What Is a Status Brand?

Lainie Petersen

A status brand is a brand of consumer goods that can increase the social prestige of its owners. In many cases, a status brand confers status within a particular community or subculture, and it may not have the same reputation or power to confer prestige outside those communities or groups. The significance of the brand may have little to do with price points and more to do with the brand's popularization by influences within a particular community.

Certain types of cars are thought to increase their owners' social prestige.
Certain types of cars are thought to increase their owners' social prestige.

Many communities and social groups regard the consumption and ownership of certain branded goods as a sign of upward social mobility and status. If an individual who was a known leader within a community or subgroup begins to wear or use a certain brand, others may follow suit. The brand then has status even if it is not regarded as a high-end or even popular brand by the general public.

Certain clothing lines are considered status brands.
Certain clothing lines are considered status brands.

The concept of a status brand is different than that of luxury brands. Luxury brands are typically defined as such on the basis of their cost and their association with a well-known manufacturer or designer. For example, a luxury branded purse may cost several hundred, or even several thousand, dollars. These purses sell for such high amounts despite the fact that other purses made with similar materials and quality of workmanship, but without the brand name, are commonly sold for far less money. The ownership of luxury brands confers status on an individual by indicating that he either has the money to afford a luxury branded good or that he knows someone with enough money to purchase it for him.

Status brands, on the other hand, may not be particularly costly, but the ownership of the brand has meaning within a community that eclipses the issue of cost. Within a subculture or community, public display of status brand ownership signals that the individual displaying the status brand is aware of the community's expectations of its members and demonstrates that he recognizes the authority of the influential person or persons who introduced the brand to the community. This can increase his status, as it shows his willingness to invest in the community's values, symbols, and leadership. In some cases, an individual can use his conformity to an established brand status to work his way into a position of influence. At this point, he may be able to establish the desirability of a brand within his community.

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