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generic vs brand name Ibuprofen or Advil? CVS-brand toilet paper or Cottonelle? How do you know when you’re just paying for the name versus a better product?

According to an article on CBS News, Generic and Store Brands vs. Brand Names, generic products do sometimes offer the same bang for the buck as their branded counterparts. That being said, sometimes they don’t.

As a brand naming firm, we’re especially sensitive to this issue. Concerned customers may shy away from names that seem to overpromise yet possibly inspire their market. They don’t want to be disappointed by paying too much for just a name. Sometimes I wonder – as a NameStorming team member doing my personal shopping is it taboo to buy generic products?

The solution lies in being smart about what you buy. Some brand names are at least 1/3 more expensive than their generic counterparts which offer no difference in quality (i.e. Ibuprofen). Other brand names are actually cheaper than the generic brands (i.e. Kiss manicure kits). Yet, still other brand names are incrementally more expensive (i.e. Cottonelle toilet paper versus the CVS brand) but offer infinitely better quality where it counts!

It’s important to pay attention to the products you buy and develop both a price and brand sensitivity. When it comes to price, know your threshold – be your own advocate and recognize when you’re getting ripped off. When it comes to brand, know your level of loyalty – identify how much more quality that brand name offers so you either appreciate the added benefit or know when it’s time to jump ship.

If it just comes down to the price or the name, what actually makes the real difference for consumers? Many products’ rise to fame starts with their name’s memorability (Craigslist, Zappos, Twitter, of course Google). However, avoiding a brand name that turns the target market off is just as important (Ben-Gay Aspirin, New! Coke, LifeSavers Soda, Touch of Yogurt Shampoo) … especially if the name being used doesn’t connect with the core brand equity (Coors Rocky Mountain Mineral Water, Colgate Kitchen Entrees, Pepsi A.M., Frito Lay Lemonade).

It pays off to select a strong name for a product as it can accelerate adoption and save significant time and money down the road. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend buying a product/service just based on name alone. Taking the time to invest in a strong brand name is just as worthwhile as taking the time to know if what you’re buying really measures up.

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