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How Branding Works: The Value in Knock-Off Items

Buzzfeed recently released a video called “Cereal Taste Test: Name Brand or Knockoff?” — in which blindfolded BuzzFeed employees each taste bowls of knockoff and brand name cereal and figure out which one is which.

If you did the same, could you tell the difference?

In this case, these taste-testers explained what they are looking for in their cereals:

  • Nostalgia/reminding them of their childhood
  • If it was a sugary-coated bowl of yumminess, or lacked that luster that name brand cereals seem to have
  • Whether it smelled like the name brand cereal (someone actually figured out the difference in Cheerios and generic Toasted Oats just by smelling them…)
  • The way Froot Loops absorb milk differently than the alternative

Most financially conscientious people will tell you to buy the cheap stuff because it practically makes no difference. However, in this taste test, four out of seven people could immediately detect the imposter. Still, none of the seven minded the taste of the knockoff, while some even preferred it.


Photo by Apartment210.com images

This story comes down to how you want to sell your product or service. Do you want to be something that tastes good, is conveniently packaged, or is cheap? You can find all those qualities in the off-brand product most of the time — but there is one characteristic that is always hard to beat: Does it remind you of your childhood?

There is something about familiarity that keeps us coming back to the same product; paying extra for it, even. Even in this modern world of deconstructed foods and breaking the norm, we look for little things that remind us of home. Froot Loops and Cocoa Pebbles commercials played on TV when we were kids in between our Saturday morning cartoons.

How does your brand sell itself? Whether your identity is the off-brand or the real deal, the key is knowing who you are, who your audience is, and selling it with the right fit.