Episode 45 of Wharton Global Youth’s Future of the Business World podcast, tea brand innovator Victoria Fang Gao, says: “Buying a brand is like opening a book; only a good story can keep the readers coming back and back again.”

We agree that the topic of brand in business – with its power to communicate identity, purpose and ethos about a company’s products and services – has an intriguing allure in the world of marketing. With that in mind, we set out to explore some of Wharton’s latest research around brands and marketing. We discovered some fascinating insights to share with our Global Youth readers:

🧬 Analyzing Brand DNA. Brand identity guru Americus Reed, a Wharton marketing professor (and one of our favorite Global Youth Video Glossary contributors) recently visited Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM radio to talk about how companies are building their brands in a post-pandemic market.

According to Dr. Reed, now more than ever brands need to articulate their purpose and vision because shoppers want to connect with companies that align with their values. “Consumers are in this state of heightened self-awareness about what’s really important to them, so we’re seeing a lot of brands really lean into the notion of a meaning system — Why do I exist? How am I making the planet better?” he said. “Broader kinds of questions that are built into the brand’s DNA are rising to the surface because consumers care about that.” Visit our newest mini-site featuring Levi Strauss & Co’s brand identity to learn about how the company is aligning with social issues like gun violence – and to learn some more from Americus Reed.

“I think the biggest message is to not make the mistake of thinking the brand is just simply the tagline, the logo, the colors on the website,” added Dr. Reed. “The brand is a true asset, and if you invest in the brand, and if you create a very deep, well-articulated, clear, and richly understood meaning system, in addition to the external markers — you’re on the right path.” What’s your brand identity? Visit the conversation starters at the end of this article and tell us more.

“We find almost universally that this follower elasticity, this bang for the buck you’re getting, declines pretty dramatically as influencer popularity goes up.” –Ryan Dew, Wharton Marketing Professor

⚽ The Cristiano Ronaldo Effect. During his Wharton Business Daily appearance, Professor Reed also mentioned how dramatically social media has changed the branding landscape, requiring companies to find their customers on different platforms and even co-create with them, rather than dictate the entire brand strategy.

Part of this new approach is recognizing the power of the influencer. For example, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is not only the world’s highest-paid athlete, Reuters news service has reported that he’s also the highest-paid athlete on Instagram, scoring $3.23 million per post.

New research from Wharton marketing professors Ryan Dew and Raghuram Iyengar (along with co-author Zijun Tian from Washington University in St. Louis) studies whether or not brands should spend millions on social media mega-influencers or much less on micro influencers to drive interest in their products and services.

Their study, which offers marketers a new framework to measure the tradeoff between the popularity of an influencer and the cost of using them in an ad campaign, had some surprising results, which they shared on Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM radio.

They created a data point known as FEI or Follower Elasticity of Impressions, a measure of a video’s percentage increase in views (their work analyzed more than 500,000 videos on TikTok over six months) corresponding with a percentage increase in the number of followers for the content creator. They boil this down for brands as “bang for the buck.”

They conclude that videos posted by mega-influencers are seen by more people, but that high volume does not guarantee more comments, likes or shares – in part because the really famous influencers have less direct connection with their followers.

“We find almost universally that this follower elasticity, this bang for the buck you’re getting, declines pretty dramatically as influencer popularity goes up,” said Dr. Dew. “For every additional follower you’re paying for, you’re getting less and less for that.”  As with all studies, there are exceptions. For example, FEI climbed higher for more popular influencers who are promoting gaming-related content, which has a strong social component. Visit a Knowledge@Wharton summary of their research, read their full academic paper, or listen to the SiriusXM interview for more insight on the power of influencers in branding.

📺  Brand Inclusivity. As Wharton professors like Dr. Dew and Dr. Iyengar study different dimensions of the business world and experiment with new approaches and ideas, they are generating data and research that companies can use to make smarter decisions.

In another recent study, Wharton marketing professor Zhenling Jiang, along with two co-authors from Washington University in St. Louis, examined the impact of racial minority representation on advertising effectiveness in their paper, TV Advertising Effectiveness with Racial Minority Representation: Evidence from the Mortgage Market.

 The study, which examined television commercials for mortgage refinancing, found that as minority representation depicted in the ads increased from 15% to 25%, the advertising elasticity went up 14%. Advertising elasticity measures a campaign’s effectiveness in generating new sales. Professor Jiang and her co-authors focused on mortgage ads because of the potential for mortgage refinancing to save consumers money through lower interest rates. The fact that those types of consumer-finance ads don’t always reach everyone could be a contributor to the racial wealth gap in the U.S.

The paper also concluded that ads including diverse people didn’t just increase sales among minority borrowers. They had a positive effect among white borrowers, as well.

The resounding message to brands: your genuine effort to attract diverse customers will pay off.

“When we think about DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion], we tend to think we are sacrificing something to feature more diversity. We are making a tradeoff,” Dr. Jjiang told Knowledge@Wharton. “But it’s quite the contrary. It’s actually a nice message that they can achieve both higher sales as well as the societal goal of more inclusion and representation.”

Why does that happen? Dr. Jiang has her suspicions, which include consumers responding positively to what they see as a brand’s inclusive values, as well as the fact that ads with diversity stand out to viewers because they are less common. Stay tuned. She may be preparing new studies to test those theories.

Conversation Starters

Dr. Reed believes that now more than ever brands need to articulate their purpose and vision because shoppers want to connect with companies that align with their values. Do you think this is true? What brands resonate most with you as a conscious consumer?

What do you think of the new data point that Dr. Dew and Dr. Iyengar created to measure the increase in video views? How does this inform your understanding of academic research and how it applies in practice to the business world?

What fascinates you most about brands? Why do you think brands like Levis are aligning so closely with serious social issues?

12 comments on “Wharton Research Adds to the Evolving Brand Story

  1. “Now more than ever brands need to articulate their purpose and vision because shoppers want to connect with companies that align with their values.” This quote, attributed to Wharton marketing professor Americus Reed, led me to reflect on my research this past year in which I analyzed the moral conflict surrounding sweatshop labor. I aimed to answer the following question from an ethical perspective: To what extent do developed and developing countries differ in their views on sweatshops?

    Although my research did not begin with a pre-determined conclusion, I expected to find a disproportionate number of sources supporting the “common” ethical approach to sweatshop labor: To boycott and shut down the production of companies that abused human rights. This view aligns with my belief that all workers are entitled to fair wages, health care, proper working conditions, and recognition for their humanity above their manufacturing capacity. Moreover, it is a comfortable and familiar solution for someone like me, living in a first-world consumer society protected by wage laws and federal labor standards. Consequently, my discovery of the many sources supporting the continuation of sweatshop practices was an enlightening experience. The supporting authors were not the CEOs of wealthy corporations that benefited from exploitative practices; instead, a diverse group of people– consisting of economists, free-lance journalists, philosophers, and even sweatshop workers themselves– are questioning the definition of ethics as it applies to sweatshop labor and for several reasons. When these differing perspectives are placed in dialogue, many complex questions arise. Is it ethical to shut down such factories, depriving impoverished workers of a main source of income and forcing them into other unstable, equally dangerous forms of employment? Or is it ethical to allow sweatshop practices to continue, despite their long history of human rights abuses, continued mistreatment of workers, and contribution to the leading social issues today?

    I realize that as a student growing up in the United States of America, an economically robust nation making great advancements in human rights, it is easy to identify with a company whose values reflect the goal of immediately ending sweatshop practices, whether it be in their manufacturing lines or others; however, as a learner, thinker, and individual striving to make an impact in the business world, I need to recognize the bigger picture. The argument is not that reforming sweatshops is unnecessary or unattainable. Instead, activism concerning this issue must invite as many differing perspectives as possible because social issues are rarely one-sided; as I learned from my research, the most meaningful conclusions, or potential solutions, come from deep reflections prompted by well-articulated arguments unique in nature. I believe that the future of the business world, concerning workers’ rights and safety, includes a deeper analysis of a brand’s DNA—namely, how is this brand addressing global concerns and incorporating the voices of diverse individuals impacted by its message or purpose?

  2. I found this article on the evolving brand story fascinating due to the profound impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior. As mentioned by Dr. Reed, post-pandemic, many brands have prioritized their brand identity because customers value brands based on what they stand for. I think that this shift in consumer behavior has two underlying reasons: excess of free time and influence of social media.
    Over the pandemic, many people were isolated at home with lots of extra free time to contemplate what their beliefs. I was constantly bored and reformed my own identity. Many people came out of quarantine a different person with a different identity, different personality, and different values. With shifts in customers’ own identities, they have started to reconsider the identities of brands to base their purchases on.
    Furthermore, the rising influence of social media causes brands’ identities and reputations to be amplified. Brands such as Shein that promote fast fashion, use child labor, and increase waste, are facing intense backlash from influencers on social media who do not align with the brand’s unethical practices. There is more polarization between brands; customers would rather pay more for a brand they share values with and trust.
    For companies, their brand image has become increasingly important as customers value what brands stand for. Coming out of the pandemic, many brands will build their brand identity by tackling social issues, like Levi’s with controlling gun violence by prohibiting guns in their stores while pushing for additional legislation. On top of that, we can expect brands to do their corporate social responsibility to aid their communities. Companies need to consider “Why do I exist? How am I making the planet better?” states Dr. Reed. Customers are more willing to give to brands that give back to their communities. Thanks to social media, we as customers have more power than ever, which we must leverage to keep brands in check to improve our society. Important brands will shape the social and economic development of mankind, not merely make a profit for its shareholders.

  3. In today’s vastly competitive marketplace, companies make use of creativity to effectively advertise their brand to the public. While analyzing this article, I was able to learn from provided examples on how companies do just that. By using different approaches based on their target audiences, companies align their brand with people’s values, take advantage of social media, and use diverse representation to ensure successful advertising.

    To begin with, I completely agree and believe that brands’ values play a key role in the decision making of their customers. As explained by Dr. Reed, “Brands need to articulate their purpose and vision because shoppers want to connect with companies that align with their values” (Drake). This statement explains a very important part of a company’s advertising strategy. This advertising strategy can be seen by many companies including Levi Strauss & Co and creates a wave of support from customers that agree with their opinions. An example of this in the real world is Levi’s stance on gun violence. This controversial social issue can spark conflicts between people and influence their decisions. This type of advertising approach has personally influenced me as I tend to purchase products that align with my values. After analyzing this approach, I believe that this strategy can prove to be very effective.

    To continue, I believe that social media is what allows companies to expand their reach of customers. As explained by Professor Reed, “Social media has changed the branding landscape, requiring companies to find their customers on different platforms and even co reate with them” (Drake). This explanation by Professor Reed states that social media has forever changed how companies advertise their products and services. By using social media as a direct connection to customers, companies take advantage of famous celebrities to promote their products. This method can be seen with soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo who has over six hundred and thirty million followers on Instagram. This allows companies to create an extended reach of millions of people by partnering with celebrities to raise awareness of their products. This strategy has led me to purchase products that were advertised by famous celebrities which demonstrates its effectiveness in the real world.

    Thirdly, I agree that diverse representation helps companies advertise their products to different audiences. Professor Jiang and two co-authors from Washington University, “Examined the impact of racial minority representation on advertising effectiveness in their paper . . . . . And found that as minority representation depicted ads increased from 15% to 25% the advertising elasticity went up 14%” (Drake). This study by Professor Jiang provides evidence that diverse representation leads to an increase in demand and sales in products. This advertising strategy has proved effective as this type of advertisement is not as common and is in accordance with many people’s values. Furthermore, this strategy allows people to feel included and represented. This strategy has influenced me to purchase products from companies whose representatives are part of my culture and have similar values.

    To wrap up, companies use many different methods to evolve their brand story such as aligning with people’s values, taking advantage of social media, and using diverse representation. Creative advertising influences people to purchase products because they are in accordance with their values and because they are aware of what the company provides through social media. Diverse representation enables companies to reach different audiences and inform people about what they provide. To finish off, companies use different approaches to advertise their products and this article provides a clear explanation of strategies that work and allow companies to reach their goals.

  4. I found the segment regarding the “Cristiano Ronaldo Effect” fascinating. It offers valuable insight into the evolving dynamics of social media strategies. Before reading the article, I’ve always thought that the more followers an influencer had, the better it was for the brand. However, the research shows that while mega-influencers like Cristiano Ronaldo reach a larger audience, their engagement rates do not increase proportionately. This underscores a critical challenge for brands: the balance between reach and engagement. While mega-influencers can broadcast a brand’s message to a vast number of people, micro-influencers often offer higher engagement rates and a more authentic connection with their followers. This authenticity arises from the personal and often niche-focused relationships that micro-influencers build with their audience, making their endorsements seem more trustworthy and relatable.
    The findings suggest a need for brands to evolve from a transactional to a relational marketing approach. Transactional marketing focuses on short-term interactions and immediate sales boosts, which mega-influencers are well-suited to deliver due to their broad reach and high visibility. However, this approach often lacks the depth needed to build long-term customer relationships. On the other hand, micro-influencers can drive significant engagement through consistent, genuine interactions with their followers. These interactions foster a sense of community and trust, cultivating deeper relationships.
    Furthermore, relational marketing can lead to higher lifetime customer value. When brands invest in building long-term relationships, they not only retain customers longer but also increase the average spend per customer over time. This is because loyal customers are more likely to explore a brand’s full range of products and services, participate in loyalty programs, and respond positively to personalized marketing efforts.

  5. Victoria Fang Gao’s metaphor likening brand engagement to opening a captivating book highlights the importance of narrative in forging enduring consumer connections. Americus Reed’s analysis on brand DNA emphasizes the imperative for brands to articulate purpose and align with societal values, resonating with today’s socially conscious consumers. Meanwhile, the research by Professors Dew and Iyengar on influencer marketing introduces the innovative concept of Follower Elasticity of Impressions (FEI), revealing nuanced insights into the effectiveness of mega-versus micro-influencers. This challenges traditional notions in influencer strategy, advocating for a more strategic approach that prioritizes engagement over reach alone. Furthermore, Professor Zhenling Jiang’s study on inclusivity in advertising underscores the dual benefits of diversity, showing that inclusive campaigns not only promote equity but also drive sales across diverse demographic groups. Together, these findings illuminate critical pathways for brands to foster meaningful connections and drive sustainable growth in an increasingly complex marketplace.

  6. Competition is rising exponentially and the market is not what it was a few decades ago, so companies need to start implementing more creative and personalized branding and marketing techniques to maximize their potential in the market. Since most companies lie in the ‘monopolistic competition’ market structure branding is crucial to differentiate themselves from competing firms. In the article above, the power of influencers is fascinating as the play a major role (both positive and negative) in the purchasing decision of the consumer. The Cristiano Ronaldo effect for instance plays a significant role in the branding as the quality and utility of the commodity for first time buyers is not the primary reason for purchasing. In world where technology plays a pivotal role in professional activities and the rising growth of social media creates a new opportunity for branding and marketing and reaching a targeted audience.
    Brands need to engage in new trends like sustainability to acquire new customers. Customers nowadays make decisions largely depending on the reputation and general perception of the brand so companies need to engage in activities the boost their self image and promote social welfare.

  7. Marketing in today’s society is significantly influenced by the brand identity, compelling companies, organizations, and businesses to clearly define their societal role. This contrasts with former branding strategies where the quality of services or goods determined a brand’s future. The article under discussion “Wharton Research Adds to the Evolving Brand Story,” with Diana Drake, utilizes insights from Wharton’s eminent business professors. Americus Reed, a Wharton Marketing professor, argues that brand identity goes beyond logos and colors. He emphasizes the impact of “new media” especially the social media and its personalities as a key player in branding especially in light of the branding strategies.” Wharton professors Dew and Iyengar’s research examines the influence of follower popularity on branding, introducing the “Follower Elasticity of Impressions” as the effectiveness index. Additionally, a study conducted by Prof. Jiang of Wharton highlights that diverse advertising enhances the effectiveness of advertisements, increasing societal appeal and, consequently, sales. Thus, branding’s nature is changing in the modern conditions of the marketing environment, necessitating a new approach that transcends subjective criteria such as “success.” Turning to Wharton professors’ concepts of authenticity and transparency is crucial for building a successful brand. Ethical behavior in business has become the key factor for consumers especially when choosing brands and companies to associate with. This also applies to influencer marketing, where authenticity and genuine communication are more effective.

    As the digital space continues to shape consumer behavior, brands must adapt and find innovative ways to connect with their audience. This could involve exploiting immersive technologies such as augmented reality or interactive content to create memorable brand experiences. By embracing these fresh perspectives, businesses can elevate their brand identity beyond surface-level aesthetics and forge meaningful connections with their target market. Ultimately, the landscape of marketing and branding is undergoing a significant shift in today’s society. Companies can no longer rely solely on the quality of their goods or services to determine their success. Instead, brand identity is now influenced by a company’s role in society and its transparent and authentic communication with consumers. The influence of social media personalities and follower popularity, as well as the use of diverse advertising strategies, are now critical components of effective branding. By adapting to these evolving trends and embracing new perspectives, companies can elevate their brand identity and effectively engage with their target audience in the today’s multifaceted marketing environment.

    • While I found this article diving deeper into the story of evolving brands insightful to read, I believe it should explore more about one major component that, in the modern world, is starting to have a great impact on consumers and their self-awareness.

      “Consumers are in this state of heightened self-awareness about what’s really important to them, so we’re seeing a lot of brands really lean into the notion of a meaning system–” This quote articulated by Dr. Americus Reed, a respected marketing professor at Wharton, made me sympathize with an admiring quote I read last year by Lisa Gansky, where she says, “A brand is a voice and a product is a souvenir.” Brands often lean into what is trending, therefore using A-list celebrities and influencers as a tool to promote their products and reach a significant number of consumers, but they should recognize that they can also be the voice of positive impact and change.

      However, another component that is reshaping brands and industries globally is sustainability. Sustainability in today’s market can result in a fundamental shift in consumer values. I recognize the importance of global issues such as gender equality, inclusivity, and food security as a rising black female entrepreneur, but I also recognize that I can make a difference to our number one source affecting the planet, unsustainability. Deeply reflecting on what I learned in my first class of economics last year, when my teacher taught us that humans have unlimited wants but there are limited resources in the world. I began to reflect on the brands I buy from and reflect on my own consumer values. What attracted me to purchasing from brands in the past was whether they were inclusive and high in demand, but now a crucial component is also researching if their brand identity includes sustainability. When I looked at the tags inside my clothing, what often appeared were bold labels. “MADE IN BANGLADESH” not only appeared inside my clothing but also in my Youtube recommendations. https://youtu.be/LWvOlZ4hPU0?si=JF6BZGPAdP5EDqql
      The poignant documentary touched me as I viewed children my age making products for renowned brands in harsh conditions.

      As companies are constantly worried about their branding identity, they should recognize the crucial role sustainability plays in reaching their consumers. Brands actively being transparent with their consumers and incorporating sustainable practices often lead to building loyal, strong customers that align with the value of being sustainable beyond the product. When sustainability is incorporated into a brand’s identity, it should go beyond the use of eco-friendly materials and reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Sustainability should also be incorporated into the ethos of the company as well as its fundamental operations. Many consumers, including myself, are more concerned today about the environmental impact of our purchases. Not only is it a long term benefit for brands that practice sustainability that they would create trust with the consumer, but it also creates employees who have the vision of creating a positive impact.

      “I think the biggest message is to not make the mistake of thinking the brand is just simply the tagline, the logo, the colors on the website,” added Dr. Reed. “The brand is a true asset, and if you invest in the brand, and if you create a very deep, well-articulated, clear, and richly understood meaning system, in addition to the external markers — you’re on the right path.”

      I found this article compelling to read and loved the highlights of brand identity aligning with consumer values. It deeply prompted me to reflect on my own consumer values and how sustainability could also be a significant factor that should be taken into consideration when brands are shaping their identity in the modern world.

  8. I would first like to thank Dianna Drake and Dr. Reed for enlightening us with this message.

    The modern-day emphasis on marketing and brand establishment is considered a focal point for business models. The statement “Consumers are in this state of heightened self-awareness about what’s really important to them” is profoundly true – consumers are focusing equally on the social alignment and the products sold.

    However, I would like to note a possible malice with this movement that I do not believe many commenters have considered. A shift in focus towards pleasing consumer beliefs can often have mixed messaging that appears shallow and ill-conceived. For example, Levi Strauss’ CEO Charles V. Bergh made his stance on gun violence clear – he is merely listening to consumers’ and employees’ concerns and comes from an honest place.

    On the contrary, Dove is a clear-cut example of marketing in poor taste. In an attempt to cater to their audience that strives towards rigid beauty standards, they poorly shifted their inclusive messaging to showcasing an African American woman changing into a Caucasian woman: suggesting that this was the ideal outcome (2017). The abrupt shift in brand image, coupled with the inability to ‘read the room’ and failing to connect with the public and consumer demographic, became a major hit to the public image of Dove.

    In the same light, brand inclusivity can also turn into an issue. Forced inclusion of race can have the appearance of being in disingenuous and attempting to meet societal expectations. While intended to make everyone feel included, it can have the polar opposite effect. For example, in a school football league, a requirement of one girl on-pitch to ensure everyone gets an opportunity. While in good intent, it may appear demeaning and forced. Though a childish example, there are many such globally, yet difficult to point out due to the individualistic nature of this viewpoint (everyone sees it differently).

    The statement ‘your genuine effort to attract diverse customers will pay off’ should have ‘genuine’ in big, bold letters. Forced inclusivity and branding cannot compare to a genuine response. One must understand the purpose of the brand rather than chase after consumer’s ever-changing beliefs. Consistency and genuineness become the most crucial points.

  9. One of the most insightful aspects of Drake’s discussion is the recognition that a brand identity is not static but a fluid concept that just adapt to external changes and internal growth. In today’s fast-faced environment, brands are constantly interacting with a plethora of cultural, technological, and economic shifts, where companies must continuously refine and sometimes redefine their brand narratives to align with current trends.

    For instance, the evolution of Apple for a niche computer manufacturer to a global technology leader illustrates how a brand can successfully expand its narrative to encompass a broader vision and appeal. Apple’s transformation highlights the importance of having a flexible brand strategy that allows for growth and adaption while maintaining core brand values. The adaptability is crucial and allows apple to stay recent and dominate new markets.

    Drake also underscores the vital role of research in shaping and evolving brand stories. By relying on data-driven insights, companies can make informed decisions that resonate with their target audiences. This is particularly important in an age where consumer preferences and behaviors are in constant flux due to technological advancements and cultural shifts.

    Furthermore, Drake also underscores the challenge of maintaining brand consistency among constant change in the world. While evolution may be essential, brands must also keep a coherent identity that consumers can recognize and trust. This balance is crucial. While too much change can dilute a brand equity, too little can also lead to stagnation. Brands that are able to find balance offers a clearer vision and values that serve as a stable foundation. They are able to innovate and adapt their messaging without losing their original essence, which is key to ensure a brand’s principles and long-term objectives.

    I found this article engaging as it offers several key elements that resonate deeply with current challenges and opportunities in brand management.

  10. First, I want to say what fascinates me most about brands is their ability to create and convey a unique identity that can resonate deeply with consumers on an emotional level. Brands are not just about products; they’re about the stories they tell and the values they represent. This storytelling aspect is very powerful in shaping consumer perceptions and loyalty. When you look at brands like Levis, for example, it aligns closely with serious social issues because consumers increasingly expect companies to take a stand on important societal matters. By doing so, Levis not only strengthens its brand identity but also builds trust and loyalty among consumers who share those values. Such alignment has now become one of the necessities in the crowded marketplace environment, to differentiate and make their brand more memorable and impactful.

    For me personally, I also believe in and am a supporter of brands that can clearly communicate a purpose that aligns with my concerns. For instance, I have this strong concern about how our future climate is going to be and how our environment will end up after all the climate change and no restrictions just like all the other teenagers at my age. So brands like Patagonia resonate with me because of their commitment to environmental sustainability and ethical manufacturing practices. They even have a separate ‘Activism’ page on their official website where customers can actively choose to volunteer, join the event, and help the organization. This also made me think of how this type of active engagement that the brands can bring with their customers that they initially gathered by common beliefs and interests can further strengthen their feeling of community and actually leave an impact around them.

    However, I also understand that it’s important to tread carefully in the realm of inclusive branding. Forced or disingenuous attempts at inclusivity can backfire, leading to consumer skepticism and damaging the brand’s image. One good example that I can think of is a Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner in 2017. The ad depicted Jenner easing tensions at a protest by offering a police officer a Pepsi. While they tried to Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner in 2017 is another case where the attempt at inclusivity and social messaging fell flat. The ad depicted Jenner easing tensions at a protest by offering a police officer a Pepsi. While they were trying to target millennials by riding on the wave of political activism at that time, such as the BLM movement, they were rather backlashed by the criticism that it has trivialized serious social justice movements and was for being insensitive and out of touch.

    What I realized from this example was that in the end, the perception of authenticity is the most critical aspect of brand inclusivity. Consumers nowadays can easily detect when inclusivity is merely a marketing ploy rather than a core value of the brand. This often leads to accusations of virtue signaling, where brands are seen as leveraging social issues for profit rather than genuinely supporting them. Brands must therefore ensure that their inclusive messaging aligns with their overall brand values and actions. Consistency in values and actions, combined with a sincere commitment to inclusivity, will ultimately yield the best results both socially and economically.

  11. With all due respect, I disagree with Dr. Reed. He claims that companies ought to have a meaning or message behind their brand in order to better attract consumers; perhaps this is true to a certain extent, but this advice is not applicable to all establishments.

    For instance, YEEZY is a clothing brand founded by Kanye West, who is currently facing backlash for his anti-semitic remarks. Despite West’s outlandish comments, YEEZY sales remain through the roof. As a casual, self-proclaimed fashionista, I can attest that Mr. West’s products are quite popular in today’s market. Everytime I load up adidas CONFIRMED, the application used to buy most YEEZY merchandise, the price for a pair of slides or Foam RNNRs is always crossed out and replaced with a “SOLD OUT.” While one may argue that sales are simply high because of Kanye’s loyal fanbase, I say that his goods are enticing because of the high quality materials and unique touches of creativity. Demand is high because Kanye only releases the best of the best.

    Personally, I own a bunch of his brainchilds, but one of my wardrobe essentials is West’s black, brandless hoodie. I bought this for a multitude of reasons, and none of them have to do with Kanye’s name. The hoodie doesn’t have his branding anywhere—not even the neck label. Of note, the hoodie is made of 100% cotton as opposed to the typical fast fashion polyester that other corporate franchises, like H&M and PacSun, rely on. Aside from the material quality, the hoodie was a whopping twenty dollars! West’s marketing strategy is similar to AriZona’s: instead of spending money on advertising, Kanye and AriZona let the price tag do the talking. And, most of all, I love the hoodie’s boxy silhouette. The oversized baggy fit allows me to move freely yet still properly warms me during chilly autumn days. It is without a doubt my favorite piece of attire to wear because, like most other consumers, I buy products for their characteristics, not for the brand’s identity or message.

    Another noteworthy counter-example is Lululemon. The founder of lululemon, Dennis J. “Chip” Wilson, is immensely vocal about his fatphobia and xenophobia. He callously claims that “some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” and that “It’s funny to watch [Japanese people]… try to say… [lululemon].” One might think that such blatant, bigoted comments would have a chilling effect on lululemon’s popularity—evidently, the company continues to spread like wildfire both in real life and over social media. Yet again, the brand’s identity or message does not determine the company’s success.

    However, I give credit where credit is due. Reed’s discussion about the “Cristiano Ronaldo Effect” was interesting and refreshing. I love how the effect incentivises businesses to maximize their “bang for the buck” ratio, which in turn uplifts smaller influencers and prevents celebrities from monopolizing their fame. After all, as Americans, who would be opposed to more opportunities and increased social mobility?

    Then again, Ronaldo’s impact on both soccer (football) and the economy is profound. Still, we all can agree that Messi is still the greatest of all time.

    ¡Vamos, vamos, Argentina!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *