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Are You Paying Exaggerated Prices
for Exaggerated Differences?

Branding is all about creating a perceived difference in the mind of the consumer about products that are essentially the same. Like different brands of vodka, a flavorless, colorless distilled spirit. How much difference can their be? While various cars seem to be quite different (that’s the whole point of styling) in basic utility they differ hardly at all. Cars are machines a person can easily use to travel protected from the elements from point A to B. Let’s compare some cars based on that and see what we get.

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When comparing cars as transportation machines the significant difference is price. Just what does shelling out all that folding green actually get you? A walnut dash doesn’t make it easier to drive. Leather seats don’t get you there faster. Is it really that hard to adjust the mirrors they need a power boost? Maybe it’s just me, but a Bently is not a car brand, it’s an exaggeration. Instead, let’s compare some modes of personal transport which are truly different. Now we should get some significant results.

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As you can easily see, when we broaden the scope the difference between one sedan and another sedan pales in comparison to the difference between a bike and an SUV. Still, compared to shoes an SUV is just an exaggerated econobox. Take an econobox, pump everything up, double the price and you have an SUV. Then again, you could do the same with shoes. The very best sneakers, good enough to play basketball like Michael Jordan, are rather excessive if you only wear them to walk around.

Let’s broaden the scope into other areas and see what we get there.

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OK, the chart is a gag. Mostly. Still, isn’t the McMansion just an overblown bungalow? One has to ask, is food tastier cooked on a professional grade cooktop rather than on a standard range? Are TV programs more entertaining viewed in a media room rather than a living room? Does having both a family room and a great room make your family great?

We leave the rhetorical questions behind and soldier on into other areas of modern life.

Let’s broaden the scope into other areas and see what we get there.

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We just love the concept of designer brands. As if some clothes just happened by accident and nobody designed them. Anyway, as the man said, “Fashion is something so ridiculous it has to be changed every six months.” We continue onward and downward.

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Yes, the charts are silly and show you can save money by opting for something under a broader heading that’s very different rather than slightly different. But you already knew that. We’re just having a bit of fun. To bring it back to the original point we combine the narrow scope and wide scope in a single chart.

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This last chart only goes to show… um-m… taking a bath in Evian is pricey. Or that what you get for the extra cost of Absolut is a fancy bottle and slick advertising. That’s what we were after. It’s easy to be distracted from the actual purpose of some­thing by rather minor attributes. Missing the forest for a bush, as it were. Paying through the nose for trivial differences seems dubious at best. And a huge waste of money and resources at worst.

Bottom line, there are two ways to save money. First you can opt for a significantly different thing at a significantly different cost with a significantly different result. Such as a dog versus a goldfish. Point two, you can save by opting for the cheaper version of something similar. Such as between two different dogs. After all, does a fifty times more costly purebred give you fifty times the dog-ness of a mutt?

Actually, there is a third way to save money: not buying anything at all. But then, all you have is lots of money which isn’t even as good as a goldfish as a pet. Money won’t fetch a stick or purr sitting on your lap. Then again, if you spend all your dough pouring gas into that gas-guzzling SUV you might not be able to afford even a picture of a goldfish.