The Illusion of Choice

It is becoming well known that the many brands you see are not necessarily from different companies and in fact, often all belong to one of a few major companies. It is very tricky for us consumers to distinguish which brands belong to what. A merchandising manager could create in-store product displays that seem to offer plenty of choice when in reality, a consumer’s decision to choose one brand over another does not really matter, as both belong to the same company. This blog post by David Griner for Adweek discusses the limited choices offered to consumers and tests our knowledge of the parent companies of some well-known brands with a ‘Brand Paternity Test’. Take the test, the results might surprise you! I suppose the main question here is whether this ‘illusion of choice’ should matter to consumers. If a consumer still gains value from choosing one brand over another (even if they are really both from the same company) is there a problem? In my opinion, things do get shifty when companies use multiple brands to almost ‘trick’ the consumer into thinking that they have more choices than they really do. Consumers could be trying to make purchasing decisions based on which companies they support, and if they are not given full information on what brands belong to which companies, they could easily make misinformed purchasing decisions. For example, a few years ago, a consumer who did not want to support tobacco use could have easily- and unknowingly- been supporting the makers of cigarettes all along through purchases of any Kraft food product, since both Kraft foods and Marlboro both belonged to one company – the Atria group. Oh, by the way, I scored 9/15 on Adweek’s Brand Paternity Test…how did you do?

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