Huber: How students’ purchases affect their image

Allie Huber

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The other day I was talking to one of my good friends about cultural differences across the United States, and I was surprised when she told me that she thought there was a huge focus on brand and image among college students in Arizona, my home state.

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Upon reflection, I agree with her. I’m from Tucson, where the University of Arizona is, and many of my friends who study there portray a specific look with certain brands — Starbucks, Nike and Adidas, to name a few.

Colorado is no different. The only thing that changes is the brand. Other than Rams logos and green and gold, Colorado State University students can be frequently found sporting Hydro Flasks, Lululemon, Chaco and the like.

Brand loyalty isn’t just a theme among college students. Fundera cites that 82% of U.S. adults prefer to buy products from a trusted brand. Of these loyal customers, 92% cited price and value as their reasoning for staying with a brand.

But a low cost or a high value isn’t the only reason people have for buying a certain product. Brand associations, or mental connections between a brand and something else, are a major marketing tool for companies. They are vital to good marketing because they influence how potential customers perceive a product.

But their perception of a product affects more than that — it also could change their view on product users. One study published by the Journal of Marketing suggested that consumers choose certain brands to associate or dissociate with certain societal groups.

The concept of how brands are used to indicate social status stems from the connection between wealth and status. People who want to project an image of prosperity tend to buy more expensive products that fall into a more visible category, such as cars, jewelry or fashion, and people who want this image but can’t necessarily afford it will often buy knockoff products.

Overall, brands are used as a vehicle for self-expression across all social classes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as 72% of Americans want to buy products from companies with values that reflect their personal views, according to Porter Novelli.

Brand name isn’t everything, but it is a major player in deciding what products to buy and determining how we are viewed.”

For example, the popular brands at CSU tend to reflect the behavior and ideals of students. Hydro Flasks are popular because of their functionality and options for personalization, indicating that their owners participate in “an active and joyful life on the go.”

Lululemon is favored because of its comfortable, high quality, stylish products and company values revolving around achieving goals and living productively.

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Chaco’s popularity stems from functionality and durability.

There are definitely worse things than being perceived as part of an active, goal-oriented population. However, it’s important to recognize how brands shift others’ perception of us and how our perception of others change based on their purchases. Brand name isn’t everything, but it is a major player in deciding what products to buy and determining how we are viewed.

Allie Huber can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @a11iehuber.